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Look Inside Facing the 'King of Terrors'

Facing the 'King of Terrors'
Death and Society in an American Community, 1750–1990


  • Date Published: March 2006
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521025096

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About the Authors
  • In this book, death, a topic often neglected by historians, is given the attention it deserves as one of the most important aspects of personal and societal experience. Facing the 'King of Terrors' examines changes in the roles and perceptions of death in one American community, Schenectady, New York, from 1750 to 1990. A remarkably thorough study, this work incorporates a wide variety of topics, including causes of death, epidemics and the reactions they engender, rituals surrounding dying and burial, cemeteries and grave markers, public celebrations of the deaths of important figures, reactions to war, and businesses that profit from death. Combining an in-depth look at patterns of death in society as a whole with an investigation of personal responses to such cultural customs, the book makes use of personal letters and diaries to explore how broader social changes were manifested in the lives of individuals.

    • Death, a topic often neglected by historians, is given the attention it deserves as a crucial aspect of personal and societal experience
    • Combines an in-depth look at patterns of death in society as a whole with an investigation of personal responses to cultural customs
    • Challenges the notion that Americans in the late twentieth century are death-denying
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Wells is not only a scholar with a mole-like knack for digging up intriguing data, but a humanist, stoically resigned to human inevitability.' Albany Times Union

    '… is essential reading for those who would understand modern American difficulties in coping with death and dying. Professional historians will find that it eases their task of formulating and conveying this understanding to the wider public.' Popular Studies

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    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2006
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521025096
    • length: 316 pages
    • dimensions: 234 x 155 x 17 mm
    • weight: 0.442kg
    • contains: 41 b/w illus. 4 maps 11 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Meeting the 'King of Terrors'
    2. Death in the colonial village
    3. Thy death:
    4. To speak of death: culture and the individual
    5. The era of the Civil War 1850–70
    6. 'But the weaver knows the threads': perspectives on the Civil War
    7. Great transitions:
    8. To speak of death: searching for a new vocabulary
    9. A vicarious intimacy with death:
    1950 to the present

  • Author

    Robert V. Wells, Union College, New York

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