by Thomas Laqueur
The meaning of our concern for mortal remains―from antiquity through the twentieth century
The Greek philosopher Diogenes said that when he died his body should be tossed over the city walls for beasts to scavenge. Why should he or anyone else care what became of his corpse? In The Work of the Dead, acclaimed cultural historian Thomas Laqueur examines why humanity has universally rejected Diogenes’s argument. No culture has been indifferent to mortal remains. Even in our supposedly disenchanted scientific age, the dead body still matters―for individuals, communities, and nations. A remarkably ambitious history, The Work of the Dead offers a compelling and richly detailed account of how and why the living have cared for the dead, from antiquity to the twentieth century.