The Claudine Rouge Affair (1767): Identity, Putrefaction and Medical Expertise in a Lyonnais Cause Célèbre


Tuesday 24 April 2012, 10h30 - 12h30


Collegium de Lyon, 15 parvis René-Descartes, 69007 Lyon, Salle R143


microhistoire, micro history, droit, law, pénal, crime, meurtre, history, histoire
The Claudine Rouge Affair (1767): Identity, Putrefaction and Medical Expertise in a Lyonnais Cause Célèbre

Eighteen-year-old  Claudine  Rouge,  domestic  servant and  daughter  of  Claude  Rouge,  master  silk-maker went  missing  from  her  home  on  the  slopes  of  the Croix  Rousse  on  the  evening  of  25  June  1767.  Her disappearance    and    the    discovery    of    a    badly-decomposed female cadaver several days later in the Rhone  near  Condrieu  soon  became  the  talk  of  the town  in  Lyon  and  farther  afield.  The  subsequent investigations  and  trial  of  five  of  her neighbours  for her  rape  and  murder  quickly  took  on  extraordinary proportions  earning  Claudine  Rouge  her  place  as  a Cause  Célèbre.    This  notorious  case  was  tried  on many different levels in at least four different arenas: criminal, civil, medical and public. The  medical  and  public  trials  continued  long after  the  criminal  procedure  had  ground  to  a halt propelling the affair onto the national and even    international    stages,    obliging    those accused   of   her   murder   and   the   medical experts  who  examined  her  corpse  to  defend their honour and reputations.

This  paper  takes  a  microhistorical  approach to  the  ‘exceptional  normal’  moment  that  was the  Claudine  Rouge  affair.  It  demonstrates that a reconstruction of this case and its many facets can tell us much about  the workings of the ancien regime judiciary at a time when the abuses  and  corruption  of  the  judicial  system were subject to strong criticism. In particular, a  close  reading  of  the  Claudine  Rouge  affair provides insight into the relationship between law   and   medicine   and   the   controversies surrounding medical expertise, the role of the medical expert and the problematic nature of medical evidence.


Histoire moderne
15/09/2011 - 15/07/2012