In connection with a Royal visit to Widnes, in Cheshire, in the north west of Britain, to unveil the new Gateway bridge across the River Mersey, I reflect in History News Network about the history of the region’s chemical industry and efforts to curb industrial pollution. In the 1870s, it was the center of the alkali industry, one of the dirtiest, smelliest and most dangerous places to work in England. The industry not only harmed the local air, water, and land, but it also injured many chemical workers, often poorly paid immigrants.

This essay was republished by Time Magazine.


Jennifer Tucker is a historian who studies the interrelations of art and science, photography, and mass visual culture, with a specialization in 19th to mid-20th century British, U.S., and trans-Pacific history. The common threads in her diverse research fields are the dynamics of visual media in modern history, the nature of evidence, public perceptions and practices of history, and the interrelationships of science, technology, and the law.


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