The Contard Affair: Private Power, State Control, and Paternal Authority in Fin-de-Siècle France

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Abstract

This paper examines how the suicide of a teenager illuminated a longstanding ideological divide in fin-de-siècle France. Five days after his arrival at the Maison Paternelle, an internationally renowned, privately-operated establishment for bourgeois boys, Gaston Contard committed suicide. The suicide was quickly sensationalized in the press and resulted in a wide-ranging investigation by public prosecutors who charged the institution's director with illegal imprisonment. Although acquitted, this was a pyrrhic victory as the event marked a critical turning point in the relationship between private power, state control and paternal authority as it pertained to the incarceration and socialization of troubled youths.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)185-215
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Historical Sociology
Volume23
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science

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