From sin to insanity? Suicide trials in the Spanish Netherlands, sixteenth and seventeenth centuriesFrom sin to insanity? Suicide trials in the Spanish Netherlands, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries
Faculty of Arts. History
Centre for Urban History
2011Saint Louis, Mo, 2011
The sixteenth century journal. - Saint Louis, Mo, 1972, currens
42(2011):4, p. 981-1002
University of Antwerp
This article focuses on the relationship between suicide as an act inspired by the devil and suicide as an act of insanity in the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Spanish Netherlands. It has become widely accepted that from the end of the seventeenth century on suicide became decriminalized, secularized, and medicalized, i.e., the devil disappeared from explanations for suicide and was replaced by madness, and so harsh penalties vanished. This article seeks to contribute to the complication of these notions. If one turns away from the eighteenth century as the age of change and instead focuses on the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a broad view of coexisting and overlapping discourses about self-killings existed at an early date. By exploring the languages of demonic temptation and that of madness as judicial and discursive strategies, it is argued that both discourses competed with one another in the legal deciphering of suicide and thereby subverted any linear notion of secularization.