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The Faithful Executioner: Life and Death, Honor and Shame in the Turbulent Sixteenth Century [Anglais] [Broché]

Joel F. Harrington

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Description de l'ouvrage

31 décembre 2013

Meet Frantz Schmidt: executioner, torturer and, most unusually for his times, diarist.

Following in his father's footsteps, Frantz entered the executioner's trade as an Apprentice. 394 executions and forty-five years later, he retired to focus his attentions on running the large medical practice that he had always viewed as his true vocation.

Through examination of Frantz's exceptional and often overlooked record, Joel F. Harrington delves deep into a world of human cruelty, tragedy and injustice. At the same time, he poses a fascinating question: could a man who routinely practiced such cruelty also be insightful, compassionate - even progressive?

The Faithful Executioner is the biography of an ordinary man struggling to overcome an unjust family curse; it is also a remarkable panorama of a Europe poised on the cusp of modernity, a world with startling parallels to our own.

--Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

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Descriptions du produit

Revue de presse

"A surprisingly moving story of brutality and redemption" (Dan Jones Telegraph)

"Opens a window on a gruesome world" (Daily Express)

"This is a marvelous book about a fascinating subject. It is a virtuoso performance. A brilliant microhistory, a triumph of technique and a wonderful read" (Peter Marshall Literary Review)

"Who can imagine how an executioner feels about his trade? Joel F. Harrington has written a considered and fascinating book which helps us hear the voice of one such man, a professional torturer (and healer) who, astonishingly, kept a diary" (Hilary Mantel)

"This is a sympathetic, intelligent and surprisingly tender book" (The Times) --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

Quatrième de couverture

'A vivid window on a fascinating age' Scotsman

Meet Frantz Schmidt: executioner, torturer and, most unusually for his times, diarist.

Following in his father's footsteps, Frantz entered the executioner's trade as an Apprentice. 394 executions and forty-five years later, he retired to focus his attentions on running the large medical practice that he had always viewed as his true vocation.

Through examination of Frantz's exceptional and often overlooked record, Joel F. Harrington delves deep into a world of human cruelty, tragedy and injustice. At the same time, he poses a fascinating question: could a man who routinely practiced such cruelty also be insightful, compassionate - even progressive?

The Faithful Executioner is the biography of an ordinary man struggling to overcome an unjust family curse; it is also a remarkable panorama of a Europe poised on the cusp of modernity, a world with startling parallels to our own.

'Harrington does an excellent job at recreating the thoughts and fears of a man whose job is one of the most loathed and caricatured' Daily Telegraph

'This is a marvelous book about a fascinating subject. It is a virtuoso performance. A brilliant microhistory, a triumph of technique and a wonderful read' Literary Review

--Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

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Couverture | Copyright | Table des matières | Extrait | Index | Quatrième de couverture
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Amazon.com: 4.0 étoiles sur 5  40 commentaires
20 internautes sur 21 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Like stepping back into another, darker, time. Excellent book. 19 mars 2013
Par D. Graves - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
Some books are engrossing: you don't want to stop reading. This is as engrossing a book as you'll ever read - and it's non-fiction.

Think of it: the diary of an executioner of the late 1500s to early 1600s - a time when thousands were brutally tortured and put to death by barbaric means - has been preserved. Further, the man and his journal entries are then made the centerpiece of a detailed and captivating social history of the time and place in which he carried out his 361 executions, a history entirely different than what the common reader might expect. This is, in fact, what this excellent book is all about. As a lover of history, I cannot recommend this volume highly enough; it is like stepping back into another, darker, time.

The story of Meister Frantz Schmidt (b. 1555, d. 1634), executioner of Nuremberg from 1578 to 1617 (after a bloody "apprenticeship" in Bamberg from 1573 to 1578) is one you will not soon forget. It is not a story for the squeamish. However, the author does not serve horror for horror's sake: the times were, in fact, horrific. Executions were carried out by garoting (rope), sword, breaking wheel (for the most violent of criminals), burning (for those considered worse than violent criminals: counterfeiters and homosexuals), and drowning. Schmidt made diary entries for each of his 361 executions, the latter ones more detailed than the earlier, as well as for the 345 "light" punishments of cutting off an ear or finger, or flogging. However, these violent events only punctuate the social history of Schmidt's life and times; not only the crimes and criminals which kept the executioner steadily employed (and, in fact, fairly wealthy) but the societal structure of crime and punishment and of the executioner's place in that society.

Frantz Schmidt was a truly fascinating man who, after retirement as executioner, became a man of medicine, and who, upon his death, was given a state funeral. His diaries have been published since 1801. However, it is the expertise of a historian, the author, which gives us such an engrossing, well-rounded picture of the man and his times. One of the best books on history I have ever read.
13 internautes sur 13 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Killing and Torturing for 16th Century Justice 14 mai 2013
Par R. Hardy - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
The death penalty, the punishment of legally killing someone guilty of a crime, is controversial now. More than half the nations of the world do not allow it, and the number of US states banning it has increased to eighteen. It was taken for granted centuries ago that you could be hanged for theft, and also that you might have your ears cropped or fingers cut off for other crimes, or that torturing people was in the legal interest of governments. Governments would pay executioners to carry out this handiwork, so there were lots of executioners who were government employees within cities and states. Meister Frantz Schmidt of Nuremberg was just one of these functionaries, working from 1573 to 1618, but he was different: he kept a journal. That journal is the basis for _The Faithful Executioner: Life and Death, Honor and Shame in the Turbulent Sixteenth Century_ (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) by historian Joel F. Harrington. The journal is sparse. There are a few pages in this book that have lengthy quotations from it, with most quotations being a few sentences regarding a particular miscreant or the administration of a particular punishment. It seems, however, that Harrington has dug deep into the archives of the times, and fills out Schmidt's ambitious life story, along with giving insight to his time's views of crime, punishment, and the social role of the executioner.

Schmidt got his life vocation as executioner from his father, who had been unwillingly forced into the job. His father would have trained him in decapitation by the sword, and hanging. Just as important was learning how to apply instruments of torture. Sometimes these would be applied to torment someone on the way to the gallows; a court might prescribe that a certain number of nips with red-hot tongs, pulling off flesh, were needed before death happened. Torture was used also to get information; we might now call it by the euphemism "enhanced interrogation," but no euphemisms were needed in Schmidt's time. Along with thumb screws, flame to the armpits, the rack, and others, he would also have legally used the torture called "water," known these days as waterboarding, and some of our contemporaries still think this a dandy technique. Schmidt would have been responsible for patching up those that he had tortured, perhaps just to make them presentable on execution day. He would have used salves and herbs, and he would have known how to set bones broken by his more violent techniques. He didn't make any extra money for helping to heal prisoners in this way, but he would have had extensive hands-on insight into human anatomy. Because of this experience, Schmidt, like many other executioners, was in demand as a healer, not for prisoners but for the general public. Not only did he make more money as a practical doctor than he did for his civic work, he treated thousands of patients and was well respected in this role. He worked all his life to escape the shame of filling the outcast role of executioner (he would have been socially shunned), and after he retired, he was cleared of all inherited shame.

This is an engrossing history. The punishments described are unpleasant to read about, but so are the crimes as committed by highwaymen, burglars, and arsonists, often preying upon countrymen who were far removed from any civic protection and who might thereby lose all their crops, cattle, home, and family. Through Schmidt, Harrington makes real a lawless and brutal world, and readers 400 years later will be thankful that the routines of justice are different now, at least for most of us and for most of the time.
5 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 An interesting perspective of medival life 14 mai 2013
Par Tom - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
The life of the executioner was by far more challenging and political than one might expect. The book held my interest with a nice mix of original quotes from the Executioner and the auhors research of the time period in general.
9 internautes sur 11 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Fills a large gap in my understanding of medieval history...and the human condition 19 mai 2013
Par Steve Kohn - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
This book fills a large gap for me -- Europe, or at least Germany, in medieval times -- but it's unnecessary to provide a review, as a number of great ones have already been posted.

I will say, to counter some reviews, that the book was engrossing and I had no problem staying all the way to the end. If anything, I wish it had been longer and more detailed about life in those times.

Reading the following (on page 174) makes me wonder why we don't bring back some of their punishments for our own juvenile delinquents (those who shoot up a Mother's Day parade in New Orleans, for example):

"...in Nuremberg in 1578, three different groups of condemned boy pickpockets age seven to sixteen years were deemed 'too young to hang' and had their sentences reduced to work in a chain gang, followed by flogging and banishment. To drive home both the seriousness of the offense and the generosity of the commutation, the magistrates had one group of boys, 'none older than eleven,' actually climb the gallows ladder before being pardoned and then forced to stand by and watch their 18-year-old leader hang for real."

Flogging. Banishment. Hanging. These folks weren't fooling around.
2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The Faithful Executioner 4 mai 2013
Par S Riaz - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle
This is the fascinating story of Meister Frantz Schmidt (1555 - 1634) who was an executioner and torturer in Nuremberg and who kept a diary, which the author has fleshed out into an incredible biography of a man and a time which is little known. It was unusual to keep a diary in those times, but Schmidt kept a personal journal of the executions he carried out throughout his long career, from 1573 at the age of just nineteen, to his retirement in 1618.

One of the oddest, and saddest, things about Schmidt's life is that he became an executioner through a quirk of fate when his father, Heinrich, was called upon by a noble to act as executioner after he had arrested three locals for plotting against his life Up to that point, Heinrich had been a woodsman and fowler. After the hapless man was forced to kill he had no choice but to become an executioner. Since the Middle Ages, executioners were shunned and excluded by society and tended to bond together out of necessity. When this terrible social exclusion was forced upon him, Heinrich did the best he could and trained his son Frantz in his new profession - although both men had plans to try to escape the calling forced upon them.

It has to be said that Frantz did the best he could under the circumstances. His training began with using rhubarb stalks to practice on (apparently similar to the sinews in the neck - much of this book is gruesome, so this is not for the squemish), continuing with beheading stray dogs and helping his father in his work before, ahem, striking out on his own. During his long career, he personally killed three hundred and ninety four people, torturing countless others. For this was a time of violence, when the executioner had to administer justice for the community, both to avenge the victims and end the threat posed by dangerous criminals as well as setting an example of what could happen if crimes were committed.

Frantz, in fact, lived in "the golden age of the executioner", when it was decided to prosecute criminals more effectively and full time experts were needed in this reform of criminal justice. Professional executioners were seen as part of this reform. Although many of the crimes discussed in this book seem to be treated harshly, and the stories of torture are often troubling to read, there is also a great deal of compassion and good sense. Although this was a time when superstition was rife and women often accused of witchcraft, the area where Frantz worked seemed to have fairly enlightened views about such things. Often Frantz seems troubled by violence against children (thieves often chopped off babies hands, using them as candles and good luck charms) and also made disparaging comments about prisoners who refused to act in a solemn or repentent way at their executions. Although most prisoners seemed to try to make some kind of religious peace at the end of their life, some refused to cooperate (understandably) and other treated events with levity; one proclaiming that the priests words gave him, "a headache" and apparently dying with a smirk on his face. Other attempts to leave corpses on the gallows as a warning was not treated with the respect those in authority expected - one thief was stripped to his stockings, causing a surge of curious onlookers, including "cheeky females", which caused the executioner to be ordered to make him respectable again.

This is a really interesting read and the author has done a great job of taking a journal with little that is personal and recreating the life of Frantz Schmidt. We hear of his success, his tragedies, the sudden onset of plague in the community, the way crimes were viewed and dealt with and read, with interest, whether he ever managed to escape the fate thrust upon his family and find social acceptance. Highly recommended.
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