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

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Introduction

Thursday, March 17, 1887

The first body was that of a woman about 40 years old. She was lying prostrate on a bloodied rug in the boudoir, her head and lower legs protruding from beneath two ends of a red satin quilt. Her neck and shoulder had been opened by a blade. She died less than a step from her canopied pediment bed, a monolith of dark wood in the style of Louis XVI that was topped with sculpted statuettes of children and aristocratic insignias. Her chestnut hair, streaked with gray, was draped over her shoulder and flowed onto the floor. According to the police report, the quilt was drawn back to reveal the victim’s bloodied nightgown and, snug around her biceps, a pearl-studded arm bracelet made of gold.

The bedroom curtains were closed when they found her, the nightlight wick still burning on the chimney hearth at 11:15 a.m. on the day of Mid-Lent, a raucous street extravaganza. The houses of government were closed for the day. Outside in the streets, Paris’s legion of laundry service workers prepared their parade floats, donning Rabelaisian costumes and steeling themselves against the cold with song and laughter and drink.

At the opposite end of the long corridor spanning the apartment, near the second bedroom, the police spotted another corpse in a massive pool of blood. On the bed inside that bedroom lay yet another body, that of a young girl. But to any vice squad cop with passing knowledge of the sexual underworld that flourished in nineteenth-century Paris, the apartment’s sensuous surfaces, its blend of baroque and Oriental markers of status, and its location just steps from the Champs-Elysées all readily identified it as the home of an elite prostitute.

On a cabinet near the bed, investigators found a short letter, preserved today in Parisian archives, addressed to “Mme Montille, 17 rue Montaigne.” This was precisely the sort of faux-aristocratic pseudonym that courtesans often used to mask their identities while nurturing sexual fantasies. The letter’s breezy affection suggested that it had come from a regular client; likewise the crabbed handwriting, which veered in disregard of the stationery lines and would have made the task of deciphering it difficult for the uninitiated, to say nothing of the violet inkblots marring both sides of the sheet, which the sender creased and crammed into an envelope no wider than a fist.

The letter alludes to a deal struck recently in the French city of Nancy, a business engagement undertaken on behalf of Madame de Montille herself. The author asks for a meeting at a Parisian theater, a common rendezvous point for prostitutes and their clients. The signature reads “Gaston.” Based on the postmark, the letter arrived sometime late in the day on March 16, the prior evening, when the Mid-Lenten festivities were already getting under way in some parts of the city.

The local police commissary called to the scene telegraphed word of the murders to the Paris Police Prefecture on the Île de la Cité. Then he sealed off the boudoir until investigators arrived. News of a triple homicide in this part of city was sure to spread fast. At hand were the final moments of tranquility in the brief and forgotten history of the rue Montaigne.1

As investigators knew only too well, the rue Montaigne tragedy was the latest in a series of unsolved murders targeting women of the Parisian demimonde. In the preceding eight years the police had struggled to make any headway in solving the crimes, and Parisians, goaded by newspaper reporters, were growing anxious. The rue Montaigne case would attract far more scrutiny, not least because of Madame de Montille’s status. As a courtesan, she belonged to an ethereal rank of sex workers known for fabulous prosperity. This class of “kept” women enjoyed a standing that sometimes permitted them to live every bit as luxuriously as their wealthy clients, of whom they took their pick. Attuned to market forces, the cleverest courtesans thus negotiated from a position of strength. Some amassed sizable jewelry collections and investment portfolios, including real estate holdings. In the prevailing logic of sex commerce, these material possessions in turn enhanced their desirability and drove their clients to ever greater expenditure.

Courtesans ensorcelled the general public, too: Madame de Montille’s death was covered extensively by foreign correspondents who were long in the habit of keeping New Yorkers, Londoners, and Berliners apprised of the great scandals and lurid crime stories that animated Paris, the city then widely viewed as the primary node of Western culture. As the case of the murders in the rue Montaigne descended into scandal during the spring and summer of 1887, newspaper readers around the world thrilled to the implausible twists of a cause-célèbre on par with any in living memory. In Paris the investigation entered criminal lore even as it became enmeshed in a yearlong political crisis that culminated in the fall of French president Jules Grévy.

Why, then, has this string of prostitute murders faded into such obscurity that today’s Parisians can recall nothing of it? Timing, in large part. The rue Montaigne investigation predates the first of the Jack the Ripper murders in East London by little more than a year. In fact, London’s initial response to the Whitechapel slayings was to recall the rue Montaigne—“the only parallel to the ‘East-end murders’ with which the annals of crime in the French metropolis have furnished us for a long time,” observed the Daily Telegraph2—and the Ripper investigation quickly took on a life of its own. Over time, Ripper lore eclipsed the Parisian cases in popular memory and scholarly interest: A steady output of fictionalizations, films, comics, and academic studies now fall under the rubric Ripperology, which has no Parisian equivalent.3

The murders of London and Paris bear notable points of convergence, beginning with the outsize role of the mass press, which by the late 1880s had become a blinding industrial ream, saturating the streets and boulevards with paper, much of it printed with tales of hideous criminality.4 Both capitals were the seats of rapidly expanding global empires, and both were then experiencing major growth and social transformation brought by tides of mass immigration. In Britain the so-called foreign element competed with the working poor for jobs. Journalists found an eager readership for their investigative coverage of “Outcast London,” where many immigrants were forced to settle. Rumor had it that the Ripper was a cosmopolitan infiltrator or enemy within—a Russian Jewish immigrant, some said. The cultural historian Judith Walkowitz has written eloquently about this peculiar fear of the lowly outsider in London, a capital that “epitomized the power of the empire but also its vulnerability.”5

During the same period, comparable political dynamics and social anxieties were transforming the Parisian landscape, particularly amid the spike in immigration that occurred between the mid-1870s and the mid-1880s (Italians and Belgians being the two most represented national groups; they were joined by Jews fleeing persecution in Eastern Europe). For the first time in modern French history, immigration became a political keyword and the subject of sustained legal discussion as politicians spent the better part of the 1880s scrambling to restrict and codify French citizenship.6

Yet the murders of London and Paris bore as many contrasts as similarities, starting with the symbolic geography of the crimes and the social station of the victims. In a more rapid succession, the London killer (or killers) preyed on streetwalkers, who counted among the poorest and most marginalized women in the city; the victims in Paris, on the other hand, had climbed higher in the byzantine hierarchy of the local sex trade and were generally less vulnerable as a result. And whereas “Whitechapel” was shorthand for mean streets and the rugged cosmopolitanism of immigrant workers, refugees, and the poor, the Parisian demimonde was a seamy underbelly thriving about the majestic Grands Boulevards, the paragons of modern bourgeois life.

But the most glaring distinction between the two series of murders was that no one was ever seriously implicated in London. Police in France questioned suspects along the way, foreign nationals usually, but they only began to feel confident that they had found their man a few days after the discovery of the murders in the rue Montaigne. In what was immediately heralded as a major breakthrough, Enrico Pranzini, an Egyptian migrant of Italian parentage, emerged as the prime suspect in the rue Montaigne case and soon after in the other demimondaine murders. So certain of Pranzini’s guilt were investigators that they also sought to tie him to a cluster of cold cases in other parts of France.

Although it was a spectacle to be behold, Pranzini’s capture was not the stuff of crime fiction: There were no mind-bending deductions involved, no dramatic pursuits, and little in the way of a climactic confrontation. Instead, on a Sunday evening in the southern port city of Marseille, local police seized Pranzini during an intermission at the city’s famed Grand Théâtre, where he was taking in a production of The Barber of Seville. In his narrow-brimmed hat and black overcoat, the suspect looked the part of a debonair fellow about town, and he was briskly surrounded and removed to the Marseille Police Prefecture for identification and questioning. Putting up no resistance, he provided the name of his hotel, and a search of his room was promptly conducted.

The police were merely following up on a tip they had received earlier that day from one of Marseille’s ill-reputed quarters. According to witnesses, Pranzini had entered a brothel in the afternoon and paid for a threesome with two female prostitutes; afterward he offered them some jewelry, arousing the suspicions of the brothel manager. Later, officers sent to Pranzini’s hotel to collect his belongings learned that he had checked in as “Dr. E. Pranzini, Swedish doctor.” Asked about the alias, Pranzini shrugged and denied involvement in criminal activity. In his room were a small amount of cash, a square basket, a valise, and a satchel. Police found nothing manifestly incriminating, such as a weapon, or any other evidence that might link Pranzini to Madame de Montille. But Pranzini did have two small cuts on his fingers, which doctors in Paris would soon examine.

Far more important than the cuts, from the point of view of reporters and investigators, was the considerable stash of love letters that Pranzini kept in his satchel, tucked alongside some female garments and bespoke feminine handkerchiefs. These trifles sustained the image of Pranzini as a wily rake, an “Oriental Don Juan” whose distinguished features and worldliness enabled him to seduce well-to-do women and then to prevail upon them to part with their valuables. Investigators spent months uncovering Pranzini’s history of treating his lovers’ gifts as personal income and their residences as his own.7

In modern parlance, Enrico Pranzini was a gigolo, a term coined, fittingly enough, in nineteenth-century Paris. For his part he did not deny his colorful sexual past, yet he saw nothing sinister in his relations with women who were, as he saw it, generous and accommodating, if uncommonly so; thanks to them, stretches of his adult life had passed in a kind of genteel poverty. The pursuit of women of means or name by an aspirational young outsider was not in itself the calling card of a mass murderer, Pranzini objected. After all, much of the best French fiction and poetry of the nineteenth century was littered with the broken dreams of male arrivistes trying to seduce their way upward. By the mid-1880s that literary scenario had become a cliché of modern Paris, a city, insisted Europeans and Americans, that was awash in the unspeakable currencies of pornography, gutter journalism, and racy art.8

Figure 1. A sensational rendition of Pranzini’s capture at Marseille’s Grand Théâtre. La Revue Illustrée, 10 April 1887.

But the Oriental gigolo was decidedly more sexually ambiguous, hedonistic, and worldly than the social climbers of Stendhal and Balzac: Drawing on Pranzini’s widely publicized adventures overseas, contemporaries infused the gigolo type with the colonial exotic. Pranzini spoke seven languages and, at age 30, cut an impressive figure. His shoulders were round, his thighs thick and muscular. He had an unblemished complexion above his beard, a faddishly trimmed growth flecked with amber. His gaze was soft, confident. In a photograph taken shortly after his arrest, we see him standing in the middle of a room, encircled by ogling members of the police staff. He stares into the distance as though to contemplate his predicament and whether it might be recognized for the case of mistaken identity he swore it to be.

Almost without delay, Pranzini—or transparent fictionalizations of him—began to appear in the pages of the great literary figures of the age. At least one artist in Montmartre said that he had seen Pranzini, or a group of his co-conspirators, in action: Vincent Van Gogh, who followed the investigation for months along with his friend Paul Gauguin, insisted that he had overheard the plotting of the rue Montaigne murders at the Café du Tambourin, a hangout where his paintings were displayed.9 Meanwhile, New Yorkers read that Pranzini had lately seduced and deflowered a Manhattanite tourist in Paris; and Londoners grappled with the news that Enrico Pranzini had served in British imperial expeditions to Afghanistan and Sudan. In the spring of 1888 an exhibit at Madame Tussaud’s museum containing a likeness of the “foreign-born” Pranzini was viewed by 28,000 spectators in a single day.10

Why, in a year rife with consequential news, were so many people taken in by the biography of an impecunious migrant from Egypt? In this, the first full-scale history of the murders in the rue Montaigne, I attempt to answer this question by drawing on contemporary testimonies, private letters and diaries, juridical records, press accounts, diplomatic and military correspondence, and a variety of other sources pertaining to the case.11 The Pranzini investigation was unique in its global scale, a necessity given the suspect’s itinerant life and his unwavering denials of wrongdoing, which he repeated under weeks of strenuous interrogation and in an epic courtroom trial.12 In addition to policemen, forensics experts, and newspapermen, diplomats were drawn into the investigation, as were colonial military figures, doctors and scientific researchers, colonial entrepreneurs, and other settlers in the East. The ambiance was tense with rivalry: These professionals, who culled evidence from four regions of the world and, in some cases, from their own colonial knowledge, latched onto Pranzini as an opportunity to build their public reputations. I retrace their steps, giving special attention to how they made Pranzini’s story their own.

Figure 2. Pranzini, photographed with investigators following his arrest. Roger-Viollet Collection. ©The Image Works.

Born and raised in the colonial port of Alexandria, Pranzini thought of the Islamic Ottoman Empire as his homeland. To Parisians, he was an “Arab-speaking Levantine,” a hybrid of East and West who, in this era of “scientific” racism, exemplified an inferior racial constitution. Pranzini was also classified as a rastaquouère, a neologism that was originally a racial slur against Latin Americans and that subsequently carried the suggestion of low-life criminality, cloak-and-dagger sexual intrigue, cosmopolitan infiltration, and an alluring but seedy colonial glamour washing up on the Grands Boulevards.13 I examine both pejoratives within the expansive sweep of stereotypes then taking root in the mass press, which fanned the flames of anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic politics.14

Unprecedented in the case of Pranzini was his alleged amalgamation of the two colonial types, Levantine and rastaquouère, which brings to mind the nineteenth-century myth of a “Latino-Mediterranean” race in colonial North Africa. That construct had a pro-colonial purpose, specifically because it was set in opposition to the Orientalist stereotype of the “nomadic Arab,” who stood for the dregs of colonial mobility and who was effectively excluded from metropolitan France.15 In contrast, the investigators in the Pranzini case called the public’s attention to the suspect’s ambition, opportunism, debauchery, and lawlessness. Consequently, in the spring of 1887 and afterward, Enrico Pranzini became a metonym of the dark side of European empire and, as such, a repository for national anxieties and undigested animus—by-products, in some measure, of republican France’s hasty construction of a worldwide empire by means of military conquest and violent repression.

However, unlike the colonial caricatures of nineteenth-century Paris, where it was common to disparage marginal social groups as “Redskins” or “Apaches,”16 the Levantine and rastaquouère types channeled prejudices related to migration, the sort that circulated within ethnically European colonial and migrant communities overseas, where settlers fretted ceaselessly about racial and social boundaries.17 Particularly widespread in European colonies were concerns about purportedly hypersexualized colonial males and the related peril of “inappropriate intimacies” with European, or “white,” women. By its transposition of these fears into the metropolitan context, the Pranzini investigation requires us to view “metropolitan and colonial histories in a conjoined analytic frame,” as the historian Ann Laura Stoler has suggested.18

Doing so with the Pranzini case reveals, among other things, how unstable and blurry the presumed subject-object relationship between European nations and their overseas colonies could be. Pranzini’s native-level fluency in French marked him as a bona fide product of France’s imperial project in Egypt, but he was also manifestly the son of the Ottoman and British Empires. Moreover, the arrival of this culturally fluent foreigner in the metropole occurred as the Third Republic was taking pains to invent a homogeneous national identity and displace persistent regionalisms, especially rival dialects.19

“What a singular kind, this Levantine,” wrote a Parisian journalist of Pranzini. “In order to have seen his likes, one needs to have traveled.”20 Pranzini’s presence in the imperial capital, let alone his enactment of the privileged role of the flâneur who bathed in the crowds and basked in the gaslight of the Grands Boulevards, was an occurrence that Parisians invested with the direst implications. To understand why requires a brief look at the political storms that roiled Paris in the 1880s, one of the most enigmatic and transformative decades in modern European history.

The French Third Republic rose feebly in 1871, the orphan of two disasters: a humiliating defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, followed by a brief but bloody civil war, the Paris Commune, in the following spring. Few gave the unloved République much chance for survival. Its most hard-line detractors, antirepublicans of all stripes who disdained parliamentary democracy as an execrable form of compromise, announced their intention to tear down La Gueuse—“The Wench”—from within.

But by the end of the 1870s, republican politicians were unexpectedly proving themselves adept at the ballot box. Led by the visionary Jules Ferry and under the stewardship of President Jules Grévy, the Opportunist republicans—liberal free-trade centrists—dominated the national government between 1879 and 1885, pushing through a series of important reforms, among them the legalization of divorce and the abolition of press censorship. They undertook massive public works projects, including a national railway system, which stimulated exchanges between the nation’s disparate regions.

They also fought off fierce objections to their plans for an imperialist republic. For that reason historians have sometimes interpreted nation building and empire building as parallel, or even mutually reinforcing enterprises in which the “civilizing mission” of the “inferior races” echoes the “republic of schoolteachers” created at home. In a classic formulation, the historian Eugen Weber described the “internal colonization” of the French provinces by Paris, a metaphor that soldered republican conquest to nation making in the historical imagination of the Third Republic.21

It is true that the “République coloniale” sold extremely well in Paris.22 Recent histories of French and British colonial “heroes” have shown how colonial culture flowered in Paris and London in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Imperialism trumpeted manliness just as it flattered national pride.23 Into the modern European pantheon walked men such as the “Imperial Saint” Charles Gordon, who was memorialized at Madame Tussaud’s, as well as Henry Morton Stanley and Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza. By putting a “recognizable, human face” on adventurism in Africa and Asia, writes historian Edward Berenson, these men “allowed citizens to understand overseas expansion as a series of extraordinary personal quests.”24 In short order, Britain and France, liberal democracies in name, cobbled together the two largest territorial dominions in world history.

By assembling the stories of people whose lives collided during the case of the murders in the rue Montaigne, in this book I present a darker version of the Age of Empire. The night of March 16–17, 1887, triggered the first global murder investigation. It was a substantial undertaking that ultimately cast Enrico Pranzini as a new criminal archetype: the male colonial antihero who returns unbidden to wreak havoc in the metropole, in this instance as a violent foreign parasite on the French sexual economy. By the end of the century the French Dictionnaire Larousse would include an entry for Pranzini, making plain his cultural significance as a shadowy doppelgänger, “an adventurer of the worst kind.”25

It is no accident that the 1880s marked a high point for fictional antiheroes sketched in colonial hues by best-selling authors who made use of the Levantine and rastaquouère types.26 Émile Zola’s Money (1890–1891) traces the rise and fall of the stock market fraudster Aristide Saccard, a would-be economic imperialist with a crooked construction scheme in the eastern Mediterranean. Guy de Maupassant’s Bel-Ami (1885) tracks the womanizing Georges Duroy, a master manipulator who returns from a presumably deeply corrupting tour as a colonial soldier in Algeria. Then there is Jean des Esseintes of Joris-Karl Huysmans’s novel Against the Grain (1884). Des Esseintes spurns heroism altogether, preferring to retreat into a dreamy, aestheticized domesticity in which he contemplates the decline of Rome and muses on the decadence of modern times. Each of these protagonists unveils, more or less subtly, the rotting floorboards on which trod the nation’s colonial “heroes.”

In the real-life drama of Enrico Pranzini we find evidence to challenge a founding myth of modern imperialism, one that recent cultural histories have left mostly intact: colonial conquest and adventurism overseas acted principally as an annealing force on the nation, a catalyst of stability and security. Undergirding this myth is the assumption, stubborn and widespread, that the conquering European nation-state, at least, stood to benefit from the colonial relationship.27 This was an article of faith for men like Ferry, who argued in a famous 1884 speech that military conquest abroad would fortify France while promising commercial advantages.28

The turbulence that imperialism unleashed on the metropole, its non-material cost, was left unspoken by both Ferry and his anticolonial rivals, who were led by Georges Clémenceau for the better part of the 1880s. Supporters of the colonial policy reached for upsides wherever they could be found. The social theorist Gabriel Tarde, to cite one prominent intellectual, held that a French empire would make the streets safer at home. Tarde hypothesized that colonial warfare and criminal activity came from the same well of deleterious social energies, or “criminal passions.”29 On that basis he concluded that colonial combat would serve as preventive crime policy by draining violent impulses from the metropole and channeling them toward distant locales.30 Here was one of the grimmer undertows of the Republic’s “civilizing mission.”31

This book’s microhistorical approach to empire shows how colonial expansion worked at cross purposes with the law-and-order politics that many centrist republicans shared with their upstart nationalist rivals on the right. How did it happen that the Third Republic’s imperial turn coincided so neatly with a heightened sense of vulnerability in the metropole in the 1880s and 1890s? Leading historians such as Dominique Kalifa have documented the “security obsession” that took hold of the public mind and made “insécurité urbaine” (urban insecurity) a mainstay of contemporary French politics.32 How are we to square the reassuring tales of French military triumph around the globe with Parisians’ susceptibility to newspaper stories about a chimeric “army of crime” in the streets and xenophobic screeds that stirred fears of porous borders, spies, and immigrant malfeasance?33 In the absence of statistical evidence to prove any of this, Ferry and his allies enacted some of the most draconian anticrime legislation in all of French history.34

By the end of 1887 the “Pranzini affair” had, to an unprecedented degree, drawn together two vibrant realms of the Parisian social imaginary: the colonial and the criminal. The case prompted Tarde to reflect on the traumas of colonial failure in an articulation of what I call imperial insecurity.35 At bottom, the Pranzini phenomenon symbolized the erosion of the boundary between the metropole and its colonies—a social and geographic segregation, at once unrealistic and sacrosanct, that European colonial rulers strained themselves to enforce.36 Pranzini stoked fears of the social backwash of overseas empire, a turnabout known to specialists of contemporary British literature as reverse colonization.37 Would the Republic show itself incapable of channeling violence unilaterally toward the colonial world as Tarde and others hoped?

A report that the public prosecutor filed on the eve of Pranzini’s trial contains a reflection: “The necessity [of murder] was not going to stop a man who was accustomed to the bloody spectacles of African wars.”38 The remark was meant to reinforce the prosecution’s argument that Pranzini’s placid demeanor was fundamentally deceptive; yet it can be read as a passing acknowledgment that the violence inherent in imperial conquest would not remain over there and may well return with migrants or colonial war veterans, even those like Pranzini who did not perform combat roles.

Inevitably, Pranzini became fodder in the raging immigration debate. At the time, the number of arrivals from the colonial world remained “extremely low” statistically, according to Gérard Noiriel, France’s preeminent immigration historian.39 Yet the case unearths a precocious cultural imagining of colonial (and postcolonial) immigration to the hexagon, including its latent associations with criminality. In the wake of the Pranzini affair the political “problem” of immigration was understood as unavoidably linked to the future of the republican empire.40 The relation between these two issues grew only more complex in subsequent generations.

Recalling the frenetic “hunt” for Arabs living in metropolitan France during the Algerian War, Frantz Fanon diagnosed a collective psychosis that caused “even a South American man” to be “riddled with bullets because he looked North African.”41 The Pranzini case prefigured the sort of categorical confusions related by Fanon, and is best understood as a symptom of colonial transition and crisis.42 Xenophobic sentiments aggravated these confusions while engendering ever more categorization. The Pranzini affair, a transformative episode in the history of foreignness in France, offers a case study in the ways that xenophobia racialized, classed, sexualized, and gendered its object.43

It bears mentioning that Enrico Pranzini was not the only border-crossing murder suspect to stand trial in the 1880s, but merely the best-known among several whom one journalist dubbed the “great lords of crime.”44 Their surnames, uniformly European, splashed across the front pages at nearly regular intervals: Gruem, Rossel, Prado, Campi, and Eyraud. Upon arrest, each man had either returned from or absconded to colonies overseas: The technologies of mobility that conduced national cohesion were the means by which they communicated and transported themselves. Each was portrayed as a virtuoso of prestidigitation, capable of unsheathing his identity at will (Campi’s real name was never ascertained); of putting up a gentlemanly front and deploying novel techniques (on the telephone, Eyraud had impersonated others before his arrest in Spanish Cuba); and of slipping away by boat or rapid train (Rossel was arrested in Algeria).45 Their misadventures, and the labor of the policemen and reporters who pursued them, belong to the history of colonial culture too. They made their mark in a world that was rapidly globalizing through imperialism; the dread and fascination they provoked were a hallmark of European life by the early twentieth century, when the Encyclopedia Britannica registered a “peculiar feature in modern crime,” to wit, “the extensive scale on which it is carried out. The greatest frauds are now commonly perpetrated; great robberies are planned in one capital and executed in another. The whole is worked by wide associations of cosmopolitan criminals.”46

Notes

1. Archives de Paris, D2 U8 223. Unless otherwise noted, all translations are my own.

2. Daily Telegraph, 2 October 1888.

3. Like their Parisian counterparts, Londoners looked to crime fiction for clues: the tales of Poe and Stevenson and the “stealthy and cunning assassins” conjured up by the pioneering French crime novelist Émile Gaboriau and his acolyte, Fortuné du Boisgobey. Lloyd’s Weekly News, 7 October 1888, quoted in Judith R. Walkowitz, “Jack the Ripper and the Myth of Male Violence,” Feminist Studies 8, no. 3 (1982): 550. Robin Odell, Ripperology: A Study of the World’s First Serial Killer and Literary Phenomenon (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2006).

4. Dominique Kalifa, L’encre et le sang: récits de crimes et société à la Belle Epoque (Paris: Fayard, 1995). As it will become clear, Kalifa’s vast and innovative historical analysis of the themes of crime, policing, the press, modern investigation, the social imaginary, and colonialism is crucial to this study.

5. Judith R. Walkowitz, City of Dreadful Delight: Narratives of Sexual Danger in Late-Victorian London (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), 25–26.

6. For a history of French citizenship, see Gérard Noiriel, The French Melting Pot: Immigration, Citizenship, and National Identity, trans. Geoffroy de Laforcade (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996); and Gérard Noiriel, Immigration, antisémitisme et racisme en France (XIXe–XXe siècle): discours publics, humiliations privées (Paris: Fayard, 2007).

7. Le Gaulois, 17 July 1887.

8. A number of works have explored Paris’s reputation as a site of sexual deviance in the nineteenth century. See Hollis Clayson, Painted Love: Prostitution in French Art of the Impressionist Era (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1991); Alain Corbin, Women for Hire: Prostitution and Sexuality in France After 1850, trans. Alan Sheridan (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990); Gert Hekma, “Same-Sex Relations Among Men in Europe, 1700–1900,” in Franz X. Eder, Leslie Hall, and Gert Hekma, eds., Sexual Cultures in Europe: Themes in Sexuality (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999), 79–103; Lynn Hunt, ed., The Invention of Pornography (New York: Zone Books, 1993); and Catherine van Casselaer, Lot’s Wife: Lesbian Paris, 1890–1914 (Liverpool: Janus Press, 1986).

9. Paul Gauguin, Avant et après (Paris: G. Crès, 1923), 177–78. For a more detailed version of this story, see Martin Gayford, The Yellow House: Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Nine Turbulent Weeks in Arles (New York: Fig Tree, 2006).

10. L. Curtis, Jack the Ripper and the London Press (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008), 79n64.

11. In English, nary a scholarly work has been published on Pranzini. The story has been told in different media in France, where it has also been fictionalized in a variety of ways. The Baron de Rothschild, a medical student in 1887, wrote a detailed firsthand account of the murders several decades after the fact; there have been popular histories and French TV reenactments and theater pieces, in addition to a recent historical novel. See Pierre Bouchardon, L’affaire Pranzini (Paris: Albin Michel, 1934); Alicia Croci, “Naissance de l’enquête journalistique: l’affaire Pranzini,” Master’s thesis, University of Paris I–Sorbonne, 2005; Paul Lorenz, L’affaire Pranzini (Paris: Rombaldi, 1974); André Mure, La courtisane assassinée: affaire Pranzini (Paris: Éditions de la Flamme d’Or, 1955); and Henri de Rothschild, Pranzini: le crime de la rue Montaigne (Paris: Émile-Paul Frères, 1933). The lone professional historian to write about the case has been Frédéric Chauvaud, “Le triple assassinat de la rue Montaigne: le sacre du fait divers,” Annales de Bretagne et des Pays de l’Ouest 116, no. 1 (2009): 13–28.

12. I do not mean to imply that transnational criminality, or the investigation thereof, began in this period, though the scale of it changed. For a fascinating work linking smuggling, commerce, and law enforcement in eighteenth-century France, see Michael Kwass, Contraband: Louis Mandrin and the Making of a Global Underground (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014).

13. The term Levantine was, by the late nineteenth century, predominantly a racially charged exonym, as was the term rastaquouère. The fictions and realities of Enrico Pranzini’s life injected a colonial element into the rich cultural history of the Parisian underworld, about which Dominique Kalifa has written extensively. See Dominique Kalifa, Les bas-fonds: histoire d’un imaginaire (Paris: Seuil, 2013). I use the term glamour in the sense of the visually pleasing and cosmopolitan elements conveyed by that word in the nineteenth century. See Stephen Gundle, Glamour: A History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).

14. On this process and its political ramifications, see Noiriel, Immigration.

15. Patricia Lorcin, Imperial Identities: Stereotyping, Prejudice, and Race in Colonial Algeria (London: I. B. Tauris, 1999), 202–4.

16. This theme is addressed in Louis Chevalier, Classes laborieuses et classes dangereuses (Paris: Plon, 1958). Any mention of Chevalier’s flawed book must be complemented by a recommendation to see Barrie Ratcliffe, “Classes laborieuses et classes dangereuses à Paris pendant la première moitié du XIXe siècle? The Chevalier Thesis Reexamined,” French Historical Studies 17, no. 2 (1991): 542–74. For an overview of the later projection of frontier types such as “Mohicans” and “Apaches” onto Parisian workers and criminals, see Dominique Kalifa, Crime et culture au XIXe siècle (Paris: Perrin, 2005), ch. 2.

17. Ann Laura Stoler, “Rethinking Colonial Categories,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 31, no. 1 (1989): 137.

18. Ann Laura Stoler, “Preface to the 2010 Edition: Zones of the Intimate in Imperial Formations,” in Ann Laura Stoler, Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power: Race and the Intimate in Colonial Rule (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010 [2002]), xiv–xv. Indeed, as social types and assemblages of stereotypes, the colonial racial categories of Levantine and rastaquouère can be viewed as “inappropriate colonial subjects,” to borrow a concept from the influential critic Homi Bhabha, who has written extensively on hybridity, mimicry, and other unintended outcomes of the colonial relationship. See Homi Bhabha, Location of Culture (London: Routledge, 1995), 88.

19. Recent research on European imperialism has reconsidered the binary relationship between nation-state and colony, in which the former precedes the latter in a kind of logical progression. For an influential discussion of this, see Antoinette Burton, “Introduction: On the Inadequacy and the Indispensability of the Nation,” in Antoinette Burton, ed., After the Imperial Turn: Thinking With and Through the Nation (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003), 1–23.

20. Le Figaro, 10 July 1887.

21. Eugen Weber, Peasants into Frenchmen: The Modernization of Rural France, 1870–1914 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1976).

22. The expression République coloniale is borrowed from three French scholars who, in the footsteps of Benjamin Stora, have demanded a reassessment of the colonial past, countering nostalgia, the desire to promote the colonial past as beneficial, amnesia, and repression. See Nicolas Bancel, Pascal Blanchard, and Françoise Vergès, La République coloniale: essair sur une utopie (Paris: Albin Michel, 2003); and Benjaim Stora, La gangrène et l’oubli: la mémoire de la guerre d’Algérie (Paris: La Découverte, 1991).

23. For a review and bibliography, see Edward Berenson, “Making a Colonial Culture: Empire and the French Public, 1880–1940,” French Politics, Culture, and Society 22, no. 2 (2004): 127–49. For another look at the cultural turn in colonial historiography, see Daniel J. Sherman, “The Arts and Sciences of Colonialism,” French Historical Studies 23, no. 4 (2000): 707–29. Foundational scholarly texts that argue for the importance of imperialism in relation to culture are Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage, 1979); and Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (New York: Vintage, 1993).

24. Edward Berenson, Heroes of Empire: Five Charismatic Men and the Conquest of Africa (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010), 2. On colonial heroes and the role of the press in their construction, see also Beau Riffenburgh, The Myth of the Explorer: The Press, Sensationalism, and Geographical Discovery (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994); and Berny Sèbe, Heroic Imperialists in Africa: The Promotion of British and French Colonial Heroes, 1870–1939 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013). For more on the heroes of the Third Republic, see Venita Datta, Heroes and Legends of Fin-de-Siècle France: Gender, Politics, and National Identity (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011). Colonial “heroes” are important to the history of gender because their military service, colonial conquest, and exploration became enshrined as key components of virility in the latter part of the nineteenth century. See Odile Roynette, Bons pour le service: l’expérience de la caserne en France à la fin du XIXe siècle (Paris: Belin, 2000). Alain Corbin has identified some of the key components of virility in nineteenth-century France: “courage, even heroism, the willingness to die for the fatherland, the quest for glory, . . . the exploration and conquest of territories,” and colonization. Alain Corbin, Jean-Jacques Courtine, and Georges Vigarello, eds., L’histoire de la virilité, vol. 2, Le triomphe de la virilité: le XIXe siècle (Paris: Seuil, 2011), 7, 9.

25. P. Larousse, Grand dictionnaire universel du XIXe siècle, suppl. 2 (Paris: Slatkine, 1982), vol. 17, pt. 3, 1735–36. This notion of the colonial adventurer gone rogue encompasses the ambivalence of the antiheroic literary type of Romantic and post-Romantic French literature pertaining to imperial conquest. For an analysis of the hero in relation to the attributes of the antihero, see Roger Fayolle, “Criticism and Theory,” in Donald G. Charlton, ed., The French Romantics (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 2: 213–16. One element that relegates the potentially heroic figure to antiheroism is his “lowly social condition.”

26. Levantines or rastaquouères make appearances in Zola’s Money and Maupassant’s Bel-Ami. For a discussion of these types in work and specifically the anti-semitism of Huysmans, see Jean-Marie Seillan, “Huysmans, un antisémite fin-de-siècle,” Romantisme 95 (1997): 113–26.

27. I revisit this issue in the Conclusion.

28. Ferry based his assertions on claims such as those made by Paul Leroy-Beau-lieu in his De la colonisation chez les peuples modernes (Paris: Guillaumin, 1874). A classic historical debate has centered on the economic benefits and related motivations of the Third Republic’s colonial empire. See Jacques Marseille, Empire coloniale et capitalisme français: histoire d’un divorce (Paris: Albin Michel, 1984). See also Henri Brunschwig, Mythes et réalités de l’impérialisme colonial français (1871–1914) (Paris: Colin, 1960). Brunschwig argued that economics were secondary to nationalist impulses in the renaissance of the French empire. For an example of an argument for empire’s stabilizing force, see Berenson, Heroes of Empire, ch. 5.

29. This was true, Tarde believed, because individual criminal “impulsions” and collective ones operated analogically (this principle was borrowed from the “crowd theory” then in vogue). See Gabriel Tarde, La criminalité comparée (Paris: Alcan, 1886), 143. Tarde’s conceptual link between criminality and empire therefore bore out his general claim that modern empires would act as “agents of pacification” within the European metropole. See Alberto Toscano, “Powers of Pacification: State and Empire in Gabriel Tarde,” Economy and Society 36, no. 4 (2007): 599. As Emmanuelle Saada has observed, Tarde’s most influential contribution to social thought, the “Laws of Imitation,” explicitly endorses the colonial ordering of societies (“from superior to inferior”). See Emmanuelle Saada, “Entre ‘assimilation’ et ‘décivilisation’: l’imitation et le projet colonial républicain,” Terrain 44 (2005): 21.

30. Gabriel Tarde, La philosophie pénale (Paris: Masson, 1892), 424–25.

31. This not the only dark parallel to colonial expansion as it pertained to penal policy in France. For a brilliant analysis of French penal colonies, see Dominique Kalifa, Biribi: les bagnes coloniaux de l’armée française (Paris: Perrin, 2009); and Miranda Frances Spieler, Empire and Underworld: Captivity in French Guiana (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012).

32. Kalifa, L’encre et le sang, 251. See also Dominique Kalifa, “Journalistes, policiers et magistrats à la fin du XIXe siècle: la question de l’insécurité urbaine,” in Christian Delporte, ed., Médias et villes (XVIIIe–XXe siècle) (Tours: Presses universitaires François-Rabelais, 1999), 119–36. For an earlier period, see Arlette Farge, “L’insécurité à Paris, un thème familier au XVIIIesiècle,” Temps Libre 10 (1984): 35–43.

33. See Michael B. Miller, Shanghai on the Metro: Spies, Intrigue, and the French Between the Wars (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994).

34. The new republican building projects relied heavily on imported labor, and the entrenchment of global capitalism exacerbated economic instability and provoked the scapegoating of foreigners, who were often blamed for the rise in crime and the loss of jobs. Anti-immigrant flare-ups and violence were not uncommon. This tension was not limited to Paris. On the simmering anti-immigrant sentiment of southern France, see Gérard Noiriel, Le massacre des italiens: Aigues-Mortes, 17 août 1893 (Paris: Fayard, 2010).

35. The conceptualization of imperial insecurity, discussed further in the Conclusion, is inspired more by Ann Laura Stoler’s emphasis on the “precarious vulnerability” of European empires in the East than on the occasional usage that the term has seen in the context of the British Empire. Ann Laura Stoler, Race and the Education of Desire (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995), 97. In French, the term insécurité has been conducive to the blurring of various levels of meaning—national, global, communal, and personal. Dominique Kalifa has found four principal applications for the term insécurité in nineteenth-century usage: (1) a subjective fear of crime, (2) a discursive-ideological expression of this fear, (3) the range of “practices” devised to address concerns about criminal repression, and (4) the pressures that criminality, particularly violent criminality, place on a community. See Dominique Kalifa, “Délinquance et insécurité urbaine en France (19e–20e siècles): un contrepoint,” in Laurent Fouchard and Isaac Olawale Albert, eds., Security, Crime, and Segregation in West African Cities Since the 19th Century (Paris: Karthala, 2003), 73.

36. This is what Edward Said referred to as the “imagined geography” of European empires in the East. Said, Orientalism, 54–55. Indeed, it was this “crucial logic of difference that enabled the Empire to persist,” observes Catherine Hall. Catherine Hall, “At Home with History: Macaulay and the History of England,” in Catherine Hall and Sonya Rose, eds., At Home with the Empire: Metropolitan Culture and the Imperial World (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 26. For a general discussion of the logic of social segregation in the colonial context, see Frederick Cooper and Jane Burbank, Empires in World History: Power and the Politics of Difference (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010). On historiography that has debunked this fantasy, see Felix Driver and David Gilbert, “Imperial Cities: Overlapping Territories, Intertwined Histories,” in Felix Driver and David Gilbert, eds., Imperial Cities: Landscape, Display, and Identity (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004), 1–17. In the case of French history, this urban-historical approach is situated within a broad historiographic move that highlights the “mutual reflexivity” between metropole and colony. See Herman Lebovics, Bringing the Empire Back Home: France in the Global Age (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004), xv–xvi. For an approach that emphasizes religious questions and colonial and French identities in several contexts, see J. P. Daughton, An Empire Divided: Religion, Republicanism, and the Making of French Colonialism, 1880–1914 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006).

37. See Stephen D. Arata, “The Occidental Tourist: ‘Dracula’ and the Anxiety of Reverse Colonization,” Victorian Studies 33, no. 4 (1990): 621–45. See also Yumna Siddiqi, Anxieties of Empire and the Fiction of Intrigue (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008).

38. Archives de Paris, D2 U8 223.

39. Noiriel, Immigration, 160.

40. Previously, a few hundred immigrants had come to France from Egypt in the aftermath of the Napoleonic retreat, although these individuals were heavily supervised by the state. As Ian Coller has shown in an important study, they struggled to negotiate composite identities and “visible difference” in the metropole. Ian Coller, Arab France: Islam and the Making of Modern France (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010), 131.

41. Frantz Fanon, “Fureur raciste en France” (1959), reprinted in Frantz Fanon, Pour la révolution africaine: écrits politiques (Paris: La Découverte, 2001), 187.

42. On the “coercive force of external identifications,” see Rogers Brubaker and Frederick Cooper, “Beyond ‘Identity,’Theory and Society 29, no. 1 (2000): 1–47. On colonial administrative policy and race, see Emmanuelle Saada, Les enfants de la colonie: les métis de l’empire français entre sujétion et citoyenneté (Paris: La Découverte, 2007).

43. As noted, Noiriel has studied the emergence of political xenophobia in connection with the advent of mass immigration to France in the latter part of the nineteenth century. More recently, as Catherine Raissiguier notes, historians have begun to lay bare the component parts of xenophobia within a broader analysis of how “interrelated processes of exclusion and domination” operated in contemporary France—in short, how exclusionary dynamics have been “gendered and classed.” Catherine Raissiguier, Reinventing the Republic: Gender, Migration, and Citizenship in France (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2010), 4–5; emphasis in original. For an overview of the historical relation between immigration and policing in modern France, see Marie-Claude Blanc-Chaléard, C. Douki, N. Dyonet, and V. Milliot, Police et migrants: France, 1667–1939 (Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2001).

44. Presse judiciaire de Paris, Le palais de justice de Paris: son monde et ses moeurs (Paris: Librairies-Imprimeries Réunies, 1892), 346.

45. Campi was convicted of double homicide in 1884, Prado of homicide in 1888, Gruem of homicide in 1882, Rossel of homicide in 1887, and Eyraud of homicide in 1889. A noteworthy precursor of transnational criminal investigation, if not strictly colonial in nature, occurred in 1877, following a murder at the place Beauvau in Paris. Using telegraphic communications, police transmitted to French borders and port cities a suspect’s description and were able to scan passenger lists of all the liners that had left France as well as the stopovers planned by these ships. The suspect was pursued to London, where the French police consulted with local authorities before heading to Liverpool. Le Gaulois, 9 October 1879.

46. Encyclopedia Britannica (1910), 7: 448. The verb “to globalize” is, of course, of mid-twentieth-century vintage.