The loo and government

A guest researcher at NTNU, Dolly Jørgensen, has shown that the beginnings of modern government were intimately linked with sanitary conditions in earlier times. One of urbanization’s most pressing problems in the Middle Ages was actually sewage.

The custom of the time was to cast garbage and excrement into the streets. This became untenable in growing cities, and communal ordinances came into force. But it took public authorities to implement these ordinances, and the ultimate extension of this was the rise of hierarchies of local power – the beginning of public administration and bureaucracy.