“Fear and Anxiety…Link All of Us Across the Centuries”


An excerpt from Joel F. Harrington’s book The Faithful Executioners is a featured Longreads Members Pick and well worth a few minutes of your time.

Starting with a creative nonfictional account of an executioner in Germany in the 1500s, the piece opens up into a grim but fascinating overview of European life in the sixteenth century.

Some of it is nearly unimaginable for modern-day first-worlders (even the threat of arson was punishable by burning at the stake), while some of it is eerily familiar (a euphemism for torture was “special interrogation”).

Lauren O'Neal is an MFA student at San Francisco State University. Her writing has appeared in publications like Slate, The New Inquiry, and The Hairpin. You can follow her on Twitter at @laureneoneal. More from this author →