For those unfamiliar with the Great Stink of 1858, it was essentially the “perfect storm” of a human (and other) waste polluted Thames River combining with a blisteringly hot July and August to produce an incapacitating stench throughout the city of London. Londoners rarely left their homes in order to avoid the wretch-inducing smell. Basic elements of civic government came to a near stand-still. And people at all levels of society called for something to be done.

However even in the midst of such an environmental crisis, things were happening; things that would in some cases go on to have far-reaching effects upon not only British society but the larger world as well. Professor Rosemary Ashton’s new One Hot Summer; Dickens, Darwin, Disraeli, and the Great Stink of 1858 from Yale University Press examines the lives of some of the people in London that hot, fetid summer and weaves her discoveries into the story of the overarching – as well as overpowering – human-caused pestilence under which they all suffered, and what came from that collective suffering as a result.