Pen & Sword, £19.99
This book provides a brief history of how humans have dealt with their dead over the centuries – mainly focusing on the early medieval period through to the modern day. It is, at times, a dizzying whirlwind of a tour, taking readers from Britain to Bhutan and everywhere in between.
The first chapter discusses ‘pagan’ burials – a perhaps injudicious catchall for any burial throughout the world that has pre-Christian origins – before turning to the advent of ‘Christian’ burials. The book then discusses particularly noteworthy examples, including deviant burials, mass burials, and, intriguingly, cemeteries for non-organic artefacts such as cars and planes. The last chapter is perhaps the most poignant, offering a frank discussion of the plight we are currently facing in terms of a lack of space for future burials.
Overall, Burying the Dead is a well-written book for the lay reader who would like a brief precis of changing burial practices throughout history and across the world.