University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > The Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure - seminar series > Placing the dead in 18th century European metropolis: institutions, economy, beliefs

Placing the dead in 18th century European metropolis: institutions, economy, beliefs

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Studying burials, broadly defined, allows a comprehensive perspective on the policies and practices adopted by early modern societies to satisfy an important need of the community. This need is material and immaterial at the same time: in fact, every city faced the attempt to reconcile logistical, economical, juridical, sanitary and spiritual requirements in properly disposing of the dead. Can we define as a “public” service the system of rules and means putted in place to satisfy this need?

Funerals and burials involved a large and diverse number of actors (government, city authorities, Church, confraternities, corporations, and many individuals such as artisans, undertakers, tradesmen, etc.) who worked according to a complex system of formal regulations and customary practices built around the need to give everyone a proper burial.

I will show how the interactions between these actors structured a service for the community in two urban realities of 18th century Europe: Naples and Paris. For most of the operators, such as the secular clergy, this activity was an important source of privileges and financial support, becoming a key element of their concrete action on urban space. Following the two examples of Naples and Paris, I will finally discuss the opportunity to extend the comparison to London during the same period.

This talk is part of the The Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure - seminar series series.

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