Beyond the Book: Background information when reading The Good Thief

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The Good Thief

A Novel

by Hannah Tinti

The Good Thief
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2008, 336 pages
    Aug 2009, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lucia Silva

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Beyond the Book

Resurrection Men
When we think of grave-robbing, we usually think of dark tales involving bandits pillaging graves for jewelry or other valuables. But the value of bodies in the 19th century stretched far beyond that of their adornments. Before people began donating their bodies to science, the only legal supply of cadavers in the UK for medical research and education were those of convicted murderers sentenced to death and dissection.

As medical science began to flourish in the 19th century, criminals and doctors became strange bedfellows as dead bodies were bought and sold in a morally complex quest for medical advancement. At the time, stealing a corpse was only a misdemeanor, not a felony, and body-snatchers or resurrection men, as they were called, faced a fine or imprisonment if caught. Authorities tended to turn a blind eye to these illegal exhumations, and the trade was sufficiently lucrative to warrant the risk involved. In 1827-28, William Burke ...

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