Pen & Sword TBR Pile: A History of Death n 17th Century England, by Ben Norman

51351995
Paperback, 208 pages
Published November 23rd 2020 by
Pen and Sword History
ISBN:1526755262 (ISBN13: 9781526755261)

Delve into the world of the unorthodox burial in seventeenth-century England, including mass interments in times of disease, the burial of suicides, and the unconventional laying to rest of English Catholics.

Death was a constant presence in the lives of the rich and poor alike in seventeenth-century England, being much more visible in everyday existence than it is today. It is a highly important and surprisingly captivating part of the epic story of England during the turbulent years of the 1600s. This book guides readers through the subject using a chronological approach, as would have been experienced by those living in the country at the time, beginning with the myriad causes of death, including disease, war, and capital punishment, and finishing with an exploration of posthumous commemoration. Although contemporaries of the seventeenth century did not fully realize it, when it came to the confrontation of mortality they were living in wildly changing times. 

My Review

Thanks to Rosie Crofts at Pen & Sword for sending me a copy of this book. It is one of many that I am working my way through.

This book covers the ways people died, how they were buried and how they were remembered in 17th century England. It’s a very specific subject, and it’s rather fun to read about a single subject sometimes. Sometimes I like learning about specific subjects as well as wider ranging books. This one was fascinating.

Humans have a habit of thinking that how things are now are how things have always been. In life and death. But that’s not always true. And this is one of those ways in which things are the same and different. People still die, are disposed of and are remembered, and most are buried in consecrated ground.

People don’t die from the plague anymore, and rarely die in war, Catholics don’t get buried in ditches and people who complete suicide aren’t buried at cross-roads with a stake through the heart. We don’t hang criminals either.

Which is nice.

This book covers the various ways people died, how they acted on the deathbed, funerals, unusual burials and how people remembered the dead. It has some interesting photographs and extracts from primary documents, to illustrate the descriptions.

I found the writing easy to read. I read a large chunk in one sitting and then had to finish the last chapter some weeks later due to other commitments. I could pick up the thread fairly easily and get back right into the book.

If you want to read a different perspective on the turbulent years of the 17th century, and you’re interested in death, I recommend this book.

For my friend Nicky: There are some good tips on ancient gravestones you could follow up for photographing.

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