The Noble and the Ignoble Bandit


Tracing developments in the literary representations of four famous West-European bandits - Cartouche, Bakelandt, Jan de Lichte and Schinderhannes - this paper shows how most of the tales about these bandits revolve around two stereotypical images: the Noble and the Ignoble Bandit. Both images can be regarded as inversions of the equally stereotypical self-image of established West-European citizens. Though many of the bandit-tales at first sight belong to 'popular' culture, their readership in fact could be designated as a 'mass-audience' from a broad social spectrum. The literary 'careers' of these four robbers show that bandits only acquired a positive image if members of the middle strata in their societies could in some way identify with their activities. Finally, the prominence of both the negative representation of bandits (as a dangerous counter- society) and the positive version (as an idealized community) from the 16th until the late 19th century, is related to processes of state formation and 'internal pacification' in Western Europe.

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Egmond, F., (1987) “The Noble and the Ignoble Bandit”, Ethnologia Europaea 17(2), 139–156. doi:


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Florike Egmond (unknown)



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Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 4.0


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