Poison Panic

Arsenic deaths in 1840s Essex

Helen Barrell

* Uses genealogical skills to shed light on the poisonings.

* Debunks the myth there was a ‘poison ring' of women across the county, scheming to bump off their relatives.

* Looks at the aftermath of the poisonings and what happened to those involved in the years following.

* Explores the lives of the protagonists: as well as the three accused wo
Date Published :
August 2016
Publisher :
Pen and Sword
Illustration :
black & white illustrations and photos
Format Available    QuantityPrice
ISBN : 9781473852075
Pages : 224
Dimensions : 9.5 X 6.5 inches
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For a few years in the 1840s, Essex was notorious in the minds of Victorians as a place where women stalked the winding country lanes looking for their next victim to poison with arsenic. It’s a terrible image – and also one that doesn’t seem to have much basis in truth – but this was a time of great anxiety.

The 1840s were also known as the ‘hungry ’40s’, when crop failures pushed up food prices and there was popular unrest across Europe. The decade culminated in a cholera epidemic in which tens of thousands of people in the British Isles died. It is perhaps no surprise that people living through that troubled decade were captivated by the stories of the ‘poisoners’: that death was down to ‘white powder’ and the evil intentions of the human heart.

Sarah Chesham, Mary May and Hannah Southgate are the protagonists of this tale of how rural Essex, in a country saturated with arsenic, was touched by the tumultuous 1840s.

About The Author

Helen Barrell is a librarian at the University of Birmingham. She has appeared on BBC 4’s _Punt PI_, has written for magazines such as _Fortean Times_ and _Family Tree_, and guest blogs for Findmypast. Her first book, _Poison Panic: Arsenic Deaths in 1840s Essex_, was published by Pen & Sword in 2016\. Helen’s history website is at ww.essexandsuffolksurnames.co.uk and she blogs about writing at www.helenbarrell.co.uk

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