Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy


Nineteenth Century Public Health and Epidemics: Sources in The National Archives

This is a interesting source of information from the National Archives. The full details can be found at and is well worth a visit.

1. Board of Health, 1805 – 1806
In February 1805 the Privy Council established a Board of Health to advise it on action to prevent the spread to Britain of a fever then prevalent in Spain and Gibraltar. The Board members consisted of five fellows of the Royal College of Physicians, one commissioner of HM Customs, one commissioner of the Navy Board and one of the Board of Sick and Hurt. The Board met until August 1806. Records of its activities are in the Privy Council Unbound Papers (PC 1). It produced five reports (PC 1/3637, 3666). Reports on foreign epidemics made to the Board are in MH 98/1.

2. Board of Health, 1831 – 1832
Fears of a cholera epidemic led to the creation of another consultative Board of Health in June 1831. Its minutes are in PC 1/101 and HO 31/17. A sub-committee of the Board prepared regulations to prevent the spread of the disease which were issued as Orders in Council and published in the London Gazette of 20 October 1831 (ZJ 1/189). The following month a new Central Board of Health replaced the consultative one. It sat at the Privy Council Office with an advisory committee of the Royal College of Physicians. Nearly 1200 local boards of health were created, constituted by Orders in Council, in addition to those formed on local initiative. Minutes of the Central Board are in PCI/105, with registers of correspondence and letter books in PC 1/93-100 and other miscellaneous papers and correspondence in PC 1/102-4, PC 1/106-14, PC 1/2260-2262, PC 1/4395 and MH 98/1. The Board was dissolved in December 1832 and the local boards disappeared as the epidemic receded. For a further eighteen months the Privy Council Office continued to deal with correspondence about cholera. Surviving records of the local boards should be sought in the appropriate local record office.

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