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Respectable Burial: Montreal’s Mount Royal Cemetery

Respectable Burial is a social history of death, burial, and a cherished public space in Montreal from the early nineteenth century to the present day. Brian Young shows how the history of the Mount Royal Cemetery, founded in 1852, mirrors the evolving social makeup, changing mores, and tragic events of what was long Canada’s largest city. We meet not only prominent members of the elite but ordinary Montrealers, natives, the poor, and suicides. Young shows how epidemics, train-wrecks, and the deaths of soldiers or firemen challenged conventional notions of the family and reveals that the cemetery introduced new customs and sensibilities from Jewish, Chinese, Greek Orthodox, Buddhist, and other communities to English Montreal. rnrnRespectable Burial also highlights how important a role Montreal played in Canada’s history. The cemetery is the final resting place of politician Alexander Galt, poet F.R. Scott, hockey star Howie Morenz, explorer David Thompson, bank presidents, renegades, hangmen, and victims of the Titanic. This history of a model rural cemetery, an innovator in perpetual care and proprietor of the first crematorium in Canada, illustrates changing attitudes to burial and commemoration – including the relationships between Protestantism, Romanticism, and death. Young also shows how the cemetery, a site of great natural beauty that helped inspire Frederick Law Olmsted’s adjacent Mount Royal Park, became a much-loved public urban space and examines how the evolution of its landscaping, architecture, and use reflect changing attitudes to the place of women, recreation, heritage, and the environment. Incorporating a rich collection of archival illustrations, walking maps, and a colour photo essay by photographer Geoffrey James, Respectable Burial will appeal to anyone interested in Canadian history, parks, and cities.

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