Bras amulet designed to protect against cholera, French, 1820-1880.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
This amulet is inscribed on the reverse with the words 'St Roch preservez nous du cholera' ('St Roch, preserve us from cholera'). St Roch (d 1327) was often invoked against the Plague and other diseases. Cholera was a highly infectious, and often fatal, disease which spread rapidly in the industrial towns of 19th century Europe. It caused chronic diahorrea, vomiting, cramps and dehydration, and after the first symptoms appeared, death could take place within a day. The disease spread because of poor sanitation and was only eradicated after new public health legislation was introduced and public hygiene improved.