Possessing the Dead

Possessing the Dead : The Artful Science of Anatomy


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With a rare blend of curiosity, delight in the unexpected, and an eye for detail, this account explores the disturbing history of the cadaver trade in Australia, England, and Scotland. Drawing on a rich array of material--and using Australian Aboriginal cricketer Charles Rose's 1868 death in London as an example--this examination argues that no corpse lying in a workhouse, hospital, or asylum was entirely safe from interference despite the established laws that gave certain officials possession of the dead. Intriguing and informative, this chronicle reveals a gruesome past and the chicanery at play behind the procuring of bodies for dissections, autopsies, and collections.

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  • Paperback | 304 pages
  • 154 x 232 x 26mm | 399.16g
  • 01 Jan 2011
  • Melbourne University Press
  • Carlton
  • English
  • 0522857353
  • 9780522857351
  • 428,220

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Author Information

Helen MacDonald is the author of the critically acclaimed "Human Remains," which won the Victorian Premier's Literary Award and was short-listed for the Ernest Scott History Prize. She is a senior fellow at The Australian Center in the School of Historical Studies at the University of Melbourne.

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Review quote

"MacDonald is that rare and precious commodity: a crack historian with a taste for the bizarre." --New York Times Book Review

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