Guillotine Definition

Learn about the history and use of the guillotine, a device used for executing people by beheading. Explore examples, case studies, and statistics on this controversial method of punishment.

What is a Guillotine?

A guillotine is a device used for carrying out executions by beheading. It consists of a tall, upright frame with a weighted and angled blade suspended at the top. The victim’s head is placed on the bottom section of the frame, and the blade is released, severing the head from the body in a swift motion.

History of the Guillotine

The guillotine was invented in the late 18th century during the French Revolution as a more humane method of execution compared to hanging, which was often botched and painful. It quickly became the preferred method of execution in France and was used up until the 20th century.

Examples of Guillotine Use

The most famous use of the guillotine was during the Reign of Terror in France, where thousands of people, including King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette, were executed by this method. It has also been used in other countries, such as Germany and Belgium, although it is now considered a barbaric practice.

Case Studies

In recent times, the guillotine has been used symbolically in protests and demonstrations to represent the need for social and political change. For example, in 2018, a replica guillotine was set up outside the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., as a protest against government policies.

Statistics on Guillotine Usage

According to historical records, approximately 16,000 people were executed by guillotine in France between 1792 and 1977. The last public execution by guillotine took place in 1939, and the device was finally abolished in 1981.

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