- Whose Body Is It Anyway?: Trading the Dead Poor, Coroner's Disputes, and the Business of Anatomy at Oxford University, 1885–1929
- Bulletin of the History of Medicine
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 82, Number 4, Winter 2008
- pp. 775-818
- View Citation
- Additional Information
This article examines the application of the Anatomy Act (1832) at Oxford University, circa 1885–1929. For the first time it retraces the economy of supply in dead bodies, sold by various black-market intermediaries and welfare agencies, transported on the railway to Oxford. Both pauper cadavers and body parts were used to train doctors in human anatomy at a time when student demand always exceeded the economy of supply. An added problem was that the trade in dead bodies was disrupted by a city coroner for Oxford in a bid to improve his professional standing. Disputes about medico-legal authority over the pauper corpse meant that the Anatomy Department failed to convince the local poor in the city center to sell their loved ones' remains for dissection on a regular basis. Adverse publicity was a constant financial headache for anatomists. Consistently, they had to pay higher prices for cadavers than their competitors did. Often bodies were purchased in surrounding Midlands towns. This context explains why the Anatomy Department at Oxford failed at the business of anatomy in the late Victorian and early Edwardian eras.