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Whose body? A study of attitudes towards the dead body in early modern Paris

Harding, Vanessa (2000) Whose body? A study of attitudes towards the dead body in early modern Paris. In: Gordon, Bruce and Marshall, Peter (eds.) The place of the dead: death and remembrance in late medieval and early modern Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 170-187. ISBN 0 521 64518 2.


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This chapter examines attitudes towards the dead body, as exemplified by arrangements for funerals and burials, in Paris between around 1550 and 1670. It seeks to establish, not so much what people said should happen to the bodies of the dead, but what happened in practice - the care, or lack of it, which the living accorded to the corpses of their contemporaries and predecessors - and to use this to further our understanding of the mentality of early modern urban dwellers. It is part of a wider enquiry, to explore the attitudes of the living to the dead in Paris and London, and to consider the ways in which this can illuminate the nature of these two metropolitan societies, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Looking at the treatment of the corpse can also take discussion of the body, and the ways in which it is apprehended and understood, a stage further than the predominant focus on the living; dead bodies were as variably constructed, as liable to objectification (even commodification), as exposed to contest and competition over meaning as living ones. This particular study highlights the issues of control and ownership, among the complexity of reactions to the materiality of bodies, and offers an insight into power relations in a wider social and spatial environment.

Item Type: Book Section
School or Research Centre: Birkbeck Schools and Research Centres > School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy > History, Classics and Archaeology
Depositing User: Sandra Plummer
Date Deposited: 22 Nov 2005
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2013 12:32

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