History KS3: Burke and Hare

Dr Sam Caslin from Liverpool University visits Edinburgh in search of historical sources that explain the motivation for the notorious murders of Burke and Hare.

The film looks at the expansion of medical science in the Scottish capital during the 19th century, and the huge demand for human bodies that Edinburgh’s surgeons could use in their highly popular Anatomy Shows.

Sources include a Broadside or one-sided poster describing the capture and trial of Burke and Hare, tickets to the shows and a Mortsafe or cage around a grave at Greyfriars cemetery.

This clip is from the series Hunting for History.

Teacher Notes

After watching Dr Caslin analyse all three sources, students could be challenged to hold an inquest into who or what was really responsible for the murders: Burke and Hare alone, or was the medical profession and the restrictions on using corpses also to blame?

Curriculum Notes

This clip will be relevant for teaching KS3 History in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and 4th level People, past events and societies in Scotland.