BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

28 October 2014
Legacies - Cambridgeshire

BBC Homepage
 UK Index
Your stories
 Site Info
 BBC History
 Where I Live

Contact Us

men robbing a grave
Bodysnatchers being disturbed while robbing a grave

© The Wellcome Trust
Bodysnatching for Cambridge anatomy

Today, if a Cambridge anatomy student wanted to practise dissection, they would not have too many problems in legally acquiring a body to use. However in the 18th and early 19th Centuries, strict legal restrictions on dissection meant that only one source of bodies was sanctioned – hanged murderers. With a growing number of people studying medicine, demand soon outstripped the supply of corpses, leading to an underground trade in the dead. “Professional” bodysnatchers, or resurrectionists, emerged, who raided graveyards and sold their wares onto anatomy schools like the one at Cambridge. Although dangerous work, it was highly lucrative, and the bodysnatchers could virtually name their price, as schools depended on them for a continuous supply of bodies. But they were never popular, and during their heyday from 1740-1830, they encountered both hostility and violence from the Cambridge public. More...

Words: Dr Ruth Richardson

Read More

Your comments

Print this page
Look back into the past using the Legacies' archives. Find nearly 200 tales from around the country in our collection.

Read more >
Internet Links
Wellcome Trust
Charles Darwin
Other famous bodysnatchers
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Web sites.
North Yorkshire
Women's working lives at Rowntrees
Related Stories
The De-Veys, a fairground family
The peat cutting industry in Broadland
Lincolnshire "Lillies at work"

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy