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Sartre as prosecutor of occupational murder: notes from a People's Tribunal in a French mine (1970)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 May 2021

Pascal Marichalar*
French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), Institut de recherche Interdisciplinaire sur les enjeux sociaux (IRIS)
Gerald Markowitz
John Jay College and City University Graduate Center, Department of History
David Rosner
Center for the History & Ethics of Public Health, Departments of Sociomedical Sciences and History, Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health
Corresponding author: Pascal Marichalar, E-mail:


On February 4, 1970, in the Fouquières-lès-Lens coal mine in northern France, sixteen miners were killed in a gas explosion (“firedamp,” grisou in French). This was an accident like many others before it, yet with a relatively high number of fatalities. The public prosecutor concluded, as usual, that there was no case against the publicly owned mine. No investigation was to be carried out. The accident had been the work of fate, of bad luck.

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Copyright © International Labor and Working-Class History, Inc., 2021

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