Houses and individuals in Udine during the cholera outbreak of 1836. A geo-referenced analysis with micro-level data

Alessio Fornasin, Marco Breschi, Matteo Manfredini



This study investigates the spread of cholera in 1836 in Udine, a small town in northeast Italy, through a micro-analytical approach. First, the demographic and socio-economic characteristics of Udine on the eve of these epidemics, together with its infrastructural facilities for the supply and drainage of water, are described. Secondly, these cholera epidemics are examined from a demographic, chronological and spatial point of view. The third and final part analyses the spread according to the position of houses in relation to water supply. In Udine, the water supply system relied on a network of fountains, which collected clean water from a torrent, some cisterns which collected rain-water, and canals. A positive relationship between the number of cholera deaths in a given house and its distance from drinking fountains has been found, revealing that the more distant the house was from a clean source of water, the higher the risk of dying from cholera for its inhabitants. There was a negative association for cisterns and canals, implying that the chances of dying from cholera decreased the further one lived from a potentially infected source of water. The spatial position of fountains privileged those in already advantaged situations by supplying the cleanest water to areas where living conditions were better and more economically favourable, thereby reducing an already lower risk of infection for that population.Alessio FORNASIN, Researcher, Department of  Economics and Statistics, University of Udine, via Treppo, 18, I-33100 Udine, Italy. E-mail:

Marco BRESCHI, Professor, Department of Economics, University of Sassari,  Sassari, Italy. E-mail:

Matteo MANFREDINI, Researcher, Department of Genetics Anthropology
Evolution, University of Parma, Parma, Italy. E-mail:




Full Text



ISSN: 2035-5556

Reg. Tribunale di Roma n. 3321/54