Synopses & Reviews
Sleepless Souls is a social and cultural history of suicide in early modern England. It traces the rise and fall of the crime of self-murder and explores the reasons why suicide came to be harshly punished in the sixteenth century, and why it was gradually decriminalized in the century and a half following the English Revolution. Michael MacDonald and Terence R. Murphy employ a wide range of records from the period between 1500 and 1800 in order to place suicide in its contemporary context, and relate its history to political events, religious changes, philosophical fashions, tensions between central government and local communities, class interests, and the communication media. The authors treat the crisis of death by suicide as a lens in which the forces that reshaped the mental outlook of different classes and social groups are reflected.
"One of the best things about Sleepless Souls is the insistence of Michael MacDonald and Terrencee Murphy that suicide is a social question."--Journal of British Studies
"A marvelous accession to the history of suicide, and a compelling contribution to the social and cultural history of early-modern England....The strength of this superb book is to treat suicide as a cultural phenomenon...that shaped the mental outlook of different social strata over these three dynanmic centuries."--Journal of Social History
"A skillful and forceful study...[that] makes an important contribution both to the history of suicide and to what the study of suicide can reveal about history."--American Historical Review
"Anyone interested in the history of suicide or the history of Tudor England will both enjoy and appreciate this book."--Contemporary Sociology
"A masterful and well-produced collaboration."--History: Reviews of New Books
Suicide was regarded as a deplorable act, subject to savage punishments, in Tudor and Stuart England. In Georgian England it was de-criminalized, tolerated, and even sentimentalized. Drawing on a wide variety of contemporary sources, Sleepless Souls traces the causes of this dramatic shift in attitude. Michael MacDonald and Terence R. Murphy relate changes in opinion and practice to the complex framework of life in early modern England--including political events, religious changes, philosophical fashions, and differing class interests. Their analysis uncovers the forces that were reshaping the mental outlook of different English classes and social groups, and consequently provides an invaluable social and cultural history of English society over three centuries.
Sleepless Souls is a social and cultural history of suicide in early modern England. It traces the rise and fall of the crime of self-murder and explores why suicide came to be harshly punished in the sixteenth century, and why it was subsequently gradually decriminalized, tolerated, and even sentimentalized. It is a readable, detailed, and scholarly examination of the changing meaning of self-destruction, which provides an illuminating perspective of the sweep of cultural and social change in England over three centuries.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -371) and index.