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The place of the dead

A wealth of new information surrounding death in mediaeval and early modern Europe has been unravelled by a University of St Andrews historian.

Dr Bruce Gordon from the Department of Modern History has just completed “The Place of The Dead – Death and Remembrance in Late Mediaeval and Early Modern Europe”.

Written in conjunction with Peter Marshall of Warwick University, the book explores attitudes towards death and the dead expressed by all levels of society regardless of religion and covers everything from remembrance, rituals and humour to the belief in angels, ghosts, demons and vampires.

Its publication follows the unprecedented success of a course given by Dr Gordon at the University of St Andrews. The course, which will be repeated next year, begins with the principal causes of death and considers how people prepared to die, how they were buried and how they were remembered.

Dr Gordon believes that the way death was treated could have important lessons for modern-day society – “One of the main themes of the book is that, although many rituals existed which no longer have a place in today’s society, the emotions are the same regardless of time and it is extremely useful to reflect upon a society who did not disguise their emotions like many of us do today.

“For example, it was commonplace to gather round the deathbed and display open caskets – things which, in some cases, would be unthinkable now. However, some of these rituals addressed important emotional and psychological needs of the bereaved, needs which are not always met by modern society”.

The book, which took around two years to produce, contains numerous essays written by young scholars throughout the world – from Scotland to Transylvania and from France to Germany and Spain – most of which cannot be found in any other publication.

ENDS

 

NOTE TO EDITORS – If you wish to talk to Dr Gordon, please call 01334 462925 or Claire Grainger – contact details below.

 

Issued by Beattie Media on behalf of the University of St Andrews For more information please contact Claire Grainger on 01334 462530, 07730 415 015 or email cg24@st-andrews.ac.uk Ref: death/standrews/chg/26july2000

 

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