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Crimes against humanity: the dark side of French history

Research provided in history books conveys the account of events, state and circumstances of the olden times. Authors of such researches or books have a great responsibility to transfer history to the coming generations as impartially as possible. One such truth was that back in the 16th Century France was drenched in the darkness. Stuart Carroll, a well-known Britain professor of history writes in his book, ‘Blood and Violence In Early Modern France’:

“Early Modern French was peculiarly violent. Aristocrats were brutal in all the periods: it (brutality) was one of the signs of Aristocracy.”

At one point, Carroll has narrated:

“Noble disputes were ritualized and symbolic, not mindless and cynical. They encompassed obligation and exchange, calculated risk, and, at some point, resolution. Nevertheless, French nobles fell victim to, and perpetrated, a far higher rate of killing than even the most violent modern society. And, just as with popular religious violence, the symbolism of these acts could lead to excessive abuse of the victim’s corpse.”

He further wrote about the fraudulent judiciary system of France:

“Justice was heavily weighted in favour of the social elite and nobles favoured litigation as another means of attacking rivals and deflecting condemnation of their own behaviour. Even if convicted, nobles were rarely executed and other punishments were often evaded. At the highest level, the King and his council could intervene (in the court). However, negotiations and mediation could easily break down. Thus, peace could become as politicized as violence.”

The French aristocrats were oppressive in the interactions and transactions with the peasants. It was a common thing for them to demand taxes from them while they kept themselves exempted from paying any such amount of money.

Another common practice of the aristocrats was to avert the death or any severe punishment and give it to the peasant in replacement of them. The method was to bribe the judge and it was then a peasant to be punished or face the hanging.

Women received violence to the unbearable-limits. Considered weak part of the society by the Aristocrats, women were traded in between the conflicting parties when they found nothing of value while settling down the clashes. Even the edicts issued by the Church or Court were amended only to serve the purpose of the ruling elites in the government.

Another author Geoffrey Treasure writes in The Huguenots discussing the French Wars of Religion 1560s:

“The Massacre of Vassy sparked off decades of violence known as the French Wars of Religion. In April 1562, Protestants took control of Orleans and massacred Huguenots in Sens and Tours. In Toulouse, a riot resulted in the deaths of up to 3,000 people, many of them Huguenots.”

This is one side of the picture. The other side shows the French violence in other countries when the French Army marched on for the colonial expeditions. One ill-fated country was Algeria. It was an independent state yet administered badly. It had survived with the fragile socio-political system. The economy was as such down that the inhabitants were dying of hunger and poverty. Moreover, attacks from the barbaric European pirates left it in a destitute state.

In 1800, the French merchants invaded it. Sooner, they made it the biggest Slave Market. These subjugated Algerians were sent to Europe as their arrogant colonial-gains. It was the period when France exercised the most-cruel reign over any country. It was absolute blood-ridden colonization of the land.

The French carried out all these heinous crimes while making the promises of protecting land with the local inhabitants. France attempted to erase the Algerian identity and launched war against mosques and religious schools. In 1836, France opened the first Catholic missionary school in Algeria. The French also enacted discriminatory laws against Algerians, in a move that allowed colonizers to usurp their lands.

Following the July Revolution 1830, French Colonizers had greater plans. This brought the further-darkest fate for Algeria. The French Generals were cruel and shameless in the schemes as well as in the execution of the plans. Yet, the Algerians mustered the strength and stood up against France to revolt the unspeakable savagery.

The most noticeable Algerian rebellion was seen in 1849 at Zaatcha led by Sheikh Bouziane. The villagers of Zaatcha fought with the French colonizers led by General Herbillon. However, the local villagers defended impressively but this resistance could not sustain longer in front of a well-equipped French Army. After the heavy loss, the French Army stroked back and then left the unbelievable stories of coercion, violence and subjugation.

The barbarity of the French Army knew no bounds.

In 1880 –1881, France decapitate the Algerian anti-colonial fighters and took 37 skulls to Paris. These skulls are currently stored at the Musee De I’Homme (Museum of Mankind) in Paris. Algeria has been demanding to return the skills since 2011, a demand rejected by Paris. War trophies, as they called them, these cold-blooded colonial soldiers took decapitated heads of the Algerian villagers with them. The so-called champions of civilisation put these kept these heads as the sign of victory of their successful Colonial Era.

On May 8, 1945, thousands of Algerians took to the streets to celebrate the allied victory over Nazi Germany and end of World War II (1939–1945) and to demand independence from France. The celebrations, however, turned bloody when French forces opened fire on unarmed protesters, with estimates putting the death toll at around 45,000.

More than 1.5 million Algerians were martyred during the course of the Algerian struggle for independence from the brutal French rule.

History communicates a lot about the country, its people and culture. It has been a great source of learning about the older population. The analysis of French history suggests that the violence and intolerance was a regular part of the society supervised and proliferated by the rulers over there. Nevertheless, the most reprehensible is the merciless atrocities they had exercised outside the country.