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Murder / Suicide in the Media During the Little Ice Age

David Lederer 140x140

Medieval and Early Modern Centre (University of Sydney) lecture series:

Paper Title:
Murder / Suicide in the Media During the little Ice Age.

Guest presenter:
Dr David Lederer (National University of Ireland, Maynooth)
Dr Lederer is visiting Australia as a guest of the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions (Adelaide node)

Time and Date:
5pm on Wednesday 8th August

Venue:
Woolley Common Room
University of Sydney

Abstract:
This paper identifies a pedagogical relationship between the subsistence crises of the Little Ice Age and the Protestant emotion of brotherly love (Nächstenliebe) as portrayed in early modern media. Between 1553 and 1613, at least seven German-language broadsheets and pamphlets directly treated the subject of suicide.  All dealt with violent murders of families by the head of the family, followed by their own self-inflicted death.  The first treats the case of an innkeeper who murders his pregnant wife for no other apparent reason than demonic temptation.  However, all six others deal with heads of families who, faced with the imminent starvation of their families during acute subsistence crises, murder their children and spouses out of mercy and then take their own lives.  Although the deed is never justified outright, the authors explicitly plays upon readers' sympathy for the plight of poor neighbors and identifies an intermediary culprit between the perpetrator and Satan - a rich relative, nobleman or other local figure - who refuses the family charity.  All are composed by evangelical Protestants.  In each case, they invoke the spirit of brotherly love among neighbors to remind readers of their communal responsibility of public assistance, especially during "these troubled times". 

Further inquiries:
Dr Juanita Feros Ruys
Director of the Medieval and Early Modern Centre (University of Sydney)
Director of the Sydney node of the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions (Europe 1100 - 1800)