University of Tasmania
Atkinson_whole_thesis.pdf (9.76 MB)

From 'barbarous relics' to an 'emphasis on cure'? : Suicide in Tasmania 1868‚ÄövÑv™1943

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posted on 2023-05-28, 09:16 authored by Atkinson, M
Secular understandings of suicide began to emerge in western Europe during the late-seventeenth century. Two hundred years later, in a British colony on the other side of the world, secular approaches had also become well established as the primary way in which Tasmanians understood suicidal behaviour. Witnesses at inquests would invariably point to mental ill health and challenging personal circumstances when attempting to account for the suicides of their friends and family members. The coroners and jury members to whom they recounted these explanations took their responsibilities as investigators seriously, and did not seek to impose moral judgements on the corpses that lay before them. Newspapers similarly eschewed ethical judgements, instead producing detailed, factual, and morally neutral coverage. Official opposition to suicide from Tasmania's major religions had little influence in public debates or the actions of religious ministers, nor any practical manifestations such as the denial of burials in church grounds. The dominance of secular understandings had profound consequences for the practices, policies and institutions that Tasmania developed to try to manage and prevent suicidal behaviour from 1868. This thesis explores these implications in the areas of the law, the coronial system, inquests, newspaper coverage, psychiatric care, and religion to 1943.


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