VILLAGE OF CANNIBALS

Nov 18, 2017 | 0 comments

Nov 18, 2017 | Miscellaneous | 0 comments

 VILLAGE OF CANNIBALS

 

Introduction

The book written by Alain Corbin[1] details a gruesome murder of a young French noble man. The young man though of nobility is accused albeit falsely of a crime to which the peasants of Hautefaye proceed to beat him to death for. The author manages to bring out the most gruesome piece of history with a lot of emotion. The helpless you man is persecuted for no other reason other than he is of a noble class which the peasants of the village of course hold against him. Corbin[2] draws on this incidence to discuss and explore the nature of mob justice and violence by the public in the late 19th century.

Thesis statement: Fear is a strong force; the force of fear in human beings is greater than any form of rationality

Historical context

Village of cannibals is set pre French revolution. The era that is 1870 is one that is filled with political class segregation as well as social class segregation. Both these factors are explored by Corbin[3] in his book. He describes the brutal murder by the peasants who at the time felt justified to torture and kills a noble man. In the book, he describes his belief and sets off facts that show that indeed the murder was nothing but a political statement from the masses and those dissatisfied by the system of rulership.

The small commune of Hautefaye seems successful economically to the naked eye. However, underneath there are currents of dissatisfaction and a violent rage explored by Corbin.[4] The peasants are angry and feel that the vast pieces of land owned by the nobility have not been acquired in the rightful manner. These under currents are what cause the peasants to harshly judge and execute a member of the class that they do detest. Based upon these under currents, Corbin[5] explores the fearful conspiracies that existed before and during the state of the revolution. These conspiracies could account for a large number of deaths.

Source of historical information

To many readers, the book Village of Cannibals could seem like a horror story or indeed a narration bordering on fiction. However, Corbin[6] strives to bring out historical facts and evidence of the political and social climate through the murder of one young man.  To begin with the murder described takes place on the commune situated at the border of Dordogne.[7] The importance of border towns as an economic resource cannot be ignored. For people living in these towns the income and standards of living could be considered quite high. In addition, residents often interacted with other traders and merchants passing by. The result was a rich culture. However, as shown by Corbin,[8] even at the time there was excessive greediness among the people in the town. Large tracts of land were owned by singular noble families. Peasants were forced into the outskirts, to lands that were less than productive. Because of thus, they were often forced into labor in the large tracts of estates owned by the noble families. This of course bred a feeling of severe dissatisfaction and enrage the peasants who felt weak in terms of action to correct and remedy their situation.

The trial and murder of the young noble Frenchman known as Alain de Moneys, was based on no truth but rather the rumors. In the narration, the author shows how the eager and emotional peasant class got misused by the middle class in this era. The middle class controlled and infuriated the peasants using rumors and propaganda in an attempt to change the system of ownership. The middle class themselves detested the nobility, desiring but being unable to reach their level. Seeing as they could not act by themselves, they stirred the weaker and more gullible peasants to destabilize the upper class.  The victim himself was not one who was outspoken about his beliefs. On the other hand, Camille de Maillard, a relative was indeed guilty of the crime of screaming republican slogans at the market place. Unfortunately he escaped, and the anger of the mob was directed to the victim. Despite being prove not to be similar as his cousin, the mob fuelled by frustration, the thirst for blood and the widespread rumors that had led to the fear of an aristocratic return chose not to listen. Instead, they opted to make an example of young man even burning him alive.

The death itself became a win for the republicans. The peasants has tortured a man for hours and consumable burnt him while he was breathing. Details of the autopsy were released to the public, showing that the young man had died one hand shielding his face from the flames and the other open begging for mercy.  During the trial, the peasants were shown as merciless and a mob that was not directed at justice at all. The mob was more focused on ensuring that the name of their leader, the emperor was protected. This according to Howard[9] was the beginning of a down fall for the emperor. Justice was quick and swift for the men who had chosen to kill for their leader. Republicans used the murder as a platform to speak against the leadership, to highlight the weakness in the system and to win over people with promises of a return to civility and justice. The men involved and accused of the murder, though relying on the information that mob psychology played into their actions largely were vastly punished. Perhaps most remarkable is the hanging of four of the accused at the scene of the murder, what many thought was more a societies deem as normal gender roles. Gender is personal, part of everyone’s developing identity and web of relationships, but it is also political than symbolic statement.

As described by Corbin,[10] the murder of Hautefaye is completely different from any other murders in 1870. The murder was not based on Company has occupied the market niche for an automobile in Japan. To overcome the political convictions or even revenge a common reason for committing murder. Further, the murder brought together men from various localities to violently end a life in broad daylight and in public. The leaders e.g. the mayor stood helplessly watching as the young man was tortured and killed based on rumors. The young man received the punishment for rumors that his class, the nobles were plotting against the emperor and hence the country. To fully see and understand the context under which the murders took place, Corbin[11] takes the reader through the political, economic and even geographical conditions. He shows clearly how such conditions combined and conspired to make the brutal murder seem not just rational but the only alternative to the mob. There was no clear system of governance and even fewer security forces to keep the community in line. Further, majority of the population had poor access to education. They could neither write nor read. The result is that they became gullible and were easily swayed by rumors.

Conclusion

The peasants believed that their land was being repossessed and their homes were to be burnt following a revolution against the emperor by the nobility. It is important to recall, that the aristocrats, that is the middle class took advantage of the gullibility of the peasants to add fuel to the rumors. The peasants held onto the belief that the emperor was the only one protecting them. This led them to deal violently with the young noble man, thought to be the source of their own fear.

The community of peasants were not violent in and of themselves but rather victims of their own fear. Propelled by this fear, they found the first weak link in the chain and decided to engage in the most brutal murder. It is to be recalled that in the late 19th century, such brutal murders were covered in religious propaganda. Victims had perhaps engaged in blasphemy or spoken ill of God and the church. The brutal killing and further desecration of the body was to appease God. This murder bore distinct similarities to such murders, drawing on the religious massacres to protect their own leader.[12] A quick look into history shows that the commune of Hautefaye was quickly forgotten and taken off history books. This is an attempt to re-write history in a more favorable manner. The murder of the young Frenchman could easily be forgotten were it not for the efforts and writing of the Village of Cannibals which candidly discuses the brutal murder and desecration of the body afterwards.

Bibliography

Corbin, Alain. 1992. The village of cannibals: rage and murder in France, 1870. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Fortescue, William. 2000. The Third Republic in France, 1870-1940 conflicts and continuities. London: Routledge

Howard, Michael. 1961. The Franco-Prussian War; the German invasion of France, 1870-1871. New York: Macmillan.

Thomson, David. 1964. Democracy in France since 1870. London: Oxford University Press.

 

[1] Corbin, Alain. 1992. The village of cannibals: rage and murder in France, 1870. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

 

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid

[6] Ibid

[7] Thomson, David. 1964. Democracy in France since 1870. London: Oxford University Press.

 

[8] Corbin, Alain. 1992. The village of cannibals: rage and murder in France, 1870. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

 

[9] Howard, Michael. 1961. The Franco-Prussian War; the German invasion of France, 1870-1871. New York: Macmillan.

[10] Corbin, Alain. 1992. The village of cannibals: rage and murder in France, 1870. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

 

[11] Ibid

[12] Fortescue, William. 2000. The Third Republic in France, 1870-1940 conflicts and continuities. London: Routledge