Navigation – Plan du site

AccueilDossiersFolie et justice de l'Antiquité à...2016Madness and Justice, from Antiqui...


Madness and Justice, from Antiquity to the Present

Introduction to the dossier
Hélène Ménard et Marc Renneville
Traduction de François-Xavier Priour
Cet article est une traduction de :
Folie et justice, de l’Antiquité à l’époque contemporaine [fr]

Texte intégral

Tribunal des fous, marginalia in les Decretales de Grégoire IX (vers 1280)Afficher l’image
Crédits : France, Tours, Bibliothèque municipale, Ms 568, fol 19 v°.
  • 1 Giunio Rizzelli, Modelli di "follia" nella cultura dei giuristi romani, Lecce, Grifo, 2014.
  • 2 Fernando Zuccotti, ‘Furor haereticorum’. Studi sul trattamento giuridico e sulla persecuzione delle (...)

1Neither the history of justice nor that of madness can be considered emerging themes of historiography per se. It is well understood today that, as early as the Roman era, the “furiosus” was dealt with from both a judicial (cura) and medical perspective, and both these fields have been studied separately, by the historians of justice and medicine respectively. A study of the madness models used by Roman jurists was put forward in a recent work by Giunio Rizzelli1, and Fernando Zuccotti’s analysis2 offers a good example of an organic approach of the link between the judicial treatment of “madness” and religious heterodoxy (or “deviance”). As far the medieval and Renaissance eras are concerned, historians have leveraged judicial sources to define madness and assess how it was addressed by the judiciary in medieval society, emphasizing the dynamics of locking up the “insane” together with criminals. “Madness” has also been extensively explored as a medico-legal issue in modern and contemporary times, especially since the 1970s with such angles as the history of ideas, the sociohistory of professions, and the history of alienism, with a particular focus on the 19th century.

2The question of determining how madness relates to justice opens a whole field of thoughts, discourses, and practices, both vast and ancient. Many issues are at stake, from assessing the responsibility of – and therefore potentially judging – the “insane” to regulating their care, restricting yet recognizing their “rights,” and constructing social representations of madness and madness. While those questions have been quite thoroughly explored since the 1970s, generating a number of critical studies on institutions and fiery interpretative debates on major texts, this Criminocorpus dossier does not primarily aim to further, fuel, or reopen the critical perspective that has presided over these – often innovative and heuristic – works.

We would like this special issue to be open to all periods of history, not implying or assuming any transperiodic interpretation whatsoever. In this manner, we hope to foster reflections and studies on specific areas, with a particular focus on controversial and possibly breakthrough moments in the evolution of knowledge. Our initial call for contributions included a non-exhaustive list of suggested themes: how do the various fields of knowledge – medical, theological, judicial, etc. – hinge upon one another in the diversity of their approaches? What antagonisms, convergences, and forms of acculturation may be identified? How is expertise built, what are its criteria and points of reference? Where are this knowledge and these practices built and applied? We also suggested examining the limited, if not non-existent, consideration for expertise in the judicial treatment of madness, especially in collective representations and in fiction.

The ambition of the present dossier is not to open a brand-new avenue or collectively produce a fresh narrative. Our goal is to raise awareness about the construction and analysis of the theoretical knowledge and practices mobilized in the relationships between madness and justice. This publishing space will have reached its goal if it manages to gradually make available new research works and approaches that incrementally foster a comparison between objects, fields, periods, and approaches.

Finally, we would like to remind potential authors that Criminocorpus dossiers remains indefinitely open to new contributions. Feel free to contact us if you think you may meaningfully contribute to this dossier.

Haut de page


1 Giunio Rizzelli, Modelli di "follia" nella cultura dei giuristi romani, Lecce, Grifo, 2014.

2 Fernando Zuccotti, ‘Furor haereticorum’. Studi sul trattamento giuridico e sulla persecuzione delle eterodossia religiosa nella legislazione del tardo impero romano, Milan, A. Giuffrè, 1992.

Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Hélène Ménard et Marc Renneville, « Madness and Justice, from Antiquity to the Present »Criminocorpus [En ligne], Folie et justice de l'Antiquité à l'époque contemporaine, mis en ligne le 05 février 2016, consulté le 28 février 2024. URL : ; DOI :

Haut de page


Hélène Ménard

Agrégée d’histoire et maître de conférences en Histoire romaine à l’Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier III et membre de l’EA 4424 – CRISES, Hélène Ménard a travaillé sur l’ordre public à Rome et dans les villes de l’Occident romain à l’époque impériale. Elle s’intéresse à la justice, dans le cadre plus général des pouvoirs et de leur perception, des normes et de la régulation sociale. Elle étudie plus particulièrement les sanctions pénales, notamment la damnatio ad bestias ou condamnation des criminels à être livrés aux bêtes (fauves, ours, taureaux…) lors de spectacles, à partir des sources juridiques, littéraires, martyrologiques et iconographiques. Elle est également membre du comité de rédaction d’Histoire Urbaine. Hélène Ménard est membre du comité de rédaction de Criminocorpus.

Articles du même auteur

Marc Renneville

Directeur du CLAMOR et de la publication du site Criminocorpus depuis sa création, Marc Renneville est directeur de recherche au CNRS, membre du centre Alexandre Koyré - Histoire des sciences et des techniques. UMR 8560 et chercheur associé au centre d’Histoire de Sciences Po. Ses recherches portent sur l’histoire des sciences du crime et du criminel (XIXe-XXe siècles).

Articles du même auteur

Haut de page

Droits d’auteur


Le texte seul est utilisable sous licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Les autres éléments (illustrations, fichiers annexes importés) sont « Tous droits réservés », sauf mention contraire.

Haut de page
Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search