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Durham University

Special Collections

International Links

Since its foundation the Society has corresponded and worked with cremation authorities worldwide; the first incinerator at Woking was set-up and tested by the Italian cremationist Professor Gorini of Lodi, Italy and the Society was one of the first eleven International Cremation Federation members.

The internationality of the Cremation Society is reflected in their papers:

International correspondence – The Society corresponded with cremation societies and individuals worldwide, often to discuss ICF business and international cremation statistics. Letters were also received from individuals in countries where cremation had not yet been established, requesting further information and outlining their intentions to promote cremation. This correspondence gives an overview and maps the global development of cremation from 1934. Interestingly, many expressions of interest were from British, or ex-British colonies. The dominant religion of a country similarly seems to have some impact on the interest in cremation.

This letter is from the President of the Cremation Society of Perak, Dr Wu Lien-teh, and outlines the building of the first crematorium in Ipoh (CRE/P/2/Malaya/1). Dr Wu Lien-the, an eminent doctor known for his efforts to establish modern public health services in China, was a frequent correspondent of the Cremation Society. His letters begin in 1939 (though it seems he was well acquainted with the Cremation Society before then) and he also wrote to cremator manufacturers in Great Britain. He gave updates on the developments of cremation in Perak from the establishment of a Society to joining the ICF. This is a photo of the rules and regulations for the Cremation Society of Perak


Printed materials

For information on the history and development of the cremation movement overseas there are internationally published periodicals, books and dissertations and pamphlets. There is also a small representative selection of international trade literature which advertises cremation services, equipment, urns and memorials.

The International Cremation Federation

In 1936, by invitation of the Czechoslovak Cremation Society, leading cremationists from eleven European countries met and the seed of the International Cremation Federation was sown. All members agreed that an international organisation should be permanent and a committee of four was established to draw up a draft constitution for the International Cremation Federation which was signed the following year in London. The basic aim of the Federation is to promote good practice in Cremation and, today twenty-six cremation organisations worldwide cooperate in the scheme.

The society meetings have been a forum for debate and change, they impact on cremation practice and legislation worldwide. The Cremation Society has collected ICF papers from these meetings including many of the Congress Papers delivered by international society members. These papers address a range of topics each year. They cover the practical and ethical concerns of cremation including environmental, health and land issues, legislation, economics and Human Rights. Papers also discuss the historical, social, cultural and religious developments and perspectives of funeral practices.