Mummies, Cannibals and Vampires

the History of Corpse Medicine from the Renaissance to the Victorians

By Richard Sugg

© 2012 – Routledge

374 pages

Purchasing Options:
Paperback: 9780415674171
pub: 2011-06-27
US Dollars$44.95
Hardback: 9780415674164
pub: 2011-06-27
US Dollars$155.00

e–Inspection Copy

About the Book

Mummies, Cannibals and Vampires charts in vivid detail the largely forgotten history of European corpse medicine, when kings, ladies, gentlemen, priests and scientists prescribed, swallowed or wore human blood, flesh, bone, fat, brains and skin against epilepsy, bruising, wounds, sores, plague, cancer, gout and depression.

One thing we are rarely taught at school is this: James I refused corpse medicine; Charles II made his own corpse medicine; and Charles I was made into corpse medicine. Ranging from the execution scaffolds of Germany and Scandinavia, through the courts and laboratories of Italy, France and Britain, to the battlefields of Holland and Ireland, and on to the tribal man-eating of the Americas, Mummies, Cannibals and Vampires argues that the real cannibals were in fact the Europeans. Medicinal cannibalism utilised the formidable weight of European science, publishing, trade networks and educated theory. For many, it was also an emphatically Christian phenomenon. And, whilst corpse medicine has sometimes been presented as a medieval therapy, it was at its height during the social and scientific revolutions of early-modern Britain. It survived well into the eighteenth century, and amongst the poor it lingered stubbornly on into the time of Queen Victoria. This innovative book brings to life a little known and often disturbing part of human history.


'This book is full of rich detail, making you both recoil and yet read on, fascinated by our ancestors’ imaginative ways to try and heal the sick. ' Cotswold History Blog

"I do not write this lightly - Mummies, Cannibals and Vampires: the History of Corpse Medicine from the Renaissance to the Victorians is one of the most eye-opening and phenomenal books I have ever read. It is incredibly well researched, well written and states the case of medicinal cannibalism throughout the ages with great detail and reference. There is no other book like it and I feel so fortunate to have it upon my shelf…It would be a fantastic book to accompany a college class of the same subject." - Customer Review, 5 Stars

"Sugg's book offers iteself as a 'history' of corpse medicine. Though it is the work of a well-known literary scholar, Mummies, Cannibals and Vampires invokes imaginative writing only to augment the evidence it draws from medical and scientific texts… Sugg's interest in corpse medicine reaches well beyond mumia to inspect all those strange concoctions of human tissue and waste favoured by early modern pharmacology"– Michael Neill, London Review of Books.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1. Corpse Medicine from the Middle Ages to Caroline England 2. Corpse Medicine from the Civil War to the Eighteenth Century 3. The Bloody Harvest: Sources of Human Body Parts 4. The Other Cannibals: Man-eaters of the New World 5. Dirty History, Filthy Medicine 6. Eating the Soul 7. Opposition and Ambivalence: pre-Eighteenth Century 8. The Eighteenth Century Conclusion: Afterlives

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General