Dying bodies

Bringing mortality home after the Reformation and the Great Transition


  • Kira Moolman Wycliffe College, Toronto




death, children, Victorian London, Protestant Reformation, health transition


Two enormous shifts in history shape Western culture as we know it today: the Protestant Reformation and what historical theologian Ephraim Radner names the ‘Great Transition,’ the health transition that brought modernity its unprecedented low mortality rates and lengthened lifespans. This article explores one geographical location and one specific time – Victorian London – to argue that the lingering effects of the Protestant Reformation and the growing impact of the Great Transition as this relates to the practices and rituals around the dead, particularly the dead child, were partly responsible for the reforms around the dead child in the home. Lydia Murdoch’s account of the rise of the mortuary movement, and her description of the discrimination against Irish Catholics by Protestant elites, forms the foundation for my argument. Rather than limiting the narrative to one of religious and class prejudice, I claim that religious motivation, and not only religious prejudice, worked with growing health reforms in order to bring about these historical shifts.

Author Biography

Kira Moolman, Wycliffe College, Toronto

Kira Moolman is an adjunct faculty member at Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto. Her current research focuses on the stories we tell children about death, using an interdisciplinary approach that weaves together theology, literature, and history. This year she also received a grant from the University of Toronto to collaborate on an interdisciplinary response to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health; this project combines music composed and performed by graduate students at the Faculty of Music with poetry written and performed by Kira.


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How to Cite

Moolman, K. (2022). Dying bodies: Bringing mortality home after the Reformation and the Great Transition. Body and Religion, 4(2), 225–244. https://doi.org/10.1558/bar.18252

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