Mette Harder investigates impact of the “Dry Guillotine” 

Mette Harder (History) has published a chapter on the political deportation and exile of French revolutionary politicians in French Guyana, also known as the “Dry Guillotine.”

In the 1790s, several revolutionary politicians were purged from their parliamentary seats and deported to a makeshift prison colony at Sinnamary. Conditions on the ground were so poor that six out of 16 deportees died from “fever” within a year. This research inquires how these high-powered politicians, many of whom had been political enemies in Paris, experienced sudden, extreme isolation and collective suffering in exile. It argues that a chief survival strategy of the exiles was the formation of new alliances, friendships and loyalties that often stood in stark opposition to the political beliefs and circles of their previous lives. In the ruthless parliamentary climate of the French Revolution, former political opponents who survived the “Dry Guillotine” in this way thus underwent a process of rehumanizing the political “enemy,” which colleagues in France were excluded from.

This publication resulted from an international conference on the deportation and exile of the “Conventionnels,” held in Brussels in 2016, that Harder was able to attend with the generous help of SUNY Oneonta faculty development funding.

Harder, Mette. “Survivre en milleu hostile? Les relations entre les députés exilés en Guyane, an III-VIII.” In Déportations et Exils des Conventionnels. Edited by François Antoine, Michel Biard, Philippe Bourdin, Hervé Leuwers and Côme Simien. Paris: Société des Etudes Robespierristes, 2018.