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The Châtelet police of Paris (1560-1610) : identity, organization and practices of the officers

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This study focuses on the specificity of the officers of the Châtelet of Paris in the sixteenth century ; it tackles a complex field of observation revealing social divisions and institutional power games at the origin of the difficulties of police regulation. By moving away from exclusively institutional studies, this work fits in the perspective of a social and prosopographic history of the institution. The place occupied by commissioners and sergeants in society, linked to the inherent status of the royal office, allows them social recognition and legitimation of exercise in front of the populations while revealing behavioral logics. An exploration extending from social origins to the choices of careers, alliances, mobilities, fortunes, material culture and representations of officers highlights the divisions between groups. Generating conflicts, these divisions contribute to a partial explanation of the difficulty in exercising police action. Individual trajectories reflect the behaviors and undertakings of engagement in the exercise of the office or of diversion of the royal service. The existence of a diversity of institutional powers in charge of the Parisian police is at the origin of many conflicts between the institutions in charge of order preservation. The evolution of the types of conflicts but also of their number and the means enforced to resolve them makes it possible to understand part of the field work of the officers. The community of commissioners, responsible for representing and defending the interests of the group, expresses solidarity as a whole. It ensures the discipline of its members, the settlement of their conflicts, manages the distribution of functions and the breakdown of economic benefits. While being an internal « think tank » on the regulation of the conditions of exercise of the office, it contributes to the standardization of practices. Police practice is apprehended beforehand through a study of the space for the performance of duties. The study of the police quarters and the number of officers assigned to them shows a desire to strengthen control and optimize the management of police space. Part of the daily work of the commissioners with the populations is revealed through the materiality and the variation of the forms of the minutes. Time consuming civil acts greatly affected the proper performance of police surveillance tasks. A pre-established framework, characteristic of legal acts, structures the minutes of the commissioners. Similarities in form from one act to another are explained by the transmission of practices between officers. The study of the contexts and forms of violence between officers and litigants allows us to glimpse part of the exercise of police functions. Violence is understood as a challenge to the order established by the representatives of royal power and their legitimacy. It also testifies to ordinary or accentuated police deviances in the event of a crisis. The maintenance of order, the management of violence and the surveillance of populations during religious disturbances are characterized by authoritarian attempts of control set up by the Châtelet in competition with other law enforcement agents. The growing hostility of Catholics towards Protestants, the contestation of royal power and the diversity of urban authorities contribute to the instability of police order. The high point of the king’s loss of control over urban order was reached during St. Bartholomew's Day, then during the League. After the king’s takeover of the capital and the pacification of the unrest, the powers of the Châtelet were gradually reasserted to the detriment of other forms of classical regulation, in particular the urban and seigneurial authorities.

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