Suicide in the Middle Ages, Volume 1: The Violent Against Themselves

Paperback | December 18, 2008

byAlexander Murray

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'Suicide' and 'the Middle Ages' sounds like a contradiction. Was life not too short anyway, and the Church too disapproving, to admit suicide? And how is the historian supposed to find out? In this first volume of his trilogy, Alexander Murray takes the methodological question first, as a key to the testing of all other assumptions. After answering it, he shows that there were indeed suicides, of types and configurations astonishingly modern, if not in numbers per capita. 'The violentagainst themselves' included rich and poor, townsmen and peasants, men and women, married and unmarried, their motives all too familiar: physical and mental illness, chronic or sudden poverty, arrest, disgrace, heartbreak in love, even what modern doctors might call depression. Following the sourcesas close to the events as they will lead, the author calls on these fugitives to give an account of themselves. In doing so, they also shed new light on features of their world we thought we all understood.

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'Suicide' and 'the Middle Ages' sounds like a contradiction. Was life not too short anyway, and the Church too disapproving, to admit suicide? And how is the historian supposed to find out? In this first volume of his trilogy, Alexander Murray takes the methodological question first, as a key to the testing of all other assumptions. A...

Alexander Murray is at University College, London.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:510 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 1.14 inPublished:December 18, 2008Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199553114

ISBN - 13:9780199553112

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Table of Contents

Preface1. Introduction2. The Secrecy of the ActHow to Find Out. I: Chronicles3. The Reticence of Chronicles4. The Probing of Disgrace5. The Reticence Broken. The Preoccupations of Local and House ChroniclesHow to Find Out. II: Legal Sources6. Suicide and Judicial Records7. Portraits from English Courts: Criminals, Debtors, and the Sick8. Portraits from English Courts: `Insanity' and Some Optical Illusions9. Portraits from French Courts10. Portraits from Lettres de Remission11. Portraits from Courts in the EmpireHow to Find Out. III: Religious Sources12. Man, Woman, and Child13. The Enemy of Society14. The Sick and MelancholyTowards Statistics15. Towards Statistics: Absolute Numbers16. Towards Statistics: The Person and the ActAppendix: A Register of Recorded Suicidal Incidents - I. Chronicles; II. Legal Sources; III. Religious SourcesA Bibliography of Legal Sources Used in the RegisterSelect Bibliography to Part I

Editorial Reviews

"Alexander Murray is the author of Reason and Society in the Middle Ages (1978), an exemplary 'new' history, which reinterprets medieval mentalities on a European scale. Suicide in the Middle Ages is a magnum opus which has been long awaited. It is projected as a trilogy, of which the volumereviewed here is the first ... compelling reading ... Searching for suicides has made Murray a pioneer in the comparative study of the legal records of medieval Europe." --M. T. Clanchy, Times Literary Supplement