An instrument for inflicting capital punishment by decapitation; a machine for beheading persons, by means of a blade sliding down between grooved posts.
The guillotine was named from Joseph Ignace Guillotin (1738-1814), a French physician, who proposed its adoption to prevent unnecessary pain.
The guillotine was first used in the Place de Grève on 25 April 1792. For a time it was known as a Louisette after Antoine Louis (1723-1792), the French surgeon who devised it.
Similar instruments had been used in some countries in the 13th century, but the idea of separating heads from their bodies mechanically and impersonally had been around for a long time, and even though devices used were primitive, they were nonetheless very effective.
The Chinese, in the days of the Mandarins, had a device consisting of a ten-foot long tree trunk, hinged at one end to a horizontal beam by means of a bronze pin, and held upright at an angle of 45 degrees or so by a loose support. Fixed in a socket at the upper end of the trunk was a large triangular shaped blade. Once the victim had been tied across the horizontal beam, it was a matter of knocking the support away and the heavy trunk would fall with devastating force, if not with precise accuracy, and sever the victim’s head.
In 1865 a huge flint hatchet weighting over 100 kilograms (220 lbs) was found at Lime, in the canton of Sains (Aisne) near the high road to Guise to Vervins, which was determined had been used by the Gauls for chopping off heads, virtually a stone age guillotine.
The guillotine is noted for long being the main method of execution in France and, more particularly, for its use during the French Revolution, when it became a part of popular culture. The device was celebrated as the people's avenger by supporters of the Revolution and vilified as the pre-eminent symbol of the Reign of Terror by opponents.
The guillotine continued to be used long after the French Revolution in several countries, including France, where it was the sole method of execution until the abolition of capital punishment in 1981.
See Immortality, The Terror: The Shadow of the Guillotine: France 1792-1794, Guillotine: Its Legend and Lore, The Hebertistes to the Guillotine: Anatomy of a 'Conspiracy' in Revolutionary France, Mam'zelle Guillotine, Execution: The Guillotine, the Pendulum, the Thousand Cuts, the Spanish Donkey, and 66 Other Ways of Putting Someone to Death, When the Guillotine Fell: The Bloody Beginning and Horrifying End to France's River of Blood, Guillotine & The Cross, Immortality, Mystic Gifts and Charms - New Age Gift Shop & Wicca and Pagan Supplies, Love Spells -- Use these powerful love spells to help you find and keep your true love, The Tarot Store, The Chakra Store, Divination & Scrying Tools and Supplies, Unique Amulets, Talismans, Good Luck Charms, and Love Tokens, Powerful Witch Doctor Spell Kits, Powerful Spells - Cast by Andreika the Witch, Webmasters Make $$$, AzureGreen - Celebrating All Paths to the Divine, ISIS - Tools for Your Soul's Journey, and The Pyramid Collection - Myth, Magick, Fantasy and Romance.
Sources: (1) Abbott, Geoffrey, Execution: The Guillotine, the Pendulum, the Thousand Cuts, the Spanish Donkey, and 66 Other Ways of Putting Someone to Death, St. Martin's Press; (2) Bindman, David, The Shadow of the Guillotine: Britain and the French Revolution, Published for the Trustees of the British Museum.
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