Helen MacDonald

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London, 1868: visiting Australian Aboriginal cricketer Charles Rose has died in Guy’s Hospital. What happened next is shrouded in mystery. The only certainty is that Charles Rose’s body did not go directly to a grave.

Written with clarity and verve, and drawing on a rich array of material, Possessing the Dead explores the disturbing history of the cadaver trade in Scotland, England and Australia, where laws once gave certain officials possession of the dead, and no corpse lying in a workhouse, hospital, asylum or gaol was entirely safe from interference.


Helen MacDonald is the author of the critically acclaimed Human Remains, which won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award (History) and was short listed for the Ernest Scott History Prize. She is a Senior Fellow at The Australian Centre in the School of Historical Studies at the University of Melbourne.