Sleepless Souls: Suicide in Early Modern England

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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.

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