Seeing Justice Done: The Age of Spectacular Capital Punishment in France

Paperback | July 9, 2014

byPaul Friedland

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From the early Middle Ages to the twentieth century, capital punishment in France, as in many other countries, was staged before large crowds of spectators. Paul Friedland traces the theory and practice of public executions over time, both from the perspective of those who staged thesepunishments as well as from the vantage point of the many thousands who came to "see justice done". While penal theorists often stressed that the fundamental purpose of public punishment was to strike fear in the hearts of spectators, the eagerness with which crowds flocked to executions, and theextent to which spectators actually enjoyed the spectacle of suffering suggests that there was a wide gulf between theoretical intentions and actual experiences. Moreover, public executions of animals, effigies, and corpses point to an enduring ritual function that had little to do with exemplary deterrence. In the eighteenth century, when a revolution in sensibilities made it unseemly for individuals to take pleasure in or even witness the suffering ofothers, capital punishment became the target of reformers. From the invention of the guillotine, which reduced the moment of death to the blink of an eye, to the 1939 decree which moved executions behind prison walls, capital punishment in France was systematically stripped of its spectacularelements.Partly a history of penal theory, partly an anthropologically-inspired study of the penal ritual, Seeing Justice Done traces the historical roots of modern capital punishment, and sheds light on the fundamental "disconnect" between the theory and practice of punishment which endures to this day, nitonly in France but in the Western penal tradition more generally.

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From the early Middle Ages to the twentieth century, capital punishment in France, as in many other countries, was staged before large crowds of spectators. Paul Friedland traces the theory and practice of public executions over time, both from the perspective of those who staged thesepunishments as well as from the vantage point of th...

Paul Friedland is an affiliate of the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies at Harvard University. He is currently a fellow of the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies at Princeton University (2011-2012). His first book, Political Actors: Representative Bodies and Theatricality in the Age of the French Revolution ...

other books by Paul Friedland

Format:PaperbackDimensions:346 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.07 inPublished:July 9, 2014Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0198715994

ISBN - 13:9780198715993

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Reading and Writing a History of PunishmentPart I: The Roots of Modern Punishment in Pre-Modern Europe1. The Fall and Rise of Rome: Compensation, Atonement, and Deterrence in the Early Middle Ages2. Criminal Intent and Spectacular Punishment: The Infiltration of Roman Legal Theory and Practice into French Customary LawPart II: Executioners and the Ritual of Execution3. Extraordinary Beings: The Life and Work of Executioners4. The Execution of Justice: The Ritual of Punishment in Medieval and Early Modern FrancePart III: Spectators and Spectacle5. From Ritual to Spectacle: The Rise of the Penal Voyeur in Early Modern France6. Executions, Spectator Emotions, and the Naturalization of Sympathy7. A Spectacular Crisis: Watching Executions in the Age of SensibilitePart IV: A Death Penalty for the Modern Age8. Theorizing a New Death Penalty: Penal Reform on the Eve of the Revolution9. Legislating the New Death Penalty: The Simple Deprivation of Life10. Executing the New Death Penalty: The Invisible Spectacle of the GuillotineEpilogue: The Play Over, The Actors (Slowly) Leave the Stage (1794-1939)Conclusion: Punishment Past and Present

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"This thoughtful and thought-provoking book is filled with interesting, arcane information. The argument is clear and the research admirable." --The Journal of Interdisciplinary History