Arsenic
in Manchester
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From toxic wallpaper and beer, to poisonous sweets and the ‘cake of death’, Manchester has a rich cultural history pertaining to arsenic. This chapter explores this history across the city from banal to fantastical instances of poisoning. We now know that in 1857 each sumptuous sample of Manchester’s Heywood, Higginbottom, Smith & Co wallpaper contained arsenic. This beautiful dye also snuck into the food chain, with several children poisoned in Manchester by eating sweets coloured with copper arsenite during the 1840s. This banal yet lethal element imprinted itself on Manchester, not just through the famed penny dreadful poisonings of disgruntled partners, but also through the lackadaisical attitudes of the city’s manufacturers. Arsenic is no longer a commonplace product in Manchester. Rather than toxic beer, research at the University of Manchester now investigates the complexities of arsenic contamination through rice-based diets, in the city and worldwide.

Manchester

Something rich and strange

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