Document Type

Honors Thesis

Publication Date



Since the introduction of vaccination in 1796 by Edward Jenner, there has been a continuous debate regarding the practice of vaccination. The debate initially focused on ethical and religious opposition to vaccination, but quickly turned towards politics following the passing of compulsory vaccination laws in England in 1853. This politically charged debate regarding compulsion is what remains in the forefront of the minds of anti-vaccinators today. Does the government have the right to force vaccination upon its citizens?

This project is not an examination of ethics or the role of the government, and therefore does not seek to answer this question. Rather, it will discuss the techniques employed by anti-vaccinators in nineteenth century England, who used politically and religiously charged language to construct their movement upon already existing social debates. Ultimately, anti-vaccinators were brilliant in their maneuvers to convince British citizens to support their crusade. They used preexisting political infrastructure as the platform to argue for their cause, disputing state oversight and class oppression. Anti-vaccinators did not start from the ground up, but successfully built on what the public was already familiar with and integrated their message into well-known broader issues.



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