The Great Trouble: Cholera Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow

Poster about 1854 Cholera outbreak in London, images of newspapers, the ghost map, and a book

The 1854 London Cholera Epidemic was a Turning Point in World History.

Sit down with a tween or teen and join us at the intersection of history and fiction with Deborah Hopkinson's Middle School/YA novel, The Great Trouble.

We have put together a specially curated collection of books and websites to help guide the way on this journey.  

Use our non-fiction reading list and websites to explore history, the science of epidemiology, sanitation, civil engineering, and current cholera outbreaks.

Consult our professional materials for hints, tips, and tricks to guide you as you and a youth start exploring history and the impact of past events on the present day together.




The Great Trouble by Deborah Hopkinson

Eel, an orphan, and his best friend Florrie must help Dr. John Snow prove that cholera is spread through water, and not poisonous air, when an epidemic sweeps across their London neighborhood in 1854.


Non Fiction

Poop Happened: A History of the World from the Bottom Up by Sarah Albee

Throughout the ages, the most successful civilizations were the ones who realized that everyone poops and they'd better figure out how to get rid of it! From the very first flushing toilet (invented way earlier than you would think) to the efficient Roman aqueducts (possibly inspired by the goddess of sewers!) to castles in the Middle Ages whose moats used more than just water to repel enemies, Poop happened! traces human civilization through this revolting yet fascinating theme.

Outbreak: Science Seeks Safeguards for Global Health by Charles Piddock

Texts that include interviews, timelines, diagrams, and glossaries about the latest findings concerning viruses and bacteria, how we have learned to fight the harmful ones and use the beneficial ones to improve our lives.

Outbreak: Disease Detectives at Work by Mark P. Friedlander, jr.

Describes the field of epidemiology and its history, presenting historical and modern case studies and biological explanations of some diseases.

Pandemic Survival: It's Why You're Alive by Anne Love & Jane Drake

The Black Death. Yellow Fever. Smallpox. History is full of gruesome pandemics, and surviving those pandemics has shaped our society and way of life. Every person today is alive because of an ancestor who survived and surviving our current and new pandemics, like SARS, AIDS, bird flu or a new and unknown disease, will determine our future. "Pandemic Survival" presents in depth information about past and current illnesses; the evolution of medicine and its pioneers; cures and treatments; strange rituals and superstitions; and what we are doing to prevent future pandemics. Full of delightfully gross details about symptoms and fascinating facts about bizarre superstitious behaviors, this book is sure to interest even the most squeamish of readers.

Disease Detectives by Lisa Yount

Presents biographical profiles of six medical researchers who have made significant contributions to epidemiology, including John Snow, Louis Pasteur, Walter Reed, Alice Hamilton, C. J. Peters, and Mary-Claire King.

The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson

An account of the worst cholera outbreak in Victorian London--and an exploration of how Dr. John Snow's solution revolutionized the way we think about disease in cities. In the summer of 1854, a devastating cholera outbreak seized London just as it was emerging as a modern city: more than 2 million people packed into a ten-mile circumference, a hub of travel and commerce, continually pushing the limits of infrastructure that's outdated as soon as it's updated. Author Johnson chronicles Snow's day-by-day efforts as he risked his own life to prove how the epidemic was being spread. When he created the map that traced the pattern of outbreak back to its source, Dr. Snow didn't just solve a pressing medical riddle--he established a precedent for the way modern city-dwellers, city planners, physicians, and public officials think about the spread of disease and the development of the modern urban environment.

Toilets, Bathtubs, Sinks, and Sewers:  A History of the Bathroom by Penny Colman

 A history of bathroom facilities from Sumerian and Roman times to the present.


Professional Materials

Engagement in Teaching History: Theory and Practices for Middle and Secondary Teachers by Frederick R. Drake & Lynn D. Nelson

Cholera and the Thames by The City of Westminster Archives



Cholera & the Thames– Westminster Archives

The fascinating story of London’s battle against cholera in the nineteenth century and the continuing battle being fought against it today.

The Geography of Health

Investigate the close links between geography and the development of the science of epidemiology, which examines the distribution, occurrence and spread of disease.


The challenges facing the planet with regard to the provisioning of safe potable water are many.  Filmed in 15 countries, the movie One Water highlights a world where water is exquisitely abundant in some places and dangerously lacking in others.  It celebrates the ways water has touched human lives around the globe and leaves audiences with a fundamental question, is water a human right or a commodity?

World Health Organization –Cholera

The WHO's page on cholera prevention, monitoring, and current outbreaks.