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Friday, May 11, 2018

Seeing Justice done

"Spectators of executions in early modern France did not tend to see the penal spectacle as a manifestation of political sovereignty. Neither were they terrified. In fact, they loved attending executions. From the sixteenth to the middle of the eighteenth century, public executions in France were extraordinarily popular with spectators from all social classes, many of whom were so desperate to watch that they rented out windows overlooking the place of execution at exorbitant sums, or staked out prime viewing spots near the scaffold or on nearby rooftops, often days in advance. Even before this culture of spectatorship developed in the sixteenth century, those who attended executions were much more likely to understand them as meaningful rituals, which allowed the community at large to find redemption through the atonement of the individual condemned, rather than as any kind of display of sovereign majesty."

--- Seeing Justice Done: The Age of Spectacular Capital Punishment in France / Paul Friedland
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