This book provides a historical account of two Royal Commissions in Victorian Britain that sought solutions to river pollution problems attributed to industrial waste and town sewage. It describes and analyzes the legislative outcome, the Rivers Pollution Act of 1876, which remained the basic law until 1951. An introductory chapter and an epilogue place developments of the 1860's and 1870's into the broader context of British history. The study dispels any notion that environmental issues are largely twentieth-century phenomena. Two themes recur in the general response to the work of the commissions: fear of the economic consequences of adopting anti-pollution measures and a stubborn attachment to local control.