Seven Ages of Paris
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In this luminous portrait of Paris, celebrated historian Alistair Horne gives us the history, culture, disasters, and triumphs of one of the world’s truly great cities. Horne makes plain that while Paris may be many things, it is never boring.
From the rise of Philippe Auguste through the reigns of Henry IV and Louis XIV (who abandoned Paris for Versailles); Napoleon’s rise and fall; Baron Haussmann’s rebuilding of Paris (at the cost of much of the medieval city); the Belle Epoque and the Great War that brought it to an end; the Nazi Occupation, the Liberation, and the postwar period dominated by de Gaulle--Horne brings the city’s highs and lows, savagery and sophistication, and heroes and villains splendidly to life. With a keen eye for the telling anecdote and pivotal moment, he portrays an array of vivid incidents to show us how Paris endures through each age, is altered but always emerges more brilliant and beautiful than ever. The Seven Ages of Paris is a great historian’s tribute to a city he loves and has spent a lifetime learning to know.
and then issued orders for her luggage to be sent on to her.” There followed another frantic excursion in pursuit of war together. Strasbourg was as far as she would be permitted to go this time. For Josephine it would be their last, poignant journey together. In a thoroughly despondent Paris the stock exchange tumbled. Plainly, the fate of the Empire, and of the Emperor, rested on the outcome of a single battle—more so than at any time since Marengo. But Wagram, in 1809, Napoleon’s last victory,
Foncier were founded, the latter especially designed to stimulate Louis Napoleon’s massive new building programme. In Paris there sprang up huge stores like M. Boucicaut’s Maison du Bon Marché on the Left Bank. To women like Denise, Emile Zola’s provincial heroine in Au bonheur des dames, these new emporia were indeed modern wonders of the world: “Here, exposed to the street, right on the pavement, was a veritable landslide of cheap goods; the entrance was a temptation, with bargains that enticed
constantly appearing, rats which also come in whenever the door is opened, impudent poor men’s rats which climb on to the table, carrying away whole hunks of bread, and worry the feet of the sleeping occupants … The man, a costermonger, who has known better days, dead-drunk during his wife’s labour. The woman, as drunk as her husband, lying on a straw mattress … And during the delivery in this shanty, the wretched shanty of civilization, an organ-grinder’s monkey, imitating and parodying the
consolidated the fundamental institutions of France, and further extended her territories. All his revisions of the body politic—such as the diminution of feudal powers—tended, however, only to increase the power of the throne, advancing it further towards absolute monarchy. In Paris, in contrast to London, where the Lords and the Commons were willing to sit together as a legislature, the three Estates (the Clergy, the Nobility and the Third Estate or non-privileged classes) remained separate,
straightened, the number of bridges and public fountains to be increased, the quays embellished. The insanitary Hôtel Dieu was to be “reformed,” and the cemeteries relocated from the centre of the city. Ironically, almost all these projects were later to be carried out after the Revolution by Napoleon and Haussmann. Yet, if looks and auguries were against Louis XVI, so too were circumstances, for his accession coincided with a prolonged period of economic stagnation. On the other hand, as with