Publications and Ouputs

Details of publications and other outputs emerging from the Harnessing the Power of the Criminal Corpse project and related publications produced by members of the team.

Project Publications

  •  Floris Tomasini, 'A Stoic Defence of Rational Suicide', Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy: A European Journal (4 July 2012).Tomasini article

What is rational about suicide is explored from a number of perspectives. Of key significance is the distinction between irrational (or regular) suicide and rational suicide. Rational suicide can be defined as: instrumentally rational, autonomous, due to stable goals and not due to mental illness. One of the major problems with rational suicide is that it tends towards a utilitarian and instrumental view of rationality, which concentrates on the rational means of suicide, rather than fully considering the rational ends of why suicide could be substantively justified in certain special and controlled circumstances. With the aim of defending rational suicide, the article looks towards its stoic rather than utilitarian roots. The stoic argument is then reframed for a more contemporary audience and is explored in the socially relevant context of physicianassisted
suicide. The article can be freely accessed at SpingerLink.


Related Publications

  • Shane McCorristine (ed.), Spiritualism, Mesmerism and the Occult, 1800-1920. 5 Vols. Pickering & Chatto (2012).

This edition provides an important insight into the dark areas between science, medicine and religion in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This five-volume collection is organized thematically and spans the period from initial mesmeric experiments to the decline of the Society for Psychical Research in the 1920s. It includes a wide range of rare source material which illustrates the variety of different debates and opposing viewpoints, while a full editorial apparatus allows a nuanced reading of the texts. The set is a significant addition to the growing research on spiritualism and will be of interest to scholars of the history of science and medicine, parapsychology and Victorian studies. More information can be found at Pickering Chatto.


  • Annia Cherryson, Zoe Crossland and Sarah Tarlow, A Fine and Private Place: The Archaeology of Death and Burial in Post-Medieval Britain and Ireland. Leicester Archaeology Monograph 22. University of Leicester, School of Archaeology and Ancient History (2012). Tarlow Monograph

This substantial volume describes and analyses the archaeological evidence for mortuary practices in Britain and Ireland since the Reformation and includes a gazetteer of more than 600 relevant archaeological sites. This is the first book to attempt any overview or synthesis of this extensive body of material. Much of our current programme of work, Harnessing the Power of the Criminal Corpse, grew out of this earlier research which was supported by the Leverhulme Trust as part of their Changing Beliefs of the Human Body project. The book may be purchased through the University of Leicester shop.


  • Elizabeth T. Hurren, Dying for Victorian Medicine: English Anatomy and its Trade in the Dead Poor, c.1834-1929. Palgrave Macmillan. Basingstoke (2012).Hurren Monograph

In the nineteenth century the business of anatomy was very profitable. However, existing in a Victorian underworld, its shadowy details and potential links to the Jack-the-Ripper murders were seldom exposed. In this accessible and vibrant account, Elizabeth Hurren brings to life lost pauper stories recovered from the asylums, infirmaries, workhouses, body dealers, railway men and undertakers that supplied the medical profession with dissection subjects. The details of those trading networks, corpse sales, body parts fees, railway transportation costs and funeral expenses have never been documented before now, yet this economy of supply in the dead underpinned modern medicine. In Dying for Victorian Medicine, Hurren allows us to look for the first time into the human face of abject poverty, working back in the archives from death to touch the lives of those compelled by pauperism to give up a loved one's body for dissection. Dying for Victorian Medicine is available through Palgrave Macmillan.


  • Sarah Tarlow, Ritual, Belief and the Dead in Early Modern Britain and Ireland. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge (2011).Tarlow Monograph 2011

Drawing on archaeological, historical, theological, scientific and folkloric sources, Sarah Tarlow's interdisciplinary study examines belief as it relates to the dead body in early modern Britain and Ireland. From the theological discussion of bodily resurrection to the folkloric use of body parts as remedies, and from the judicial punishment of the corpse to the ceremonial interment of the social elite, this book discusses how seemingly incompatible beliefs about the dead body existed in parallel through this tumultuous period. This study, which is the first to incorporate archaeological evidence of early modern death and burial from across Britain and Ireland, addresses new questions about the materiality of death: what the dead body means, and how its physical substance could be attributed with sentience and even agency. It provides a sophisticated original interpretive framework for the growing quantities of archaeological and historical evidence about mortuary beliefs and practices in early modernity. The book can be purchased through Cambridge University Press.


  • Shane McCorristine, Spectres of the Self: Thinking about Ghosts and Ghost-seeing in England, 1750-1920. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge (2010). McCorristine Monograph

Spectres of the Self is a fascinating study of the rich cultures surrounding the experience of seeing ghosts in England from the Reformation to the twentieth century. Shane McCorristine examines a vast range of primary and secondary sources, showing how ghosts, apparitions, and hallucinations were imagined, experienced, and debated from the pages of fiction to the case reports of the Society for Psychical Research. By analysing a broad range of themes from telepathy and ghost-hunting to the notion of dreaming while awake and the question of why ghosts wore clothes, Dr McCorristine reveals the sheer variety of ideas of ghost seeing in English society and culture. He shows how the issue of ghosts remained dynamic despite the advance of science and secularism and argues that the ghost ultimately represented a spectre of the self, a symbol of the psychological hauntedness of modern experience. Spectres of the Self is available through Cambridge University Press.


Other Outputs

  • At the British History in the Long Eighteenth Century Seminar Series held at the Institute of Historical Research, on 30 November 2011, Richard Ward delivered a paper on 'Print Culture and Punishment: The Murder Act of 1752'.

This paper explored the key role which crime literature (especially newspapers) played in creating a moral panic about murder in the years 1751-1752, which led to the introduction of the 1752 Murder Act, the first piece of legislation enacted in Britain which stipulated systematic post-execution punishments of either dissection or hanging in chains for convicted murderers.  

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