Catalogue


Sleepless souls : suicide in early modern England /
Michael MacDonald, Terence R. Murphy.
imprint
Oxford [England] : Clarendon Press ; Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1990.
description
xvi, 383 p. : ill. ; 22 cm. --
ISBN
0198229194
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
added author
imprint
Oxford [England] : Clarendon Press ; Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1990.
isbn
0198229194
catalogue key
1959214
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. [367]-371) and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 1991-09:
This extraordinarily sensitive study of suicide in early modern England begins with the observation, "dying was an art {in early England}. . . . We have forgotten how to die, and the dying have to struggle as best they can to invent death." Though it focuses on suicide, this study is set in the general contexts of law, government, policy, ethical and moral standards, and the entire culture. The authors (MacDonald, University of Michigan; Murphy, American University) have discovered a remarkable swing in attitudes toward suicide. At the end of the Middle Ages, suicide was regarded with some leniency; from 1485 to 1660, attitudes were much harsher, followed by more tolerance in the 18th century. Each change was determined by the current political or cultural shift in opinion. There are marvelous sections describing attitudes toward suicide and motives for it, and a revealing section on the impact of news reports of suicides in papers. This is a fine companion work to Olive Anderson's Suicide in Victorian and Edwardian England (CH, May'88). Numerous graphs and tables; notes. All levels. -G. M. Straka, University of Delaware
Reviews
Review Quotes
'a masterpiece of a book ... MacDonald has written up the research - and very fine the writing is too, crisply lucid throughout and infused with a dry wit ... Sleepless Souls commands respect, not least because it is based upon meticulous primary research ... The suicide story is readilygeneralisable for other dimensions of culture. MacDonald and Murphy thus deserve credit not merely for laying suicide bare but for throwing light on wider questions of cultural change along the road to modernity.'Roy Porter, Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, London, Journal of Ecclesiastical History
'A number of important lessons can be derived from this thoughtful, well-written book. By the reign of George III ... over 97 per cent of suicides were now declared to be of unsane mind. The problems associated with the timing, nature, and casues of this profound attitudinal shift are tackledhere with skill and dedication.'R.B. Outhwaite, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, Economic History Review, Feb '92
'a very distinguished book indeed.' John Bossy, Times Literary Supplement
Magisterial in research, forceful in analysis, a joy to read ... MacDonald and Murphy have not merely documented suicide; they have significantly advanced the debate about the motors and media of cultural change.
'Magisterial in research, forceful in analysis, a joy to read ... MacDonald and Murphy have not merely documented suicide; they have significantly advanced the debate about the motors and media of cultural change.' Roy Porter, Times Higher Education Supplement
'Michael MacDonald and Terence Murphy has undertaken a vast task, made all the more daunting by the huge array and diversity of source materials such a study necessarily entails. Fortunately their efforts have been rewarded by the production of a work that is coherent and cogent ... aneminently readable book, which at times is surprisingly amusing.'Hannah Barker, Lincoln College, Sociology of Health and Illness
'Obviously a great deal of research has gone into the book, and there are numerous references and an excellent bibliography. It is most attractively presented and the initial impression of a rather heavy work is unjustified as it is in fact very readable.' British Medical Journal
"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
"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
"One of the best things aboutSleepless Soulsis 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
'Sleepless Souls is subtle and nuanced ... Wonderfully written and full of insights, this book leaves scope for an analysis of suicide's place in the social history of medicine.' Jonathan Barry, University of Exeter, The Society for the Social History of Medicine
they have written a very distinguished book indeed ... It is extremely learned in fields ranging from coroners" inquests to literary criticism ... They have done a fine job, and their close, on Dickie Bracknell's ghost from Lark Rise to Candleford, is as imaginative and intelligent as the rest.
'they have written a very distinguished book indeed ... It is extremely learned in fields ranging from coroners' inquests to literary criticism ... They have done a fine job, and their close, on Dickie Bracknell's ghost from Lark Rise to Candleford, is as imaginative and intelligent as therest.' Times Literary Supplement
'This book is a mine of information, much more than can be summarised here, to which the authors have added lucid and compelling interpretations. Those interested in the fascinating history of suicide in Britain will find Sleepless Souls a delight.'The Lancet
'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
'a very distinguished book indeed.'' John Bossy, Times Literary Supplement'Magisterial in research, forceful in analysis, a joy to read ... MacDonald and Murphy have not merely documented suicide; they have significantly advanced the debate about the motors and media of cultural change.'' Roy Porter, Times Higher Education Supplement'Obviously a great deal of research has gone into the book, and there are numerous references and an excellent bibliography. It is most attractively presented and the initial impression of a rather heavy work is unjustified as it is in fact very readable.'' British Medical Journal'they have written a very distinguished book indeed ... It is extremely learned in fields ranging from coroners'' inquests to literary criticism ... They have done a fine job, and their close, on Dickie Bracknell''s ghost from Lark Rise to Candleford, is as imaginative and intelligent as the rest.'' Times Literary Supplement'This book is a mine of information, much more than can be summarised here, to which the authors have added lucid and compelling interpretations. Those interested in the fascinating history of suicide in Britain will find Sleepless Souls a delight.''The Lancet'Michael MacDonald and Terence Murphy has undertaken a vast task, made all the more daunting by the huge array and diversity of source materials such a study necessarily entails. Fortunately their efforts have been rewarded by the production of a work that is coherent and cogent ... an eminently readable book, which at times is surprisingly amusing.''Hannah Barker, Lincoln College, Sociology of Health & Illness'a masterpiece of a book ... MacDonald has written up the research - and very fine the writing is too, crisply lucid throughout and infused with a dry wit ... Sleepless Souls commands respect, not least because it is based upon meticulous primary research ... The suicide story is readily generalisable for other dimensions of culture. MacDonald and Murphy thus deserve credit not merely for laying suicide bare but for throwing light on widerquestions of cultural change along the road to modernity.''Roy Porter, Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, London, Journal of Ecclesiastical History'A number of important lessons can be derived from this thoughtful, well-written book. By the reign of George III ... over 97 per cent of suicides were now declared to be of unsane mind. The problems associated with the timing, nature, and casues of this profound attitudinal shift are tackled here with skill and dedication.''R.B. Outhwaite, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, Economic History Review, Feb ''92'Sleepless Souls is subtle and nuanced ... Wonderfully written and full of insights, this book leaves scope for an analysis of suicide''s place in the social history of medicine.'' Jonathan Barry, University of Exeter, The Society for the Social History of Medicine'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'This lucid, urbane and stimulating study supplies what is so far the most comprehensive survey of this grim subject. This book leaves plenty of scope for further investigation, especially at the local level. But its impressive statistics of reported suicides, its penetrating analysis of the revival of leniency, and above all the way in which it sets its subject in a larger context, will make it essential reading for all historians of early modernEngland.''R.A. Houlbrooke, University of Reading, EHR Apr.92''This book is mainly historical in its approach. The research appears to be very thorough ... anyone interested in the history of suicide or the history of Tudor England will both enjoy and appreciate this book.''Cimberlie Chambers and Ronald Maris, University of South Carolina, Contemporary Society''This work is a masterful and well-produced collaboration ... Specialists must read this work and so should all scholars in early modern social history. Students will benefit from the clear theoretical discussions.''Newton E. Key, Eastern Illinois University, History, Summer 1992''This book marks an important revision of Emile Durkheim''s classic study of suicide ... interesting and wide-ranging book.''Greg T. Smith, University of Toronto, Canadian Journal of Law & Society, Vol. 7, No. 2, Autumn 1992''this important book sets out to explore the history of suicide as a complex social event in the early modern period ... an important and challenging book ... should provide material for discussion amongst scholars in English and History.''Justin Champion, La Sainte Union College, Southampton, Literature and History, Third Series, Volume 1, No. 2, Autumn 1992
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, September 1991
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Summaries
Long Description
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 were denied 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 in early 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 of different 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.
Long Description
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.
Main Description
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.
Main Description
Suicide was regarded as a terrible crime in Tudor and Stuart England, yet was in practice de-criminalized, tolerated, and even sentimentalized in the Georgian period. This book traces the dramatically changing attitudes to suicide over three centuries.
Unpaid Annotation
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.
Table of Contents
List of tables
List of figures
Abbreviations
Introduction
The Era of Severity: The rise of self-murder
The instigation of the devil
Opposition and ambivalence
The Secularization of Suicide: The revival of leniency
The invention of suicide
Elite opinions, Plebeian beliefs
The Hermeneutics of Suicide: The identification of suicides
Motives for suicide
The medium and the message
Epilogue
Sources
Statistics
Bibliography: Manuscript sources
Contemporary periodicals
Index
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

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