This original work examines the bases for the widespread belief among Italians during their first fifty years as a unified country that suicide was a growing epidemic. The story of this concern over the rise in suicide is told within the context of related debates over Italy's emerging national identity and what it meant to be Italian. Many commentators saw suicide in this period as a 'safety valve' peculiar to Italy's late political and economic development. Popular 'Degeneration' theories gave scientific credibility to such sociological analyses, while the Roman Catholic Church linked the rise in suicide to the secular unification of the state. Controversies over a resurgence of dueling and a fascination with war as 'indirect' suicide are examined in this overview of Italian social, cultural, and legal history.