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HIS 100 - Perspectives in History

Tulsa Massacre, Wounded Knee Occupation, Stonewall Rebellion, Haitian Independence, Philippine Revolution, Iranian Revolution, The Great London Smog, Creation of Earth Day, Chernobyl, Creation of the UN, Act Prohibiting Slavery, Founding of NATO

Great London Smog

(Please note, encyclopedias/tertiary sources should NOT be cited in your assignment. Scroll down for primary and secondary sources).

"The deadliest smog event in global history also happened in Europe, in the coal-powered city of London, England. In December of 1952, with domestic coal consumption peaking thanks to a lingering cold front, a cloud of fog permeated the city for five days, from December 4 to 9. Initially, there was little alarm as London frequently experiences heavy fogs of water vapor. However, over the course of the five-day smog event, the sky never cleared, gradually becoming darker, while tens of thousands suffered from respiratory distress. By the time the smog lifted, more than 12,000 people had died and over 150,000 had been hospitalized. A 2016 study produced by Texas A&M University showed that the 1952 smog resulted from the way that pollutants interacted with the region's natural weather cycles. Nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide blended with naturally occurring fog (water vapor), which then evaporated, leading to a high concentration of acidic particles within the air closer to ground level. The “Great Smog” or “Great Fog,” as it was later known, motivated a serious central government effort to control air pollution in England." ("Change is in the air" 2019). For a concise overview of this event, click on the research starter below. 

Primary Sources

Note: For help with citing primary sources properly, check out this FAQ and be sure to reach out to your instructor with any questions you may have. For help citing interviews in particular, click here

This essay in photographs gives a unique perspective into the lives of people in London during the Great Smog. Please note that the images are the primary source, not the descriptions. 

Consider the transcript of the House of Commons debate from February 17th 1949. The House of Commons has several debates/discussions talking about the cost and quality of fuel, the most illustrative available below.

Jenny Hamilton was an emergency services dispatcher during the Great Smog and recounts her experience briefly here.

Secondary Sources

Bell and Davis analyze the Great Smog with a focus on lasting health effects through this primary research study.

Laskin discusses the Great Smog from a historical perspective, with particular focus on how post World War II effects played into the occurrence.

Lean analyzes The Great Smog, resulting in environmental efforts, and existing pollution threats.

This chapter on the Great Smog in the larger volume on pollution analyzes several contributing factors and causes.