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Module

HIS3336 : Punishing the Criminal Dead: Crime, Culture, and Corpses in Modern Britain

  • Offered for Year: 2020/21
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Shane McCorristine
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semesters
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0

Aims

Histories of crime and criminals traditionally stop after execution. This ignores a range of sources and debates looking at where criminal corpses went if they were denied burial as a further punishment. This module looks at the history of post-mortem punishment in Britain, c.1752-1900, focusing on the journeys of the bodies of convicted criminals from courtrooms, to scaffolds, and then (after death) on to hospitals, dissection rooms, museums, and private collections. Starting with the Murder Act of 1752, we will examine how the notorious bodies and body parts of the criminal dead became part of a disturbing and frequently illegal corpse trade that drew together the judiciary, executioners, medical professionals, and workhouse officials. This subject matters because it continues to inform the modern organ/corpse trade as well as the ethics of using corpses for medical knowledge/experimentation. Students will be asked to frame these practices in the context of Elias’s “civilising process” thesis. This module will place an emphasis on the wide and rich variety of primary sources about the criminal dead, including court records, folklore and superstition, images, ballads, and material/medical collections.

Outline Of Syllabus

This module will move from cultural and medical history to the history of crime and punishment. Topics covered will include: The power of the criminal corpse in the medieval imagination; Early modern execution practices; Murder, law, and spectacle; Death and dissection; Bodysnatching and the illegal corpse trade; Death and poverty: the workhouse and medical knowledge; Gibbets and the criminal landscape; Dismemberment and commodity culture: the criminal corpse in pieces; The magical criminal corpse; Can you medically harm a dead person?: ethics and personhood; When is death?: social, medical, and legal interpretations;

Teaching Methods

Module leaders are revising this content in light of the Covid 19 restrictions.
Revised and approved detail information will be available by 17 August.

Assessment Methods

Module leaders are revising this content in light of the Covid 19 restrictions.
Revised and approved detail information will be available by 17 August.

Reading Lists

Timetable