Those Backwards Medieeeeval Ages
(04-16-2015, 03:38 AM)ecclesiastes Wrote:
(04-15-2015, 10:21 PM)PrairieMom Wrote: Actually, according to the book I just read, it is. It went hand-in-hand with the Renaissance.

What book is that?
I highly recommend 'The Thirteenth, Greatest of Centuries', by James J. Walsh, M.D., PH.D., LL.D., a great Catholic historian and writer! You can read it here:

It's an eye opener for many people!
(04-17-2015, 12:34 AM)jovan66102 Wrote: I highly recommend 'The Thirteenth, Greatest of Centuries', by James J. Walsh, M.D., PH.D., LL.D., a great Catholic historian and writer! You can read it here:

It's an eye opener for many people!

That's on my reading list, seeing how she quotes it extensively in the 7 Lies book.
It's good to remember that society in general lags behind contemporary scholarship by at least 50-100 years (I don't really know why). The thesis that the medieval ages = dark ages = total barbarism was an Enlightenment prejudice that has been continuously disproven by historians for over the past 100 years, and no serious or notable historian accepts the idea because the way history is done today is fundamentally different than during modernism's height, in which history was told from the point of view as a progressive story of bad to increasingly good (the progress narrative). Contemporary history is far more detached about making value judgments on past and different societies, but even if it had to make value judgments, contemporary history has certainly come to acknowledge that the medieval ages were rich in intellectual, cultural, artistic, etc. developments.

The same thing happens in philosophy. The reduction of knowledge to empirical science is simply logical positivism, which was thoroughly dismantled by philosophers over 50 years ago. In fact, there was a whole movement called post-positivism, from which we get the concept of a "paradigm shift."

So don't take people who say such silly things too seriously.

Anyway, but the article itself is really fascinating. Thanks for the share.

As an adjunct to the original article, there's this -- from notes for something I'm writing for a medical history museum (the book linked to -  "The Devil in the White City"  -- is a stupendous book, BTW!). The text in purple is the relevant part:

In order to study the body, bodies were needed. How go get them?

In the 17th century, William Harvey, famous for his work in dissecting and describing the circulatory system, came up with the solution of dissecting his own father and sister. There wasn’t a huge need for cadavers earlier on in European History, though, because only surgeons (and barbers!) were expected to study anatomy to that degree. But in the 19th c., it came to be understood that all doctors needed such anatomical training, and so, came the rise of the body-snatchers.

Italy and France never had the problem of a lack of cadavers as the indigent were always made available after the proper religious services were offered for them  (contrary to popular belief, rooted in Protestant anti-Catholic propaganda, the Church did not have any rules against human dissection. For ex., there’s a beautifully preserved specimen of a dissected head that dates from the early 1200s.).
Post-Catholic Great Britain was a different story.

In England, there passed the “Murder Act of 1752” which disallowed murderers being buried after execution. Those bodies were often dissected. But criminal sources weren’t enough to fulfill demand, and when medical schools began to proliferate, the demand for bodies increased even more. So body-snatching became a seedy, underworld type of business.

Bodysnatching techniques: 1) They would often dig toward the headstone and, when reaching the casket, break the end of the casket open, tie a rope around the corpse, and drag it up. 2) Some would start digging 10 or 20 feet away from the grave and would tunnel over so it wouldn’t be obvious to anyone visiting the grave.

To defeat the body-snatchers, wire cages called “mortsafes” were built over graves, friends and family would attend graves all night until the bodies were likely useless for dissection due to composition, guards were hired, watch-towers built, etc. But the “resurrectionists” were incredibly successful. It’s told in a resurrectionist’s diary from 1811-1812, that he and his gang would go out almost every single night and would typically come back with at least 4 bodies – sometimes 8, 9, 10 – all the way up to 19 on one outing.

Even so, the demand for bodies was still higher than the supply, and there was money to be made, so a number of unscrupulous “ghouls,” as body-snatchers were called, took to murdering people and then selling their victims’ bodies to medical schools. In Scotland, a particularly notorious Irish duo, named Burke and Hare – the latter of whom married a woman who ran a lodging house --  fell into the trade after an old veteran died owing Hare 4 pounds in rent. They killed him, then took his body and sold it for 7 pounds 10 shillings – over a thousand dollars in modern Yankee dollars. They were hooked, and started killing people – men, women, children, including a woman and her 12-year old grandson.  They were finally caught when one of their victim’s bodies was found underneath a bed at Hare’s loding house – but they weren’t caught until after they’d killed at least 16 people. They were found guilty, executed – and then publicly dissected. You can see what’s left of Mr. Burke today, at the Anatomy Museum of Edinburgh’s Medical School, where his skeleton is on display.

Burke and Hare’s murders outraged the public, and, so, England passed the Anatomy Act of 1832, which allowed medical students to have access also to the bodies that went unclaimed by any next of kin.

In the United States, the need for cadavers led to the same sorts of problems encountered in England before the Anatomy Act. Body-snatching was rampant. Dissection wasn’t the only thing to drive the market; the need for specimens, such as skeletons, played a role, too. H.H. Holmes, known (erroneously) as “America’s First Serial Killer,” would kill people in his infamous Chicago “Murder Castle,” and sell their bones to medical schools.

Quote: There were two "President Harrisons": William Henry Harrison (the 11th President), and his grandson, Benjamin Harrison (the 23rd President – and a Hoosier). William Henry was only in office from May 24, 1828 – September 26, 1829; he caught pneumonia and died. The corpse that was stolen was that of William Henry's son, and Benjamin's father. His name was John Scott Harrison.

What happened: When President Benjamin Harrison’s father died, he was buried in a cemetery near the Ohio River. During the funeral, it was discovered that the grave of a young man who’d been buried about 10 days before had been robbed. When the funeral was over, friends of the young man got together, got search warrants, and headed for Cincinnati, ready to pour through the medical colleges there to see if they could find their friend’s body. President Benjamin Harrison’s brother, John, went along for the search party.

They find no trace of the young man and were about to leave – but then our Hoosier Presdident’s brother happened to notice a windlass attached to a rope reaching down to the lower story of the building. He pulled on the rope – and up came a body with a cloth over its face. He removed the cloth – and saw the face of his father, whom he’d buried just a few hours before.

Interestingly, the Harrison family had a large, heavy stone placed over the grave, and had hired a man to guard it. But even still, the “ghouls” got what they wanted – which either goes to show that guards can fall asleep on the job, or that they can be bought off.

Body-snatching for the purpose of providing cadavers to med students went on even until the early 20th century. Nowadays, such cadavers almost always come from donation and from unclaimed bodies.

Book: The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America”, by Erik Larson (about H.H. Holmes against the backdrop of the Columbia exposition)

Book: “The diary of a resurrectionist 1811-1812: to which are added 'The Resurrection Men in London', and a short history of the passing of the Anatomy Act”, by James Blake Bailey (London, Swan Sonnenschein & Co, 1896). (includes text of “resurrectionist” Joseph Naples’s diary. Available online at

Short Story: “The Body Snatcher”, by Robert Louis Stevenson

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