History, change and the future

Illustration showing a map of the UK, a cityscape, and many figures, plus text of findings (copied below)

We have reviewed the literature on the treatment of the corpse in Britain, with a focus on how change happens and what might happen in the future.

A diverse British history

Historical patterns of disposal have been extremely diverse, even in times and places thought to have strictly enforced traditions.

Our recommendation:  Take respectful inspiration from historical and cross-cultural precedents for the disposal of the dead.

How change happens

Historically, small advocacy groups have had most success through campaigning for specific and local changes in public policy, law and practice.

Our recommendations:

  • Campaigns and interventions that aim to make specific local changes in public knowledge, practice or the law.
  • Greater co-operation between different professions and groups involved in the disposal of the dead.

In gaining support for a new form of disposal, technical details have been less important than building connections with prevailing cultural concerns, like hygiene or environmentalism.

Our recommendation: Draw on our current cultural preoccupations to create inventive, compassionate stories and rituals around new technologies of disposal.

Read the research

Preliminary review of historical, archaeological and anthropological literature on the disposal of dead bodies in Britain, June 2016 (PDF)

Explore our other findings