Saturday, March 18, 2006


In Chris Hedges' War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning (a book I highly recommend), there is this anecdote from the post-Napoleonic period, drawn from the London Observer, November 18, 1822:

It is estimated that more than a million bushels of human and inhuman bones were imported last year from the continent of Europe into the port of Hull. The neighborhood of Leipzig, Austerlitz, Waterloo, and of all the places where, during the late bloody war, the principal battles were fought, have been swept alike of the bones of the hero and the horse which he rode. Thus collected from every quarter, they have been shipped to the port of Hull and thence forwarded to the Yorkshire bone grinders who have erected steam-engines and powerful machinery for the purpose of reducing them to a granularly state. In this condition they are sold to the farmers to manure their lands.

I have not previously read or heard this grim account of the Napoleonic Wars' aftermath. Has anyone seen other descriptions of turning human bone into fertilizer following these, or any other, wars?