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By Richard Ward

This can be a bankruptcy from A worldwide heritage of Execution and the legal Corpse edited by means of Richard Ward. This bankruptcy is accessible open entry below a CC via license.


Capital punishment is an ancient common — it's been practiced at some point soon within the historical past of almost all identified societies and areas. that isn't to claim, in spite of the fact that, that it's an historic consistent — the use, shape, functionality and that means of execution has various drastically throughout assorted historic contexts. this is often likewise precise for an enormous — even if rather overlooked — element of capital punishment: the destiny of the legal physique after execution. This bankruptcy is an advent to the quantity.

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For the difficulties in reconstructing popular attitudes to anatomy and punitive dissection in the eighteenth century, see Wilf, ‘Anatomy and Punishment’, p. 525. 77. B. Mandeville, An Enquiry into the Causes of the Frequent Executions at Tyburn (London, 1725), p. 26. For more on the popular beliefs about the therapeutic and medicinal powers of the criminal corpse in early modern Europe see Evans, Rituals of Retribution, pp. 86–98, and Owen Davies and Francesca Matteoni, Executing Magic: The Power of Criminal Bodies (Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming).

Introduction 17 Indeed, Steven Wilf argues that the 1789 New York Anatomy Act, which was meant to signal the end of anti-dissection agitation, in fact ‘gave rise to a new round of protests. ’90 Nor is it the case that offenders were always terrified by the prospect of their corpse being denied burial and subjected to further degradation. 91 Abandonment of the Punishment of the Criminal Corpse in Europe The public exposure and punishment of the executed body had thus been a prominent feature of capital punishment in Europe since at least the later Middle Ages.

Clearly the infliction of ‘social’ death was a motivation behind the widespread practice in early modern Europe of the ceremonial procession, symbolic execution and desecration of offenders who were already biologically dead, especially those who had committed suicide. But as Alexander Kästner and Evelyne Luef argue in their chapter in this volume (Chapter 5), the treatment of the suicide corpse (both of criminals and those not suspected of any crime) also served a number of other specific purposes, ranging from deterrence to the ‘resolution’ of the offence and medical progress.

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