Volkswagen Fellowship Symposium 2014: “Myth-Making in Eighteenth-Century France: Visual Representations of Banditry”

Julius Ruff, Marquette University, Milwaukee:

Banditry was ubiquitous in early modern Europe, but society’s response to the threats posed by these organized bands of thieves and contrabandists was highly ambiguous. The depredations of many criminal bands certainly engendered great fear in the minds of their potential victims, but it is also quite clear that some bandits enjoyed a very different popular perception. In early modern popular culture certain of these criminals embodied the Robin Hood myth of the “noble” bandit who stole only from the rich and displayed unfailing generosity to the poor. The present paper explores print representations of several eighteenth-century French bandits in the Bibliothèque bleue of Troyes and widely-circulated canards and then focuses on the career and visual representation of one “noble” bandit, Poulaillier, who was active in the Ile-de-France in the 1770s and 1780s.

Julius R. Ruff is professor of history at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A student of the social and legal history of early modern France, he is the author of Crime, Justice and Public Order in Old Regime France: The Sénéchaussées of Libourne and Bazas, 1696-1789  (London: Croom Helm, 1984); Violence in Early Modern Europe,1500-1800 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001); and numerous articles, book chapters, and professional papers. He is presently at work on a book-length study of bands of thieves in the eighteenth-century Paris region.


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