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The Sacred Remains: American Attitudes Toward Death, 1799-1883

The Sacred Remains: American Attitudes Toward Death, 1799-1883
Author: Gary Laderman
ISBN 13: 9780300078688
ISBN 10: 300078684
Edition: N/A
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication Date: 1999-01-11
Format: Paperback
Pages: 238
List Price: $29.00

This fascinating book explores the changing attitudes toward death and the dead in northern Protestant communities during the nineteenth-century. Gary Laderman offers insights into the construction of an "American way of death," illuminating the central role of the Civil War and tracing the birth of the funeral industry in the decades following the war. Drawing on medical histories, religious documents, personal diaries and letters, literature, painting, and photography. Laderman examines the cultural transformations that led to nationally organized death specialists, the practice of embalming, and the commodification of the corpse. These cultural changes included the development of liberal theology, which provided more spiritual views of heaven and the afterlife: the concern for health, which turned those who managed death toward more scientific treatment of bodies: and growing sentimentalism, which produced an increased desire to gaze upon the corpse or to take and keep death photographs. In particular, Laderman focuses on the transforming effect of the Civil War, which presented so many Americans with dead relatives who needed to be recovered, viewed, and given a "proper burial."