Sleepless Souls: Suicide in Early Modern England

Hardcover | June 1, 1990

byMichael MacDonald, Terence R. Murphy

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Sleepless Souls is a social and cultural history of suicide in early modern England. Self-murder was regarded as a heinous crime in Tudor and Stuart England, and was subject to savage punishments. Those who committed suicide had their property forfeited to the crown, and their bodies weredenied Christian burial and desecrated. In Georgian England suicide was in practice de-criminalized, tolerated and even sentimentalized. Michael MacDonald and Terence R. Murphy, using a wide variety of contemporary sources, especially local records, trace the causes of this dramatic change in attitude. They analyse suicide within its contemporary context, relating shifts in opinion and practice to the complex framework of life inearly modern England. Political events, religious changes, philosophical fashions, conflicts between centre and localities, and differing class interests all played their part. The authors' focus on the trauma of death by suicide uncovers the forces that were reshaping the mental outlook ofdifferent English classes and social groups. Their detailed and scholarly exploration of the `crime' of self-murder thus provides a history of social and cultural change in English society over three centuries.

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From Our Editors

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...

From the Publisher

Sleepless Souls is a social and cultural history of suicide in early modern England. Self-murder was regarded as a heinous crime in Tudor and Stuart England, and was subject to savage punishments. Those who committed suicide had their property forfeited to the crown, and their bodies weredenied Christian burial and desecrated. In Ge...

From the Jacket

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...

Michael MacDonald is a Professor of History at University of Michigan. Terence R. Murphy is an Associate Professor of History at the American University, Washington DC.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:400 pages, 8.5 × 5.43 × 1.06 inPublished:June 1, 1990Publisher:Oxford University Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0198229194

ISBN - 13:9780198229193

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From Our Editors

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.

Editorial Reviews

`This fascinating addition to the Oxford Studies in Social History throws into very sharp relief both the possibilities and the perils of modern styles of social history. One of the strengths of the book is to help bridge the deplorable gap between historical and literary studies.'W.R. Ward, History, June 1992