The motives for suicide The motives of suicide were among the fi rst aspects of suicide to be investigated by nineteenth-century sociologists and to be reported as part of offi cial recording of suicide in Europe.1 As the collection of records became more systematic, the lists of possible motivations used by different jurisdictions and investigators grew and changed enormously. The great Italian sociologist Dr Enrico Morselli, reviewing what he sardonically termed ‘the so much despised tables of . . . “determining cause” ’ (Morselli 1881: 267) which were available to him in 1881, noted that:

The French statistics of suicides, for example, enumerate about 60 causes, the Italian 25, Des-Étanges 15, De Boismont 20, Lisle 50, whilst Wagner reduces them to 14, Oettingen to 10, the Bavarian statistics to two or three groups of 4.