The Medicalization of Death in History

When the Black Death swept through Europe in the 14th century, it claimed the lives of over 75 million people, many of who were clergymen whose job it was to help usher the dying into the next world. In response to the shortage of priests, the Ars Moriendi (Art of Dying) first emerged in 1415. […]

The Battle over Bodies: A History of Criminal Dissection

On 29 July 1831, John Amy Bird Bell was found guilty of murdering a young boy for the sake of a few coins. At his trial, Bell expressed no emotion when he was sentenced to death. He did, however, break down when he was informed that his body would be given over to the surgeons […]

PBS Mercy Street – Guest Blog Post

Inspired by real people and events, the new PBS mini-series Mercy Street goes beyond the front lines of the Civil War and into the chaotic world of the Mansion House Hospital in Union-occupied Alexandria, Virginia. For those who are fans of the show, or merely interested in this period of history, check out my guest […]

Slashing Throats for 170 Years: The “Real” Sweeney Todd

To most people, Sweeney Todd needs no introduction, thanks in part to Tim Burton’s 2007 adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s musical, starring Johnny Depp as the throat-slashing barber of Fleet Street. In the movie, Todd dumps the bodies of his victims into the basement, where their bones are stripped of flesh and made into pies by […]

Resurrecting the Body Snatchers: The Halloween Edition

I’ve written about body snatchers several times on this site, and each time, readers ask for more. Given that it’s Halloween, I thought I would give into that request and return to the subject in a longer, more comprehensive article about these fascinating creatures from the early 19th century. Happy Halloween! It is half past […]

Under The Knife – Episode 1: The Clockwork Saw

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBINzHYUraw&w=853&h=480] In the first episode of Under The Knife, I discuss the clockwork saw–a 19th-century medical instrument which failed on a massive scale. Make sure you watch to the very end as we have a few little surprises in store for you! If you enjoy the video, please remember to subscribe to our YouTube Channel for […]

YOU HAVE DIED OF DYSENTERY

Children of the 70s and 80s will likely remember Oregon Trail, the computer game where the player assumes the role of wagon leader and guides a group of settlers through the pioneer landscape of 19th-century America. You would hunt bison, shoot rabbits, ford rivers and pick up other settlers as you made your way from […]