Necropolis: London and Its Dead by Catharine Arnold, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Necropolis: London and Its Dead

Necropolis: London and Its Dead

by Catharine Arnold
     
 

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From Roman burial rites to the horrors of the plague, from the founding of the great Victorian cemeteries to the development of cremation and the current approach of metropolitan society towards death and bereavement — including more recent trends to displays of collective grief and the cult of mourning, such as that surrounding the death of Diana, Princess of

Overview

From Roman burial rites to the horrors of the plague, from the founding of the great Victorian cemeteries to the development of cremation and the current approach of metropolitan society towards death and bereavement — including more recent trends to displays of collective grief and the cult of mourning, such as that surrounding the death of Diana, Princess of Wales — NECROPOLIS: LONDON AND ITS DEAD offers a vivid historical narrative of this great city's attitude to going the way of all flesh. As layer upon layer of London soil reveals burials from pre-historic and medieval times, the city is revealed as one giant grave, filled with the remains of previous eras — pagan, Roman, medieval, Victorian. This fascinating blend of archaeology, architecture and anecdote includes such phenomena as the rise of the undertaking trade and the pageantry of state funerals; public executions and bodysnatching. Ghoulishly entertaining and full of fascinating nuggets of information, Necropolis leaves no headstone unturned in its exploration of our changing attitudes to the deceased among us. Both anecdotal history and cultural commentary, Necropolis will take its place alongside classics of the city such as Peter Ackroyd's LONDON.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"It may not be the cheeriest of topics, but Arnold writes exquisitely, with a respectful and assured style that makes descriptions of 16th-century plague pits seem vital and relevant, and never dismisses the personal tragedies behind the numbers of dead. And it is strangely comforting, in this city of immigrants and new arrivals, to think of the generations, of so many ancestors lying beneath our train stations, churches and concert halls a we go about our business." — Guardian

"Catharine Arnold's lively stiff survey is good on the Black Death and great on the Victorian age." — The Scotsman

Kirkus Reviews
Everything you always wanted to know about perishing in London. In this history of the removal of deceased people, we learn, for example, that the Piccadilly underground line had to be rerouted because of the density of bones in the way of construction. The author digs up details about the noxious effluvia of human putrescence in London. She describes the city's medieval Danse Macabre. We follow the course of the Grim Reaper through plague years witnessed by Samuel Pepys and Daniel Defoe. After the Great Fire, tombstones rose as architect Sir Christopher Wren, disgusted by interment within church buildings, promoted suburban final resting places. In the 18th century, the undertaking trade thrived along with sepulchral monuments, mausolea and melancholy. Displays of black crape and plumes were public badges of mourning. Both the living and dead populations of the metropolis increased. Body-snatching Resurrection Men provided corpses to medical students. During Widow Victoria's reign, cemetery landscaping flourished from Highgate to West Norwood. For a while, cremation seemed ideal. As the 20th century came to an end, Arnold supposes, "the stiff upper lip gave way to the bleeding heart." The author offers brief biographies of a few notable graveyard residents and notes the last rites of rich and famous Britons from Elizabeth I to Princess Diana. Nor does she neglect the less elaborate means employed to dispose of poor people's corpses through the ages. From plague-pit burial to grand heraldic cortege, a straightforward memento mori.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781416502487
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster UK
Publication date:
07/01/2008
Edition description:
New
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
487,495
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.81(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Everything you always wanted to know about perishing in London."  —Kirkus Reviews

"Deeply pleasing.  .  .  . Entertainment of the most garish and exquisite kind. . . . A Baedeker of the dead."  —The Times

"Enthusiastic, good-humored and constantly engaging."  —Daily Telegraph

Meet the Author

Catharine Arnold read English at Cambridge and holds a further degree in psychology. A journalist, academic and popular historian, she is the author of the Lost Time, winner of a Betty Trask award.

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