Towards the end of 1831, the authorities unearthed a series of crimes at Number 3, Nova Scotia Gardens in East London that appeared to echo the notorious Burke and Hare killings in Edinburgh three years earlier. After a long investigation, it became known that a group of body snatchers - two men in particular, John Bishop and Thomas Williams, called the 'London Burkers' - were supplying the anatomy schools with fresh 'examples' for dissection. The case became known as 'The Italian Boy' and caused a furore which led directly to the passing of controversial legislation which marked the beginning of the end of body snatching in Britain. The case revealed something else as well: some extremely unpleasant aspects of life in London, a city that had increased in size by one-third to over one-and-a-half million inhabitants between 1801 and 1831, and which was continuing to expand at a phenomenal and unprecedented rate. In The Italian Boy, Sarah Wise not only investigates the case of the London Burkers but also, by making use of an incredibly rich archival store, the lives of ordinary lower-class Londoners.
Extra stories, pictures and further exploration of the subjects of each of her three books are available to read at www.sarahwise.co.uk
Read her blog on 19th-century mental health at: http://www.psychologytoday.com/experts/sarah-wise
You can hear her speaking about Inconvenient People at:
* The Guardian newspaper
* The BBC's Radio 4 'All in the Mind' programme
A podcast of her talk about Murder and Grave Robbery in 1830s London, at the Museum of London, can be heard at www.sarahwise.co.uk/podcasts.html
And an interview with BBC History Magazine about The Blackest Streets is at http://www.sarahwise.co.uk/Podcasts/BBC_History_Jan09_Pt1.mp3
Sarah Wise grew up in West London and went to school in Wood Lane, White City. After graduation in English Literature, she worked as a freelance writer, mostly for arts, architecture and design titles, including the Guardian arts desk and Space magazine -- the Guardian's design and architecture supplement.
A Master's degree in Victorian Studies from the University of London led to the writing of The Italian Boy: Murder and Grave Robbery in 1830s London (2004) and The Blackest Streets (2008).
The former won the Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction, and was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction. The latter was shortlisted for the Ondaatje Prize for evocation of a location/landscape.
Her third book, Inconvenient People, was a book of the year in the Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph, Guardian and Spectator.
(Author photo by Katie Vandyke.)