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Death in Scotland

Chapters From the Twelfth Century to the Twenty-First


Peter C. Jupp and Hilary J. Grainger

For the past twenty years, Scottish death culture has emerged as a focus of scholars drawn from a wide variety of disciplines. Death comes to us all but too often we treat it as a private or personal matter. The former taboo about death is slowly lifting and contemporary research is playing an increasing part. Accordingly, the fifteen essays gathered in this book probe the multi-facetted role of death in Scottish history and culture. They explore personal fears of death, anxieties about Predestination, prayers for the dead and the appeal of Spiritualism. They analyse the public face of death in law, economics and medicine: changes in capital punishment, funeral poverty, the teaching of anatomy and prevention of stillbirths. Within the worlds of religion and ritual, they consider the making of saints, burial practice following the Scottish Reformation and the tradition of keening within the Gáidhealtachd. With an Introduction by Professor Jane Dawson, these essays by specialists in the field not only highlight the richness of the primary sources for studying death in Scotland but reveal how death studies identify key features of Scottish life and society across ten centuries.

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10 Following Death: Pauper Bodies and the Medical Schools of Aberdeen, 1832–1914 (Dee Hoole)


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10 Following Death: Pauper Bodies and the Medical Schools of Aberdeen, 1832–1914


Anatomical research and teaching in Scotland over 150 years ago was in crisis. The Anatomy Act 1832 introduced the lawful supply of ‘unclaimed’ bodies of the poor; but what effect did this have on medical teaching at Aberdeen? Poor Law institutions became the principal sources of cadavers but to what extent did this new supply chain satisfy the demand for anatomical subjects? The uniquely Scottish ‘Funeratory’ system was crucial to the smooth transition of subjects to the medical schools for dissection. The records of Aberdeen Funeratory document many personal details of cadavers sourced as teaching material; and the records of the Inspector of Anatomy for Scotland reveal the delicate but firm stance pursued to facilitate lawful compliance with the Anatomy Act. Allowing a window into the medical, scientific and institutional world of the period, anatomical teaching and strategies adopted and adapted to ensure an adequate supply of cadaveric material. This research enables an understanding of how some pauper bodies dissected in this period were dealt with at Aberdeen. This, the most northerly medical school, grew in prominence, attracting students in increasing numbers, arguably, as a result not only of better teaching methods and facilities but also the sacrifice of the 1,699 bodies of the poorest citizens to medical science.

The cadaver is not a living human being but neither is it a...

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