Dictionary of Sydney

The Dictionary of Sydney was archived in 2021.

Smallpox epidemic 1881

Outbreak of one of the world's most feared diseases that led to big changes in public health administration in Sydney.

Date of event
1881 - 1882

Smallpox epidemic 1881


Starting with a small Chinese child in The Rocks, the smallpox epidemic of 1881-82 had large consequences for the Chinese community who were further reviled and restricted and for the dozens of Sydneysiders quarantined for months at North Head. Despite the relative mildness of the outbreak, fear was rife, and the epidemic led to an overhaul of the colony's health regulations.