Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Hurren on the Criminal Corpse

Elizabeth T. Hurren, University of Leicester, has published Dissecting the Criminal Corpse: Staging Post-Execution Punishment in Early Modern England with Palgrave Macmillan (2016). From the press:
Those convicted of homicide were hanged on the public gallows before being dissected under the Murder Act in Georgian England. Yet, from 1752, whether criminals actually died on the hanging tree or in the dissection room remained a medical mystery in early modern society. Dissecting the Criminal Corpse takes issue with the historical cliché of corpses dangling from the hangman’s rope in crime studies. Some convicted murderers did survive execution in early modern England. Establishing medical death in the heart-lungs-brain was a physical enigma. Criminals had large bull-necks, strong willpowers, and hearty survival instincts. Extreme hypothermia often disguised coma in a prisoner hanged in the winter cold. The youngest and fittest were capable of reviving on the dissection table. Many died under the lancet. Capital legislation disguised a complex medical choreography that surgeons staged. They broke the Hippocratic Oath by executing the Dangerous Dead across England from 1752 until 1832.
Remarkably (by North American standards), this book is open access under a CC-BY license. You can download it for free here.

Dissecting the Criminal Corpse is part of the Palgrave series “Historical Studies in the Criminal Corpse and its Afterlife.”

Here’s the Table of Contents:

Part I-Introduction
Ch.1: The Condemned Body Leaving the Courtroom
Ch.2: Becoming Really Dead: Dying by Degrees
Ch.3: In Bad Shape: Sensing the Criminal Corpse

Part II- Preamble
Ch.4: Delivering Post-Mortem ‘Harm’: Cutting the Corpse
Ch.5: Mapping Punishmnet: Provincial Places to Dissect
Ch.6: The Disappearing Body: Dissection to the Extremities
Ch.7: “He that Hath an Ill-Name Is Half-Hanged”: The Anatomical Legacy of the Criminal Corpse

Full information is available here.