Getting Carried Away – Body Snatching Lesson


The theme for today’s lesson is body snatching.  This is always a fun and interesting lesson because the pupils tend to enjoy the more gory and macabre topics, yet they come away with knowledge of the role of the body in the evolution of medical practice in the 18 and 19th century, insight into the role of the Anatomy Acts, and an understanding of disposal of the body from a sanitation and moral standpoint in history.

Body Snatchers

Grave Robbers
Grave Robbers stealing child’s body


This lesson also has one of the most fun exercises for the pupils as they get to decide how they will defend a grave from the ‘nasty’ grave robbers.

Body Snatchers and Grave Robbers

This teaches the pupils about how graveyards became sites of commercial opportunity, as well as conflict as private security, members of the militia and traps, were employed to catch the resurrectionists in the act of stealing the dead to be sold for medical exploration and experimentation.


Grave Cage
Grave Cage – 1810


This lesson also considers the history of medicine as well as then moving on to describe the murders committed by Burke and Hare in 1831.

Burke and Hare

The below video is also useful as an excellent teaching resource for preparation for this lesson.

The Body Snatchers: Corpse and Effect – Teaching Video by Cambridge University

After the lesson, this post will be edited to include an account of the lesson progressed.


Journeys Through Health History

Logo for  the Journeys Through Health History School Engagement Project

Welcome to the new Journeys Through Health History Website – the new site for all the resources, links, videos and audio sources, activities, events and images related to the University of Strathclyde History Department and the Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare school engagement project with local Glasgow Schools.

This project has run for several years beginning originally as part of a MUSE scheme with a single school which culminated in the creation of a travelling exhibition designed and presented by school pupils.   Over the last three years, this project has evolved into a bespoke secondary educational engagement programme complete with bespoke pedagogical resources and lesson plans designed to combine lessons created and given by specialists in key areas of history with the current high school curriculum.   This has allowed pupils to learn and debate about topics such as military medicine, diseases in society, diet and food health as well as body snatching, oral history and memory, and drugs and alcohol.

WWI: drawing of Royal Army Medical Corps, by F. Matania
WWI: drawing of Royal Army Medical Corps, by F. Matania

Each lesson has been tailored to the ability of the pupils however care has also been taken to encourage students to express themselves and learn in more detail about lesser covered topics within a standard history lesson.  Each session consists of a mix of presentation teaching, group and class exercises, individual source analysis and the incorporation of audio / visual sources.

Source Analysis Worksheet

As this site develops more resources will continue to be added to be used for teaching and non-profit engagement purposes.  Each topic has an overview page located on the menu bar which includes additional resources such as articles, links, videos, sound files, images and exercise activities.  There is also a detailed breakdown of each lesson, an example and resources.

Food and Health

We hope that you find the information useful and can incorporate it into your own teaching.  We will also be regularly sharing on twitter and you can follow our feed @JTHealthHistory. Please also hit follow to subscribe to the website to be kept updated and click here to contact us directly. 

Thank you for joining us on our Journeys Through Health History.

The Cow Pock or the Wonderful Effects of the New Inoculation
The Cow Pock or the Wonderful Effects of the New Inoculation