Cover of The Courtesan and the Gigolo by Aaron Freundschuh
The Courtesan and the Gigolo
The Murders in the Rue Montaigne and the Dark Side of Empire in Nineteenth-Century Paris
Aaron Freundschuh


272 pages.
from $28.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503600157
Paperback ISBN: 9781503600829
Ebook ISBN: 9781503600973

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Gold winner in the True Crime category of the 2017 Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY), sponsored by the Independent Publisher Book Awards.

The intrigue began with a triple homicide in a luxury apartment building just steps from the Champs-Elyseés, in March 1887. A high-class prostitute and two others, one of them a child, had been stabbed to death—the latest in a string of unsolved murders targeting women of the Parisian demimonde. Newspapers eagerly reported the lurid details, and when the police arrested Enrico Pranzini, a charismatic and handsome Egyptian migrant, the story became an international sensation. As the case descended into scandal and papers fanned the flames of anti-immigrant politics, the investigation became thoroughly enmeshed with the crisis-driven political climate of the French Third Republic and the rise of xenophobic right-wing movements.

Aaron Freundschuh's account of the "Pranzini Affair" recreates not just the intricacies of the investigation and the raucous courtroom trial, but also the jockeying for status among rival players—reporters, police detectives, doctors, and magistrates—who all stood to gain professional advantage and prestige. Freundschuh deftly weaves together the sensational details of the case with the social and political undercurrents of the time, arguing that the racially charged portrayal of Pranzini reflects a mounting anxiety about the colonial "Other" within France's own borders. Pranzini's case provides a window into a transformational decade for the history of immigration, nationalism, and empire in France.

About the author

Aaron Freundschuh is Assistant Professor of History at Queens College, City University of New York.

"An intriguing tale, told with insight...a good read about the great city in a time of transition."

—John Merriman, Yale University, author of Massacre: The Life and Death of the Paris Commune

"Aaron Freundschuh's investigation of the Pranzini case stretches the limits of the genre, illuminating the urban landscape, social life, and political context of 1880s Paris and the role of the so-called 'demi-monde' in the French imaginary. His concept of 'imperial insecurity' is a major insight that brightly renews our understanding of fin-de-siècle societies."

—Dominique Kalifa, Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne

"The Courtesan and the Gigolo presents a fascinating history of late nineteenth-century Paris as it was becoming a cosmopolitan seat of a transnational empire. Aaron Freundschuh explores questions of criminality, sexual deviance, and national identity as they gripped a society both fearful and desirous of exotic masculinity, and all that colonialism introduced. Its parallels with our own time are chilling."

—Tyler Stovall, University of California, Santa Cruz

"This well-reasoned analysis is eminently readable and accessible for those with absolutely no background in the period."

—Starred Review Publishers Weekly

"[Pranzini's] case caused cultural currents and careers to intersect in ways that both reflected and reinforced the political turmoil and social tensions of the time. Freundschuh's adept use of microhistory succeeds in exposing the decade's complexities through one galvanizing cause célèbre...Freundschuh's careful reconstruction of the Pranzini affair both achieves and justifies its rescue from historical oblivion."

—Susan A. Ashley, H-France review

"The Courtesan and the Gigolo: The Murders in the Rue Montaigne and the Dark Side of Empire in Nineteenth-Century Paris is a carefully crafted and beautifully written account of a global subject, Henri Pranzini, and his alleged involvement in the 1887 murders of a courtesan named Marie Regnault, her daughter, and her maidservant. The uproar surrounding this particular crime, Freundschuh shows, was reflective of larger popular and political anxieties that resonated well beyond the Parisian capital: racialized notions of "urban insecurity," transnational narratives of criminality and sexual danger, and fears accompanying the onset of mass immigration and the possibility of colonial migration to the metropole....Freundschuh has a real talent for transforming archival details into arresting stories."

—Elisa Camiscioli, H-Urban<\i>

"The arguably seminal role of the Panzini affair in the consolidation of the fin-de-siècle New Right is only one example of Freundschuh's deft contextualization of a minor incident in French history. This book is the rare contribution to French history that is gripping and readable enough for the general reader, or for an undergraduate course, but which is detailed and nuanced enough for research or use in a graduate course."

—Melanie Conroy, The French Review

"In The Courtesan and the Gigolo, Aaron Freundschuh explores the brutal murders of Marie Regnault (forty years old), Annette Gremeret (early forties), and Marie Gremeret (twelve years old), as well as the execution of the man convicted of killing them, Enrico Pranzini, who may have been innocent. Freundschuh convincingly argues that the entire affair serves as an entrée into the broader forces that shaped the history of the early Third Republic, including late-nineteenth-century migration patterns, powerful gender norms, colonial expansion, the rise of the mass press, and shifts in policing and medical practices. The murders and ensuing trial made huge news in 1887, and the compelling story that Freundschuh tells at once humanizes the people involved and reconstructs the world in which they lived."

—Caroline Campbell, American Historical Review