The guillotine was a device used by the revolutionaries to execute their opponents by decapitation.
Before the Guillotine
Under the 'Ancien Regime' era, different devices were used to execute people. Depending on the crime the victim was accused of and the social cast it was from, the executioners used either the sword, the breaking wheel or the fire. However, the public opinion started to argue about these archaic methods and asked for a less painful solution.
The Guillotine, official execution device
The guillotine was invented by Joseph Ignace Guillotin, a professor of anatomy in Paris. In 1791, the newly formed National Assembly voted a law to use it as the new execution device. This method was considered more humane as the victim only felt a small breeze on his neck before his head was cut off.
The guillotine was heavily used during the reign of Terror with an estimated death toll range between 15000 and 40000. These killings were held in the "place de la revolution", the current "place de la Concorde" in Paris.
Guillotine on the Place de la Concorde in Paris.
Death Penalty abolished
The guillotine was used until 1977 in France and was definitely dismantled with the abolishment of the death penalty in 1981.