This paper explores how suicidal people understood and managed space when envisioning and enacting their suicides in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century England. Using over 100 contemporary suicide letters, it examines how suicidal people imagined the place they would occupy in death, looking at how ‘heaven’ and ‘oblivion’ were cast as ambiguous spaces which induced both hope and worry. Exploring the notion that suicide is, in part, a communicative act (e.g. Birthe Loa Knizek, Heidi Hjelmeland) this paper also uses coroners’ inquests to explore how suicidal people managed the location of their suicides, using both space and materials to express emotion. While the history of suicide has, particularly since Michael Macdonald and Terence Murphy’s seminal 1990 Sleepless Souls, been dogged by scholar’s excessive focus on attitudes towards suicide, this paper concentrates on the experiences of suicidal people, using ideas of spatiality to gain a better understanding of how people’s suicides were enacted and conceptualised in this period.
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