DRAINAGE AND SANITATION*
Think of what our Nation stands for,
Books from Boots' and country lanes,
Free speech, free passes, class distinction,
Democracy and proper drains.
(Sir John Betjeman, In Westminster Abbey)
The history of drainage and sanitation has been largely neglected, perhaps because of its unglamorous nature.1 Yet it concerns a vitally important aspect of daily life. Drainage and sanitation are intimately linked with processes of urbanization: nucleated settlement implies high population densities, with a concomitant need for the disposal of sewage and refuse. Moreover, urbanization changes the surface drainage characteristics of an area, replacing formerly permeable soil with a carapace of pavements, courtyards and roofs. Stormwater drains are necessary if these impermeable surfaces are not to flood, and such storm drains may also serve as sewers. The infrastructure for urban sanitation is in fact so important that its effectiveness is sometimes viewed as an index of civilisation itself, as (somewhat frivolously) in Betjeman's poem In Westminster Abbey. Whilst such equations can be extravagant, there does appear to be a detectable relationship between the strength and attitude of centralised authority and the types of drainage systems employed in urban environments. Although in fact democracy by no means implies proper drains, drainage systems may reflect societal organization, according to which structures are provided with drains, and whether drainage is organized on an individual or a collective basis.
* I am most grateful to Susanne Ebbinghaus, Gemma Jansen, Tom Kiely, Michael
Roaf and Eleanor Robson for discussing aspects of this chapter and providing per-
tinent references. All errors are, of course, my own.
1 Reimers 1989; Reimers 1991. Such general studies as there are (e.g. Garrison
1929; Lamb 1937) tend to be superficial and confine themselves to a very limited
number of examples from the ancient world. Guillaume 1887 is more useful, but
again concentrates on the Classical world and is limited by its brevity. I have not
been able to consult Best 1980(?).