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Memoirs of the Sansons: From Private Notes and Documents (1688-1847)
by Charles Henri Sanson
Here’s a community review of the Book, found on Goodreads.com:
The Sanson's were executioners that served the government of France from 1688 through 1847, passing the profession and position from father to son. This collection of memoirs, put together by the last in the long line of executioners, covers their history up until the execution of King Louis XVI in 1793.
Although grim, the subject is fascinating. The author gives accounts of some of the sensational crimes of the 18th century, his ancestor's involvement in their executions, and the deportment of the condemned before their death.
We see the barbarity of the punishments administered at the time, where torture before death was common and decapitation was seen as humane. It gives the reader a great appreciation of the prohibition of 'cruel and unusual punishment' in modern society.
The humanity of the men whose job it was to administer the horrible punishments decided on by the government (whether it be the monarchy or the French revolutionaries) is contrasted against the deadly profession it was their duty to perform.
We are given a new perspective of the attitudes of the day concerning executions and those who carried them out. The origin of the guillotine, its conception and purpose, are especially of interest.
All in all, this is a book that opens your mind and gets you thinking.
The Book is available -for free- online at the Internet Archive