|Homicide on the long run : a regional case : Brabant (1350-2000)|
|Belgium data on homicide are interesting for two reasons. Firstly, the demographic and criminal statistics established in 1830 offers a relatively good quality. Secondly, the rich material produced in one of the most urbanized region of Europe since the 14th century, especially on recorded homicide (accounts of justice officers, pardonís letters) has been exploited in many crime studies, especially Manuel Eisnerís essays .
This contribution is the second of three devoted to Homicide on the long run.
Our purpose is to compare both sets of data on a regional basis, by comparing the ancient duchy of Brabant (1350-1650) with today provinces of Antwerp and Brabant (1830-2000) and revise some traditional explanation of homicide evolution on the long run, only based on local or national rates.
Partly due to this demographic density, the incredible state of the southern Low Countriesí documentation makes it possible to have a comprehensive and coherent vision of the public management of homicide from the end of the middle ages .
The study of the sources of practice will highlight a major trend going through the whole period: the decline of the homicide rate. But, on top of a regular trend, the study of these sources clearly indicates an irregular activity of the different officers, which needs to enlighten the role of these officers as actors of homicide repression and their role as mediators between the central power and the population. This shows, on the one hand, how recorded homicide rate varies according to the institution which is mainly in charge of it; and on the other hand how this quantitative difference and this responsibility taken by institutions which are more and more centralised has been accompanied by a change of position on homicide. This evolution is clearly illustrated in the evolutions related to the vocabulary of homicide, with the appearance of the murder in the 15th century and its growth throughout the period studied (the reversed trend as compared with the simple homicide), and to a lesser extent, with the emergence of the category Ďassassinationí in the 16th century. The aim of the paper will then be to demonstrate how the qualitative has a role to play on the quantitative. A lesser tolerance towards homicide defined as acts which are more and more serious must be pointed out, but, paradoxically, the simple homicide, by breaking away from murders and assassinations, follows a reverse evolution towards a definition which highlights the gravity of the act to a lesser degree, which is perfectly conveyed in the 16th and 17th centuries in the Kingís letters of pardon which forgive the perpetrator of a homicide but which at the same time also participate in the criminalization of the homicide as such. The interest of the issue will lie in this paradoxical evolution focusing on forgiveness which is granted more and more often for an act which is more and more criminalized.
In the 19th c. national state, homicide has been clearly defined by Napoleonic Penal Code. Under Adolphe Quetelet impulse, a refined statistical apparatus has been established. The production on national judicial, criminal and medical statistics, discriminated by provinces and arrondissement allows us to compare the level of homicide for two major provinces Antwerp and Brabant . Unlike the Namur case examined by Aude Musin, these provinces became in the 19th-20th c., more urbanized.
In the paper, we will try to follow long-term continuing decline of homicide, the variability between rural and urban arrondissements, as well as the transformations in modus operandi and in legal qualifications. Opposite to the 14th-17th trend of criminalisation, we suspect for the 19th-20th a process of decriminalisation, due to the emergence of new forms of involuntary homicide as traffic accidents.