Necropolis: London and Its Dead Hardcover – 2 May 2006
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'Deeply pleasing . . . Entertainment of the most garish and exquisite kind . . . A Baedeker of the dead' -- Peter Ackroyd, The Times
'Grimly entertaining . . . Arnolds book abounds in deliciously uncanny detail' -- Suzi Feay, Independent on Sunday
'Luminous and often touching details crowd these pages . . . Well-researched and elegantly written' -- Melanie McGrath, Sunday Telegraph
'Where Arnold's account really beguiles is in its eccentric social detail . . . Enthusiastic, good-humoured and constantly engaging' -- Sinclair McKay, Daily Telegraph
Piccadilly Line... had to be rerouted when the tunnelling equipment proved unable to drill through the dense throng of skeletons... -- Sunday Telegraph, 30 April, 2006
Where Arnolds account really beguiles is in its eccentric social detail...enthusiastic, good-humoured and constantly engaging -- Daily Telegraph, May 6, 2006
deeply pleasing...providing entertainment of the most garish and exquisite kind -- Peter Ackroyd, The Times, April 29, 2006
From the Inside Flap
A society can be judged by the way it treats its dead, and this is especially true of London. Two thousand years of history may represent only a hundred generations, but in that time the way London has coped with death and burial has changed immeasurably.
From Roman burial rites to the horrors of the plague, from the founding of the great Victorian cemeteries to the development of cremation and the current approach of metropolitan society towards death and bereavement including more recent trends to displays of collective grief and the cult of mourning, such as that surrounding the death of Diana, Princess of Wales NECROPOLIS: LONDON AND ITS DEAD offers a vivid historical narrative of this great citys attitude to going the way of all flesh.
As layer upon layer of London soil reveals burials from pre-historic and medieval times, the city is revealed as one giant grave, filled with the remains of previous eras pagan, Roman, medieval, Victorian. The Houses of Parliament sit on the edge of a former plague pit; St Pauls is built over human remains; Underground tunnels were driven through forgotten catacombs, thick with bones.
This fascinating blend of archaeology, architecture and anecdote includes such phenomena as the rise of the undertaking trade and the pageantry of state funerals; public executions and bodysnatching; and the men and women who featured in this dark aspect of London life, from the mysterious Spitalfields woman to Samuel Pepys, from tragic Anne Boleyn to Victoria, the widow of Windsor.
Ghoulishly entertaining and full of fascinating nuggets of information, NECROPOLIS leaves no headstone unturned in its exploration of our changing attitudes to the deceased among us. Both anecdotal history and cultural commentary, NECROPOLIS will take its place alongside classics of the city such as Peter Ackroyds LONDON.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Sadly, I think I know too much. The issue with this book is that it is 'death lite'. I think that it's great as an introduction to the subject, but if you already know things, it's not going to take you any further forward. There is already an excellent paperback book available on underground London the name of which escapes me, but which covers much of the ground Arnold goes over here. The section on Highgate is no more than you would get if you went on one of the excellent tours held by The Friends of Highgate Cemetery. I was most disappointed here, as I was really hoping for something new, rather than the highlights.
I also think the section on Diana is gratuitious and this is going to sound ironic for a book about death, but rather tasteless. Again, nothing you wouldn't know if you had followed the story with any interest at the time, and it strikes me as something the marketing department thought might be good to sell books rather than something Arnold herself had more than a passing interest in.
The bones, ha ha, are here. It just needs fleshing out. This would have been a much more satisfactory book if it had been better researched and about twice as long. As it is, it's just a coffee table book or something you can chat about to Londoners at a dinner party other than the housing market.
The amount of material covered in this slim paperback edition is quite staggering, but Arnold makes easy work of the vast subject matter and manages to convey a neat narrative progression throughout. She has an obvious relish for the macabre, but never falls into either of the standard-issue pitfalls when dealing with the subject of death: she neither becomes overly hammy and lighthearted, nor does she descend into the sober depths of elegy. At all times she is even-handed, engaging, critical and honest.Read more ›
"Fawkes's confederates gathered on Highgate Hill to witness [the blowing up of Parliament]". Really? Can we have a source please? Because many people like to think it was Parliament Hill, and there is scant evidence for either.
"Ring o' ring o' roses ... refers to the Great Plague" Not very likely - do some research. The rhyme has virtually nothing in common with the actual symptoms and this "explanation" of the supposed origin doesn't appear anywhere until well into the 20th century.
"In fact, the tunnel [of the Piccadilly line] curves between Knightsbridge and South Kensington stations because it was impossible to drill [sic] through the mass of skeletal remains buried in Hyde Park" This "fact" appears in the introduction. Later on in the book the location moves from Hyde Park to "where Brompton Road and Kensington Road meet" (they don't meet according to all my street atlases) and the "fact" is now demoted to "This is said to account for the curving nature of the track"
Yet this is not something mentioned in histories of the Underground, and the actual fact that the curvature of the line can be seen to be following the line of the streets as much as possible is not mentioned (all the early tube railways were built so far as was possible under the roads as this was cheaper than paying property owners to tunnel under their premises and sharp bends occur elsewhere for this reason.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Wonderfully written book. would recommend to anyone with an avid interest in death, Victorian history and architecture.
Finished reading within a week. Read more
Fun, and informative history book for when you want something different to talk about at dinner :-)Published 3 months ago by AJ
Bought as a Christmas present. It looks good quality and in good condition.Published 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
This was a book I absolutely loved & found very hard to put down. It may seem that a book on the history of London's burial grounds through the ages may seem rather macabre. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Debra F
Fantastic read for anyone interested in London and dead bodies.Published 6 months ago by Andreana Sutherland
Whilst I am yet to finish the book, what I have read has been thoroughly enjoyed. Written in an informative, but enjoyable way, the author almost takes you in a time machine... Read morePublished 8 months ago by zingabob