A sourcebook of homicide, suicide, rape and prostitution cases from 18th century France, most from previously untranslated material. Sources include periodicals, Bastille records, police reports and contemporary true crime accounts. Within each subject, material - most of it from the period - is presented in approximate chronological order. These cases introduce people from all walks of life: nobility, clergy, servants, writers, tradespeople, performers. Some were well-known, many were obscure. Some of the cases are bizarre, some sadly familiar in their broad lines. Husbands killing wives, sons killing parents; people killing themselves over money, love or simple despair; children prostituted by their parents, women gleefully prostituting themselves; rape by groups and rape by friends, rapes described by the rapists themselves.
Each of the larger categories is preceded by a look at Old Regime law on the subject. The cases themselves are rich with period detail and close-up views of daily life. Above all, the main subject here, through all these varied personalities and situations, is human nature, often shown in its rawest form.