Stuart Dunn, Professor of Spatial Humanities at the Department of Digital Humanities, is giving a public online talk about his research on corpse roads and the origins of the right to roam, hosted by the Folklore Society. The talk will take place at 6pm (UK) on Tuesday 10th January 2023. All are welcome. You can read further details in the abstract (copied below) and on the registration page.

Gliding in the Churchway Paths: Corpse Roads and the Origins of the Right to Roam

A Folklore Society online talk, by Professor Stuart Dunn (King’s College London)

Tuesday 10 January 2023, 18:00

Burial of the dead posed a problem in the medieval and early modern countryside: getting the body from the place of death to consecrated ground, a requirement firmly enforced by the Church for worldly as well as spiritual reasons. Oftentimes, the family or community of the deceased had to bear the body over land, in some cases for many miles, in all weathers and across all terrains. In some local and regional traditions of folklore, this gave rise to the idea of the “corpse path”, often unofficial routeways which were associated with the passage of funeral parties. Corpse paths became focal points for stories and legends of their own, and some became sites of conflict between the rights of commoners to traverse private land and landowners, and have attracted attention from local historians and geographers, as well as from folklorists. This talk will give an update on the speaker’s own work on corpse paths, focusing in particular on well-known examples in Cumbria, Yorkshire and on Dartmoor. It will also offer some reflections on what the idea of the corpse path and its folklore can tell us about our own relationship with the countryside, and the social and economic inequalities which continue within it.

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