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Durham University

Durham University Centre for Death and Life Studies

Centre Publications

Cremation in Modern Scotland: History, Architecture and the Law, by Peter C. Jupp, Douglas J. Davies, Hilary J. Grainger, Gordon D. Raeburn and Stephen R. G. White. Edinburgh: John Donald (Berlinn Ltd.). Published in Association with the Cremation Society of Great Britain. 2017.

This 327 page volume is the extended outcome of an original Leverhulme Funded Project Cremation in Scotland based at Durham’s Centre for Death and Life Studies. As a genuinely interdisciplinary study it is notable that no single chapter author is cited as such, since colleagues worked together to produce the final product. Its subtitled topics are complemented by work on the theological and ecclesiastical history lying behind Scotland’s Reformation and ensuing funerary practices.

Changes in funeral practice provide a lens through which to inspect changes in wider social identity, values and religious beliefs. This book reveals how, in Scotland, as in other societies, death ways and funeral arrangements are closely related to other aspects of life, from religious beliefs to political convictions, from family relationships to class structure, from poverty to prosperity.

The book adopts an interdisciplinary approach, analysing particularly the part played by Scottish law and architecture. Until recently, Scotland’s 28 crematoria have been the ‘invisible buildings’ of the twentieth century, absent from architectural histories. The book analyses the challenge this new building type provided for architects: a building with no architectural precedent, at once secular and religious, functional and symbolic. From archives previously unstudied and from primary and secondary legal materials, it traces the development of Scottish law on burial and cremation. It will be an invaluable aid to those wishing to know the historical background to the Burial and Cremation Bill currently going through the Scottish Parliament.

In just forty years the people of Scotland made a striking change to their age-old custom of burying their dead. In 1939, 97 per cent of Scots funerals ended with burial; by 1977 over 50 per cent ended with cremation. This book tells the story of this change. It interprets the crises in burial practice in nineteenth-century urban Scotland and constructs the very first account of how Scottish cremationists pioneered a radical alternative to burial.

Death, Ritual and Belief

Describing a great variety of funeral ritual from major world religions and from local traditions, this book shows how cultures not only cope with corpses but also create an added value for living through the encouragement of afterlife beliefs. The explosion of interest in death in recent years reflects the key theme of this book - the rhetoric of death - the way cultures use the most potent weapon of words to bring new power to life. This new edition is one third longer than the original with new material on the death of Jesus, the most theorized death ever which offers a useful case study for students. There is also empirical material from contemporary/recent events such as the death of Diana and an expanded section on theories of grief which will make the book more attractive to death counsellors.

By Douglas J. Davies

Natural Burial: Traditional — Secular Spiritualities and Funeral Innovation

From the 1990s the British developed an interest in natural burial, also known as woodland, green, or ecological burial. Natural burial constitutes part of a long, historical legacy for British funeral innovation; from Victorian cemetery monuments and garden cemeteries through the birth and rise of cremation to the many things done with cremated remains. The book sets natural burial in the context of such creative dealing with death, grief, mourning, and the celebration of life. Themes from sociology and anthropology combine with psychological issues and theological ideas to show how human emotions take shape and help people consider their own death whilst also dealing with the death of those they love. The authors explore the variety of motivations for people to engage with natural burial and its popular appeal, using interviews with people having a relationship with one natural burial site created by the Church of England but open to all. They illustrate people's understandings of life and death in the sacred, secular and mixed worlds of modern Britain.

by Douglas Davies and Hannah Rumble

Emotion, Identity and Death: Mortality Across Disciplines

Death affects all aspects of life, it touches our emotions and influences our identity. Presenting a kaleidoscope of informative views of death, dying and human response, this book reveals how different disciplines contribute to understanding the theme of death. Drawing together new and established scholars, this is the first book among the studies of emotion that focuses on issues surrounding death, and the first among death studies which focuses on the issue of emotion.

Themes explored include: themes of grief in the ties that bind the living and the dead, funerals, public memorials and the art of consolation, obituaries and issues of war and death-row, use of the internet in dying and grieving, what people do with cremated remains, new rituals of spiritual care in medical contexts, themes bounded and expressed through music, and more. 

Edited by Douglas Davies and Chang-Won Park


The Encylopedia of Cremation

The "Encyclopedia of Cremation" is the first major reference resource focused on cremation. Spanning many world cultures it documents regional histories, ideological movements and leading individuals that fostered cremation whilst also presenting cremation as a universal practice. Tracing ancient and classical cremation sites, historical and contemporary cremation processes and procedures of both scientific and legal kind, the encyclopedia also includes sections on specific cremation rituals, architecture, art and text. Features in the volume include: a general introduction and editorial introductions to sub-sections by Douglas Davies', an international specialist in death studies; appendices of world cremation statistics and a chronology of cremation; cross-referencing pathways through the entries via the index; individual entry bibliographies; and illustrations. This major international reference work is also an essential source book for students on the growing number of death-studies courses and wider studies in religion, anthropology or sociology.

Edited by Douglas J. Davies and Lewis H. Mates


 A Brief History of Death

The act of death itself and the rituals surrounding it vary enormously and shed a fascinating light on the cultures of which they are a part. In this brief and lively history, Douglas Davies – internationally acknowledged as one of the leading experts in this field – tackles some of the most significant aspects of death and weaves them into a compelling story about our changing attitudes to dying. Offers a fascinating examination of this subject which is of enduring interest in every culture in the world Considers the profound influence death has had on subjects ranging from philosophy to anthropology, through to art, literature, and music – inspiring some of our most enduring artistic highpoints Broaches some of the most significant aspects of death, such as the act of dying, grieving, burial, artistic interpretations of death, places of memory, the fear of death, and disasters/tragedies Weaves these numerous approaches to death into a compelling story about our changing attitudes to dying Contains several illustrations, and is written in an accessible and lively style.

By Douglas Davies


Review exempt

2012 'Ethics of cremation and Religion', in Handbook on Cremation. (ed.) Rolf Lichtner. Dusseldorf: Fachverlag des deutshen Bestattungsgewerbes GmbH. Pp. 55-73. ISBN. 978-3-936057-35-5.

The Handbook on Cremation describes important aspects of cremation. The history of cremation is described by Todd van Beck, complimented by an article from Roger Arber about the development of cremation and statistical global cremation data and a description of the International Cremation Federation and its goals by the Secretary-General of the ICF, Henry J. Keizer.

The ethical aspects of cremation are predominately focused on in the contributions of the following authors: Professor Davies writes about the ethical foundations of cremations in the religions; Jan Gabriels, MD, is the author of the legal and ethical aspects of the use of metals after cremation; Shoji Eguchi’s contribution gives a detailed description of cremation in Japan; and the planning and operational aspects for crematory are summarized by Peter McLean. Several detailed contributions cover the technological aspects in a crematorium. Designs for furnace constructions (Dr. Gebhard Schetter, Dieter Zahn), designs for filter technology (Dr. Ole Petzoldt), emissions and emission control (Benjamin Wiechmann/Markus Gleis), developments in filter techniques for crematoria and saving energy and sustainable development (Andrew Mallalieu), measuring and control technology for emission control (Bruno Vater) and sanitary requirements at crematories (Dr. Gabriele Righi/Dr. Edda Guareschi) provide a broad and extensive overview of today’s technology.

The fourth part of the book is entitled “Standards and Qualifications”, which includes articles about the standardization for crematories by Peter Plegnière, quality assurance for crematories by Svend-Jörk Sobolewski, professional formation and development concepts for crematory employees by Duncan McCallum, as well as educational aspects – now and in the future – by Dr. Rolf Lichtner.