The crime of poison in the Middle Ages

Franck Collard, The crime of poison in the Middle Ages, Puf, 2003

With this structure, from a folder of habilitation, Franck Collard offers a systematic study of the crime of poison. It is for him to determine what is the crime of poison, the manner in which it is found and of which he is punished. As pointed out by the author in the title of his first chapter (” a crime is elusive ? “), the crime of poison is very difficult to identify because difficult to identify. The challenge of the book is to determine “the mode of existence of this crime in minds” (p 7). Is there a specificity of the crime of poison in the Middle Ages ? How is it viewed ? The author goes in search of the traces of the crime of poison. What crime there is there in the chronicles, novels, fictions ? In the literature is exemplary, the reason of the poisoning appears to be marginal ; the veneficium is especially a symbol of sin. Legally, the crime of poison is not a category stand-alone. Franck Collard chooses in this general context of interest in the crime poisonous. Despite the documentation being somewhat lacking, the author reaches some conclusions.

In particular, the author shows that towards the end of the Middle Ages, there has been a growth of crime which is poisonous ; it is between 1240 and 1300 F Collard see the reversal take place. It remains, however, that the crime by poisoning remains marginal, although one can note the proliferation of treaties on the venoms from the Fourteenth century. A chapter would particularly draw our attention. This is chapter III entitled ” Sociologies of the poisoning “. The author is a sociology of the victims of the poisoning criminal. The victims are rather young, as the first dauphin, Charles VI, was assassinated at 9 years of age in 1401 or older, as Guiette Guillonne, which makes it easier to disguise the crime ? The women are spared the crime of poison ? It seems that in cases of early death, the spirits are likely to see a crime of poison.

According to the sources and calculations of the author, to 75% in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth centuries, the crime of poison tends to affect first the upper layers of the population. Franck Collard calls however for caution : the sources lack precision and, above all, it may be, as it reports p. 102 ” at the end of the Middle Ages, the opacity of the affairs of State, is responsible in part for the multiplication of the charges of poison in the courtyards and the palace “. The prince is a victim particularly conducive to the crime of poison, which seems, in some measure, be to the author, a cultural construction.

On the side of the poisoners themselves, the blur dominates, and that reflect the sources, it is more “a sociology of representations of the criminal” as a sociology criminal (p 106). The woman is the poisoner, that the spirits of the Middle Ages have wanted to draw ? The sources of evidence are fraught with representations of the era, produced by men, they are therefore particularly likely to draw the face of the poisoner. It remains, however, that the presence of women among the crimes of poison appears to be more marked than for other types of crimes. Further, Franck Collard seeks to place the crime of poison in a context of relationships. The crime of poison is first and foremost a matter of family or of relationships of power ? The cell spousal seems to be a space especially open to crime toxic. The author maintains a hierarchical relationship, the poisoned being seen as superior socially to the empoisonneur. Chapter IV allows you to enter in the representations of the time. The crime of poison is a crime, ” abominable “. The empoisonneur deserves all the punishments of hell ; it is the worst of crimes. In total, a book of hard-hitting, tightly argued.

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