For Those Who Read Instruction Manuals: Before and After
introduced many new concepts and designs. Some were kept,
some were forgotten.
One of these new
ideas was the guillotine, and it was
definitely a keeper.
afbeelding van de guillôtine te Parys
Authentic image of
the guillotine in Paris.
Bibliothèque nationale de France, département
Estampes et photographie
In fact, in France, the guillotine was in use from 1792
It was a great success and adopted by
other European states. Even Greece and Hanover had one.
Why Was the
The guillotine was
invented to make capital punishment a humane experience, as opposed to the
horrors of the tortures of the wheel or the
stake, the unreliable beheading by sword, or the infamy of hanging.
But there was another
revolutionary aspect to it, and that was equality of the death penalty.
by sword, was
considered a privilege and reserved for the nobles. The
average criminal was hung or worse.
With the introduction of
the guillotine came the abolition of privileges on
The guillotine was a device for
decapitation, invented to execute capital punishment as
swiftly and as neatly as possible.
The apparatus separated head
from body by a
heavy blade that fell down between two upright
posts that were joined by a crossbeam.
Beheading had been a popular way
of execution since people could carry sticks. In time,
decapitation typically involved
swords, axes, or hatchets of sorts.
Inventing a contraption for the
purpose was the logical next step. In England, there
Halifax Gibbet, for