Before Great Britain’s Anatomy Act of 1832, which allowed medical schools to legally obtain a sufficient number of cadavers for study, getting a corpse to dissect was no simple matter. The Murder Act of 1752 stipulated only the bodies of executed murderers be used for such a purpose. As medical science improved, the need for fresh cadavers began to rapidly exceed the supply of executed murderers.
Enter the Resurrection Men
In the late Regency period and the early Victorian era, grave robbing paid quite well and wasn’t particularly risky because it wasn’t a felony. All the grave robber had to do was make certain he didn’t help himself to any valuables buried along with the dead, such as an expensive piece of jewelry, and he had no fear of being executed for his crime.
|Mort-Safe in Greyfriars Kirkyard to discourage grave robbing|
Naturally, the bereaved fought back with vigils, watchmen…
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