Death: The Uncertain Certainty of the Eighteenth-Century Gallows

In Georgian England those convicted of homicide under the Murder Act 1752 were hanged on the public gallows before being taken for the post-mortem punishment of dissection. But when death actually happened in the body was a medical mystery. Criminals had large bull necks, strong willpowers, and hearty survival instincts; extreme hypothermia on the gallows often also disguised coma. Establishing medical death in the heart-lungs-brain was a physical enigma and whether a criminal might die on the hanging tree or in the dissection room hung in the balance. Some revived on the dissection table and were transported for life, but many died under the lancet.

Dr Elizabeth Hurren (Reader in History at the University of Leicester, and international expert on the history of anatomy, the body and dissection) explores how capital legislation disguised a complex medical choreography staged by surgeons and how the Hippocratic Oath was often broken in the execution of the Dangerous Dead.

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Wednesday 10 Apr 2019


Fairax House

£14.00 (Friends and Members £12.00; Students £8.00) includes post-lecture wine reception

Friends of Fairfax House