‘Bodysnatchers: Digging up the Untold Stories of Britain’s Resurrection Men’
Covering over 100 years of history, ‘Bodysnatchers: Digging Up the Untold Stories of Britain’s Resurrection Men’ retells the forgotten stories of some of Britain’s darkest characters.
Starting at the very beginning of Britain’s body snatching era, from the early to mid-1700s, when students and anatomists themselves were the body snatchers, through to the passing of the Anatomy Act in 1832, stories of Britain’s forgotten body snatchers have been dusted from the archives and collected together here, many for the first time.
With over 15 years of research behind it, I want to introduce to you some of Britain’s forgotten heroes of medical history.
Although I blog and write about individual cases on my website, there’s a limit as too how much depth you can go into and when writing this book, no stone has been left unturned.
You’ll read how students bumbled through the early years of body snatching, and how demand for cadavers increased so dramatically that it paved the way for professional resurrection men.
I’ll then share just how body snatchers removed a corpse from a grave, together with some of the wilder thoughts behind this. How body snatchers went about transporting cadavers to the various anatomy schools throughout the country and what happened when things didn’t quite go to plan.
Researching The Untold Stories
As a qualified archivist, my training certainly came into its own when researching my book. I had a great time unearthing documents that haven’t been published since the day they were written.
Research has been carried out at both The National Archives and local archives in order to uncover forgotten evidence and stories. Numerous sites across the country have also been visited in order to provide a true account of events during this macabre period.
At the back of my book, there is a comprehensive list of the archive resources I used to gather my research.
From posters, previously daubed onto brick walls in 1829, when a body snatcher descended on a small Yorkshire town kept at a local archive, to evidence presented during the 1827 trial of student body snatchers John Beaumont and John Barker are just some of the documents hidden away that have been brought to light during my research.
Many of the documents used throughout this book haven’t been published before and my discovery had now led to their wider inclusion.
You’ll also find information on the numerous historic newspapers used throughout my research, accessed via The British Newspaper Archive website Although I don’t list all of the newspapers I scoured through, there’s still a sizeable list for you to look at, together with the publication date.
I have filled the index pages with individual names of bodysnatchers as well as the names of subjects (cadavers) stolen for the dissecting table. Over the years of researching body snatchers, I have found in excess of 250 names, and unfortunately, only a handful of those individuals appear in my book.
You can read some shorter accounts of the body snatchers that I find on my blog, but I hope to bring you more books as I write them. You never know, you may find one of your ancestors listed among its pages.
If you wish to visit some of the sites that were targeted by body snatchers, then a full list of locations mentioned in the book can also be found. Again, not all sites have been included but you can discover further sites throughout my blog by clicking through to the locations category here
There are some excellent reviews been received since my book’s been published, most of which can be viewed on Amazon.co.uk
I have included just a few of my favourites here:
This must be and will probably remain the definitive work on the history and techniques of bodysnatchers as it is difficult to believe too many people will wish to devote a considerable part of their lives to this gruesome and difficult subject, delving into the coffins and graves of our long gone (in more ways than one) relatives.
Yet the author is to be congratulated on her exhaustive research as she clearly establishes that the use of the cadavers and their supply was at the core of research and development of the skills of surgeons.’
‘Lennox identifies the strong and mixed emotions that human dissection and body snatching generated and presents her evidence succinctly. She also pays tribute to Ruth Richardson’s scholarly account Death, Dissection and the Destitute, which is more reflective on this subject.
Most of the tales that Lennox relates are macabre, many are humorous and a few are somewhat shocking.
This book should appeal to both medical historians and general readers with strong stomachs though it may not be suitable as a Christmas present for the squeamish.’
British Society for the History of Medicine
….Lennox handles this very specialist subject with an authoritative air and hugely entertaining, evocative style.
It is to her credit that she resists the temptation to stray into sensationalism, even when the material virtually invites it.
She brings the Georgian underworld vividly back to life and in doing so, rightly resurrects some colourful characters that might otherwise never have seen the light of day again.
All About History
There’s still so much more to talk about in regards to Britain’s resurrection men, its history, and the men and women involved that future publications are being researched.
As much as I try, I can’t research through all the newspapers or archival sources on my own and so I’d love for you to get in touch if you happen to come across even the merest of mentions of body snatching activity while you’re hunting through these resources yourself.
I also love hearing from you if you have any stories in relation to the body snatchers or subjects I write about. You can contact me via my contact page which can be found here.
In the meantime, I hope you enjoy reading about Britain’s forgotten bodysnatchers.