The modern history of death is a rich topic. It shows how historical analysis can extend to vital but unexpected aspects of the human experience. Death is death up to a point, with elements applicable to all places in all times, but it is hardly a changeless experience. We can understand contemporary death issues-includ ing our wide aversion to the subject-far better if we know their recent history, if we grasp how the present emerged from a fairly complicated past-from tradition, TONINETEENTH CENTURYINNOVATIONTOTHEEMERGENCEOFCONTEMPORARYPATTERNS
Modern death history also displays an intriguing mixture between cultural elements and material realities. Beliefs matter greatly; sometimes they change in advance of shifts in the physical nature of death and even help cause these shifts; always of course they must also adjust to physical changes.