How a society views death and how it deals with the practical problem of what to do with its dead is very revealing. There are always Philosophical and attitudinal issues around disposal of the dead, but at least as important are the practical matters relating to Public Health and Finance.
Before 1832 dissection was a feared and hated punishment for murder. The 1832 Anatomy Act requisitioned instead the corpses of the poor, transferring the penalty from murder to poverty. The Anatomy Act contributed to the terrible fear of the Victorian workhouse and influences attitudes towards death even today. This talk by author Ruth Richardson analyses the subject drawing on many disciplines to explore the fundamental issues of folklore and science, life and death and the political struggles surrounding ownership of the body in the 19th century.