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Dr Helen Frisby

Dr Helen Frisby

Dr Helen Frisby

Honorary Research Associate

Area of research

'Grave Communications: an oral history of gravedigging'

43 Woodland Road,
Clifton, Bristol BS8 1UU
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'Grave Communications: an oral history of gravedigging' is a collaborative, inter-disciplinary research project exploring the tools, techniques, history and social significance of the gravedigging profession. Using oral history interviews suplemented by archival research, the project aims to document recent changes and record historic experiences of disposal and cemetery management practices. Unlike previous research in this area, the project captures the experiences of the person who is ultimate mediator of bodily disposal: the gravedigger.


Helen is an internationally recognised expert on the history, folklore and material culture of death, dying and bereavement. She has appeared on the History Channel and BBC Radio 4 discussing popular Victorian funeral customs. Helen is particularly interested in working with folklore and material-visual culture as sources of historical evidence, and theoretically with the concepts of custom and tradition, popular culture and ‘history from below’.

Helen is a Committee Member of the Folklore Society, Secretary of the Association for the Study of Death & Society (ASDS), and a Member of the Royal Historical Society. Helen obtained her PhD on The Spiritual, Social and Emotional Significance of Death and Dying in Yorkshire, c.1840-c.1914 from the University of Leeds, UK, in 2009. Other current projects include a monograph on the moral economy of the Victorian folk funeral.


Helen's undergraduate History teaching interests broadly cover the emergence of Western culture, society and identity since the fall of the Roman Empire. She has also been part of the cross-disciplinary teaching team on the Foundation Degree in Funeral Directing at the University of Bath, UK.

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