History of Suicide


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Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction Part I: Tradition: A Repressed Question Chapter 1: Suicide in the Middle Ages: Nuances Chapter 2: The Legacy of the Middle Ages: Between Madness and Despair Chapter 3: The Classical Heritage: Perfecting the Timely Exit Part II: The Renaissance: A Question Raised, Then Stifled Chapter 4: The Early Renaissance: Rediscovery of the Enigma of Suicide Chapter 5: To Be or Not To Be: The First Crisis of Conscience in Europe Chapter 6: The Seventeenth Century: Reaction and Repression Chapter 7: Substitutes for Suicide in the Seventeenth Century Part III: The Enlightenment: Suicide Updated and Guilt-Free Chapter 8: The Birth of the English Malady, 1680-1720 Chapter 9: The Debate on Suicide in the Enlightenment: From Morality to Medicine Chapter 10: The Elite: From Philosophical Suicide to Romantic Suicide Chapter 11: The Common People: The Persistence of Ordinary Suicide Epilogue: From the French Revolution to the Twentieth Century, or, From Free Debate to Silence

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A comprehensive and intriguing study of the grim commingling of resolve and mystery that has characterized the act of and reaction to suicide since the Roman Empire gave way to the Middle Ages in Europe... Balanced, engaging and sufficiently detailed with dark truths to keep the extramural reader interested. -- Thomas Lynch, author of The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade, in The Washington Times

About the Author

Georges Minois is the author of fourteen books on topics as diverse as the church and science, the church and war, Henry VIII, and the history of Europe. Lydia G. Cochrane has translated many works, including Roger Chartier's On the Edge of the Cliff for Johns Hopkins.


This book, lucidly translated, makes compulsive reading. -- Roy Porter The Times of London Minois's book follows the religious, philosophical, literary, and judicial debate for and against self-murder from antiquity to the end of the Enlightenment, demonstrating the close connection between political power, religious authority, social status, and the freedom to die... Minois's study is detailed and thorough... Gory anecdotes and effective reference to overarching intellectual trends make the book edifying and morbidly enjoyable. Kirkus Reviews Minois... has provided a timely chronicle tracing the evolution of societal attitudes toward suicide... Minois writes in an unadorned, concise prose that aids him in treating a serious subject in a serious manner. Although his own convictions on the issue are clear, Minois treats both sides of our current debate with objectivity, understanding, and compassion. Booklist The History of suicide has come of age. After a century of sociological inquiry, historians over the last decade have now embraced this all-too-human act and have produced remarkable results. -- D. J. A. Matthew American Historical Review Minois has succeeded in pulling together a wide range of materials, and in reminding us how elite attitudes to suicide shifted, and that those shifts may well serve as pointers to some more general developments in the intellectual history of Europe. -- J. A. Sharpe Journal of Early Modern History A broad and thought-provoking discussion of the complexities of suicide. Continually reminding us that the legalities and theoretical discussions of suicide often do not coincide with the reality of suicide, Minois focuses his discussion around Hamlet's famous question, 'to be or not to be,' and this proves to be an effective way to organize and present the large and dense amount of material... This book provides a useful and impressive collection of data and an absorbing discussion of attitudes toward voluntary death. -- Elise P. Garrison Religious Studies Review

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