Who Killed Jules Crevaux?

Murder in the Bolivian Chaco 

By Isabelle Combès

With a Foreword by Francis Grandhomme and an Introduction by Diego Villar

In 1882, the celebrated French explorer Jules Crevaux and his crew were killed by Indigenous people in the Bolivian Chaco, a fiercely contested region on the border between Bolivia, Argentina, and Paraguay. The event sparked an international uproar. The scene of the crime was embroiled in clashes among various Indigenous peoples, rubber tappers, and missionaries. Official investigators sent from France and competing newspapers ended up mired in a morass of equivocal, ambiguous, false, and contradictory information.

To make sense of this event, Isabelle Combès is the first researcher to consult the local archives and to include the perspective of Indigenous peoples. In search of who killed Crevaux and why, Combès unearths the power struggles and social imaginaries behind the incident and its aftermath. Readers will find not only an engrossing story in these pages but also an exemplar of historical inquiry that questions the very nature of truth-telling.



Isabelle Combès is an associate researcher with the Institut Français d’Études Andines and coordinator of the Centro de Investigaciones Históricas y Antropológicas of the History Museum of La Universidad Autónoma Gabriel René Moreno, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia.

Francis Grandhomme is a recognized authority on exploration of the Chaco. He is an associate member of the Centre de Recherche Universitaire Lorrain d’Histoire at Nancy and teaches at the Fustel de Coulanges lycée in Strasbourg. His research focuses on exploration, but also on borders and border conflicts in the nineteenth-twenty-first centuries.

Diego Villar is a Marie-Skłodowska Curie fellow at the Università Ca’ Foscari (Venice). His work centers on the anthropology and ethnohistory of the Argentinian Chaco and, more broadly, Bolivian Amazonia.

Nora Scott has translated numerous books in anthropology and related social sciences. In 2013, she was awarded the prestigious French-American Foundation Translation Prize.

© HAU Books, 2023

6″ x 9″, 166 pp.

Buy this book from The University of Chicago Press

Download PDF (Soon!)

Preface by Francis Grandhomme

Introduction: The Seventh Circle (in the Chaco), or Murder Considered as a Method by Diego Villar

Chapter 1. Reopening the File

Chapter 2. Chronicle of an Announced Death

Chapter 3. Searching for the Remains of the Crevaux Mission

Chapter 4. Imposture and Amnesia

Chapter 5. Unresolved Questions

Chapter 6. Beyond the Massacre

Chapter 7. Faceless Killers


Selected Bibliography 


The open-access PDF of this book, attached above, is made available by Hau Books through a Creative Commons license BY-NC-ND 4.0 International (Attribution Required / Non-Commercial Use / No Derivatives). Additional rights clearance may be necessary for third-party content within.