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Antoine Félix Louis Puibaraud Puibaraud

Following an anarchist bombing of the French National Assembly on 9 December 1893, parliament passed new, anti-anarchist laws which were so controversial, critics labelled them les lois scelerates, ‘scoundrel laws’. The laws restricted press freedom, possession of explosives and forming (anarchist) associations. In an effort to put the new laws into practice, various Parisian plainclothes polices were grouped under the authority of the Direction générale de recherches in February 1894. These were the vice squad (police des moeurs), the judicial police (Sûreté), the political police (recherches) and the hotel/lodging house police (garnis). Louis Puibaraud, doctor in law and inspector general of the penitentiary administration for the Ministry of the Interior, was appointed first director general of this service, apparently at his own request. He published reports in both disciplines and, ahead of his appointment, had published chronicles on the Paris Prefecture in Le Temps (1886-1887) and as book, La Police à Paris: son organisation, son fonctionnement par un rédacteur du Temps (1887). In his new role, Puibaraud was especially charged with the repression of domestic and foreign anarchists. For their harassment, he employed mouchards (informers) and agents provocateurs who were not above planting false bombs to alarm the public, and operated not always within legal boundaries. He cooperated closely with the Russian Okhrana’s Paris agentura and established a close professional relationship with Pjotr Rachkovsky. Of his other foreign colleagues, he communicated most with his British colleague, Robert Anderson. Puibaraud was said to ‘behave as a law unto himself, and he spread his tentacles much further than French legislation permitted’: in the first six months of 1894, thousands of house searches were conducted throughout the country, resulting in the arraignment of 426 people for their supposed involvement in criminal conspiracies and a drop in anarchist periodicals printed in France from 247 in 1892 to 39 mid-1894. Through his harsh approach, Puibaraud became target of press hostility and political opposition, worsening the reputation of the political police. He was repeatedly accused of organizing anarchist plots and planting bombs himself or through agent provocateurs. Nevertheless, foreign visitors like Jacob Franken in 1898 were pleased by his tours and teachings. He fell victim to a pistol attack against his life on 25 September 1899, committed by Félix Fleury, a former employee of the magasins du Louvre, who was subsequently transported to a mental institutions. The attack was without consequences. Puibaraud died from a heart attack in November 1903. During his life, he was the author of various chronicles in newspaper Le Matin, under the pseudonym of Manini.

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