DARNTON GREAT CAT MASSACRE PDF

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In Paris in the s, a group of printing apprentices tortured and ritually killed all the cats they could find. What does this macabre story tell us about the culture and society of eighteenth-century France? The funniest thing that ever happened in the printing shop of Jacques Vincent, according to a worker who witnessed it, was a riotous massacre of cats. The worker, Nicolas Contat, told the story in an account of his apprenticeship in the shop, rue Saint-Severin, Paris, during the late s.

Life as an apprentice was hard, he explained. There were two of them: Jerome, the somewhat fictionalised version of Contat himself, and Leveille, They slept in a filthy freezing room, rose before dawn, ran errands all day while dodging insults from the journeymen and abuse from the master, and received nothing but slops to eat.

They found the food especially galling. Instead of dining at the master's table, they had to eat scraps from his plate in the kitchen. Worse still, the cook secretly sold the leftovers and gave the boys cat food — old, rotten bits of meat that they could not stomach and so passed on to the cats, who refused it.

To continue reading this article you will need to purchase access to the online archive. Please email digital historytoday. Skip to main content. Google Tag Manager. The Great Cat Massacre. The Wrongful Death of Toussaint Louverture. The Intelligence of Earthworms. Get Miscellanies , our free weekly long read, in your inbox every week.

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The Great Cat Massacre

In Paris in the s, a group of printing apprentices tortured and ritually killed all the cats they could find. What does this macabre story tell us about the culture and society of eighteenth-century France? The funniest thing that ever happened in the printing shop of Jacques Vincent, according to a worker who witnessed it, was a riotous massacre of cats. The worker, Nicolas Contat, told the story in an account of his apprenticeship in the shop, rue Saint-Severin, Paris, during the late s. Life as an apprentice was hard, he explained. There were two of them: Jerome, the somewhat fictionalised version of Contat himself, and Leveille, They slept in a filthy freezing room, rose before dawn, ran errands all day while dodging insults from the journeymen and abuse from the master, and received nothing but slops to eat.

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The great cat massacre and other episodes in French cultural history

The book containing this account, The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History , has become one of Darnton's most popular writings; it has been published in eighteen languages. Darnton describes how, as the apprentices suffered hard conditions, they came to resent the favours which their masters gave to their cats , and contrived to deal with the nuisance cats by slaughtering them so as to distress their masters. Darnton interprets this as an early form of workers' protest. The cats were a favourite of the printer's wife and were fed much better than the apprentices, who were in turn served 'catfood' rotting meat scraps. Aside from this, they were mistreated, beaten and exposed to cold and horrible weather. One of the apprentices imitated a cat by screaming like one for several nights, making the printer and his wife despair. Finally, the printer ordered the cats rounded up and dispatched.

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