Legislation which marked the end of body-snatching in 1830s Britain was the result of investigations in "The Italian Boy" case in which "examples" for dissection were supplied to anatomy schools. This title examines this episode in history and the lives of lower-class Londoners of the period.
Towards the end of 1831, the authorities unearthed a series of crimes at Number 3, Nova Scotia Gardens in East London that appeared to echo the notorious Burke and Hare killings in Edinburgh three years earlier. After a long investigation, it became known that a group of body snatchers - two men in particular, John Bishop and Thomas Williams, called the 'London Burkers' - were supplying the anatomy schools with fresh 'examples' for dissection. The case became known as 'The Italian Boy' and caused a furore which led directly to the passing of controversial legislation which marked the beginning of the end of body snatching in Britain. The case revealed something else as well: some extremely unpleasant aspects of life in London, a city that had increased in size by one-third to over one-and-a-half million inhabitants between 1801 and 1831, and which was continuing to expand at a phenomenal and unprecedented rate. In The Italian Boy, Sarah Wise not only investigates the case of the London Burkers but also, by making use of an incredibly rich archival store, the lives of ordinary lower-class Londoners.