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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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Death in Scotland: Chapters from the Twelfth Century to the Twenty-First is the successor volume to Death in Modern Scotland 1855–1955: Beliefs, Attitudes and Practices, ed. Susan Buckham, Peter C. Jupp and Julie Rugg (Oxford and Bern: Peter Lang, 2016).

The origin of both books began when Professor Stewart J. Brown of the School of Divinity at Edinburgh University accepted an invitation as an Honorary Consultant to a Leverhulme-funded project at Durham University (2008–2011), led by Professors Douglas J. Davies and Hilary J. Grainger. This project resulted in the publication of the book Cremation in Modern Scotland: History, Architecture and the Law (co-authored by Peter C. Jupp, Douglas J. Davies, Hilary J. Grainger, Gordon D. Raeburn and Stephen R. G. White, Edinburgh: John Donald, 2017). In 2011 Stewart Brown invited Peter Jupp to become an Honorary Fellow in the Divinity School with a brief to organise conferences on ‘death in Scotland’.

Death in Modern Scotland emerged from the first conference (2013); this second volume springs from the conferences held in 2014 and 2016, all three hosted by New College. The three conferences generated over 120 papers. They have been deliberately inter-disciplinary. Whilst human mortality has long been a major focus for such subjects as anthropology, archaeology, demography, medicine and religion, the interdisciplinary perspective from the early 1990s has encouraged increasing scholarly and public interest in death. Specialist studies of Scottish death have steadily increased and are represented in this new book.

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