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What 18th-century suicide inquests tell us about growing old in Georgian England

By Ella Sbaraini, PhD Student in History, University of Cambridge
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In 1803, John Braithwaite was a very elderly man. A gentleman farmer, once influential in his community, he was now struggling with a deteriorating mind. According to his doctor, Braithwaite complained particularly “of an uneasiness and confusion in his head and giddiness and want of recollection”, and he often had “a vacant stare as if he did not immediately recollect” his friends.

One day, he went fishing with his companion at a nearby lake. After returning, he became extremely confused, and could not remember where he had left his horse. On another occasion, when playing cards,…


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