Christopher Ondaatje

The Time of the Bodysnatchers

The Italian Boy: Murder and Grave-Robbery in 1830s London


Jonathan Cape 347pp £17.99 order from our bookshop

DURING THE EARLY 1830s there were some extraordinarily gruesome sides to life in London – a city whose population had, since the turn of the century, grown by one-third to over one and a half million people, making it one of the largest and most &verse anywhere. William IV had succeeded his brother George IV to the throne in 1830 and everywhere in a dissatisfied England that was sick of political oppression and economic decline there was a call for change. In this unsettled age one of the more repugnant practices, which was becoming increasingly commonplace, was that of bodysnatching or ‘resurrection’. It was a profitable trade and ‘one of the most covert underworld activities of the day’, involving the sale of human bodies to London’s hospitals, medical colleges, and other private anatomy schools.

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