Date of Award


Degree Type

Honors College Thesis

Academic Program

English BA



First Advisor

Alexandra Valint, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Joseph Peterson, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Sabine Heinhorst, Ph.D.

Advisor Department

English; History


This thesis focuses on the problematic advocacy of Dr. George A. Walker in his public health pamphlet, Gatherings from Graveyards. In his work, Walker calls for the removal of urban cemeteries from within London and other cities in Great Britain due to concerns about public health safety. He cites miasmatic theory as the reason for the spread of disease from rotting corpses and unkept cemeteries in the British metropolis. Though he blames Parliament for the state of urban cemeteries, he continuously cites poor communities and neighborhoods as the sole sources of disease and does not conduct investigations into the state of upper-class burial grounds. In this thesis, these patterns of redirected blame on the Victorian lower classes are examined and Walker’s double-edged argument of science and morality is brought to light. While Walker does specifically blame Parliament for the lack of any legal action taken on the state of urban cemeteries, he perpetuates problematic ideologies surrounding London’s destitute population. Walker also uses moral and religious arguments alongside his scientific observations, which are closely examined in the context of the Victorian Era. Nineteenth-century literature, such as Oliver Twist and poetry by Oscar Wilde, is also analyzed to provide further context into how the Victorians viewed burial and death culture as a whole.

Keywords: Victorian Era, Cemeteries, Public Health, Great Britain, George Alfred Walker, Social Class, Nineteenth Century