Suicide in Medieval England was not simply a crime or sin

People in medieval England struggled with suicide just like people do today, and they also imagined and enacted practices of care and compassion to support the vulnerable. In the last decades of the 13th century, King Edward I extended compassionate action to a number of English subjects whose family members had died by suicide. A century later, a story in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales shows friends and neighbours responding with care to a woman on the verge of suicide.

From Giovanni Boccaccio’s book De Mulieribus Claris (‘concerning famous women’). Courtesy of the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris

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