Guillotine History

Topics: Guillotine, Death Penalty, Decapitation Pages: 3 (1068 words) Published: October 2, 2006
"Mademoiselle Guillotine"
During the course of the French Revolution, the persistent rebels finally achieved their goal and overthrew the tyrannical monarchy. However, even after this initial struggle came even greater bloodshed, for the rebels proved they could be just as brutal as their old oppressors. Yet, this brutality would never have been as extreme as it was were it not for the invention of the infamous guillotine. A dark machine designed for decapitation, it consists of a tall, wooden frame in which a heavy, sharp blade is suspended. Through the use of rope, this blade could be raised to its peak and then, upon releasing the rope, would be allowed to fall freely so that it swiftly crashes down upon its victims' soft necks. While similar methods of execution had existed for many centuries, the guillotine easily stands out among the rest due to the incredible number of heads it has so efficiently sliced off.

In Ireland, during the year 1307, there is a record of a machine known as the Scottish maiden, which was used to take a man's life through the method of decapitation. This device is perhaps one of the most primitive forms of the guillotine seen in the revolution. The maiden, along with the Halifax gibbet, a similar invention, gradually gained popularity, being used in places such as Italy and Switzerland during the 15th century. However, it was not until the 1700's that these machines were altered and improved to become the modern guillotine. Named for Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, a French doctor and member of the Revolutionary National Assembly, he believed that the guillotine provided a previously unseen humane manner of execution. Prior to its usage, criminals typically hoped to be executed by an axe man or swordsman, which, in contrast to torturous deaths like being set on fire or broken on the wheel, gave relatively quick deaths. Yet, there was always the unlucky convict who received a deep chop in the shoulder because his executioner had bad aim...
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