The European City in History

Nineteenth-century Paris

Girouard, Chapter 14: Paris and the Boulevards.

1.  Describe the principal features of the Parisian topography  in the 1840s.  How was the groundwork laid during these years for the reconstruction of Paris of the 1850s and the 1860s?

19th-century Paris became "the epitome of all the modern city had to offer" (285); Haussmann's rebuilding gave it spaciousness and scale; grandeur;

1840s:  central Paris still a rabbit-warren of medieval streets; narrow; dark; dirty; smelly; traffic jams; contrast with the quays of the Seine and the boulevards; see the map of the Cité.

Some building under the Revolution and Napoleon, esp the Rue de Rivoli, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Place de la Concorde; also new markets, abattoirs, public cemetaries (like Pere Lachaise), and waterways like the Canal d'Ourcq; but construction had not required major dislocations;

1830s:  industrial and financial revolution reached France; Paris became a RR center; Paris also became a manufacturing center, with 400,000 workers employed in small industry in 1848; indeed, 89% were employed in shops with fewer than ten workers; also became a financial center.  Bourse (built 1808+ & opened in 1826); joint-stock banks opened; also an administrative center: the national government of France employed some 5,000 civil servants, while the City of Paris employed some 500 more.

Population growth:  within 1785 walls: 1800 = 547,756; 1851 = 1, 170,000; in 1801, it had 2.3% of the French population; in 1851 the figure was 3%; much of the growth was by in-migration; 50% of the city's population in the years 1815-1851 was not native to the city; 1821-1851: 78.6% of Parisian growth accounted for by in-migration.  Context = total population of France, which was 27,349,631 in 1801 and 35, 783, 170 in 1851, an increase of 30.8% [In contrast, Great Britain's pop grew by 47.5% and that of the German states by 44.4%].  France still an overwhelmingly rural country

Transportation was mainly by foot; most goods were transported by water, including the Seine and the city's canals; horse-drawn ominbusses appeared in 1828; the railway appeared in 1837, and by 1850, there were six railway stations

Problems:  overcrowding in the city center, filth, crime, etc; outbreaks of cholera in 1832 and 1849, that of 1832 killed 20,000 in a population of 861,000, and the death rate was highest in the city center; urban mortality was 26.1 per 1,000; urban unrest since the Great Revolution of 1789; more recently, Revol of 1830 + anti-clerical riots in 1831; barricades in 1832 and 1834; major Revolution in 1848 and the worker's uprising of June 1848

2.  Describe the main features of Baron Haussmann's and Napoleon III's plans for the rebuilding of Paris.  What influence did developments in England have upon the French?

Haussmann, Georges-Eugène, Baron  (b. March 27, 1809, Paris, Fr.--d. Jan. 11, 1891, Paris), French administrator responsible for the transformation of Paris from
its ancient character to the one that it still largely preserves.  Though the aesthetic merits of his creations are open to dispute, there is no doubt that as a town planner he exerted great influence on cities all over the world.  [EB]

Haussmann was the grandson, on his father's side, of a member of the Revolutionary Convention and, on his mother's, of a Napoleonic general.  He studied law in Paris and entered the civil service in 1831 as the secretary-general of a prefecture, rising to be subprefect (1832-48), prefect in the provinces (1848-53), and finally prefect of the Seine département (1853-70).

In this last office he embarked on an enormous program of public works. He cut wide, straight, tree-lined avenues through the chaotic mass of small streets of which Paris was then composed, connecting the train terminals and making rapid and easy movement across the city possible for the first time. (The purpose was partly economic, promoting industrialization by enabling goods and services to be transported efficiently; partly aesthetic, imposing a measure of unifying order and opening up space to allow more light; and partly military, eliminating constricted streets where rebel barricades could be erected.)  Haussmann also created new systems of water supply and of drainage and so removed the foul odours.  He opened up parks on the English model both in the centre of Paris and at Boulogne and Vincennes.  He increased the number of streetlights and sidewalks and so gave rise to the kiosks and sidewalk cafés that enliven Parisian street life.  He demolished most of the private buildings on the Ile de la Cité and gave it its administrative and religious character.  He built the Opéra and the central marketplace known as Les Halles (the latter surviving into the 1960s).  [EB]

Many of the ideas for the changes came from Napoleon III, but it was owing to Haussmann's exceptional capacity for work that schemes that might have remained idle dreams were carried out so expeditiously.  Haussmann's success was favoured also by the autocratic nature of the regime under which he served, for this allowed him to raise enormous long-term loans and to use them almost without parliamentary or other control.  His handling of public money, however, roused increasing criticism among the liberal opposition, and the advent to power of Émile Ollivier's liberal government in 1870 resulted in his dismissal.  [EB] Haussmann was a Bonapartist member for Corsica in the National Assembly from 1877 to 1881 but took little active part in parliamentary work.  He left an important autobiography, Mémoires, 3 vol. (1890-93).  [EB]

Boulevards built; old roads widened and straightened; new squares built; the Bois de Boulogne and the Bois de Vincennes became pulic parks; Parks like Buttes Chaumont and Monceaux constructed; new hospitals, schools, colleges, barracks, prisons, and an opera house built; iron market stalls at Les Halles; water and gas supplies improved; drainage system installed.

English influence on Nap III; Regent Street & self-financing scheme; drainage system influenced by that in London; public parks and squares modeled on Regent's and St James' Parks and London squares.

Haussmann's planners destroyed old Paris.  As one contemporary observed, "The majority of streets that made up what is called Vieux Paris have fallen beneath the pickage of the demolishers, to the great dispair of artists, but to the great satisfaction of the inhabitants who need air to breathe and space in which to move." [Adolphe Joanne, Paris illustré en 1870 et 1876, 159-160.]  

Haussmann's Paris consisted of four inter-related parts:

1.  Streets:  earlier transformations of Paris were additions to the existing urban fabric; Nap III' scheme called for the restructuring of the city by cutting streets through it; a radically new approach to urban planning; a network of arterial streets; they were to be cut through the existing city; [Map, Benevolo, p. 173]

twofold character of Nap III's street:  1) streets were to be places to live and shop for the upper middle classes; to promenade and socialize; places for outdoor cafés and restaurants; 2) also to become key connecting links; link railway stations to key points of the center (government buildings, central markets, hospitals, business and entertainment districts) + link organs of administrations and business (fire depts, police, ambulence, dept store deliveries.

Both and E-W axis (the Rue de Rivoli and the Rue St.-Antoine) and a N-S axis  constructed; also an inner ring of boulevards on site of walls demolished by Louis XIV from the Place de la Concorde to the Bastille on the Right Bank and the Boulevard St.-Germain on the Left Bank; then connecting streets; and finally an outer ring of boulevards.

Cutting such streets involved the expropriation and demolition of private buildings; hence an exact scale map of Paris needed; the survey project took a year.

2.  Buildings, politics, and aesthetics:  

Haussmann envisioned a city focused visually and functionally on major institutions like RR stations; the opera house, the town hall, the cathedral, etc; major architectural units linked by great avenues; also monuments like Notre Dame isolated and turned into museum pieces;

Example of "the transformation of small-scale complexity into monumental simplicity" is the Ile-de-la-Cité in the mid-19th century.

Under King Louis-Philippe (1830-48), the "sanitization" of the island was begun, and it was continued for his successor, Napoleon III, by Baron Georges Haussmann.  Between 1853-1870 transformed the Cité from the bustling core of the old city (with its churches and monasteries, 14,000 inhabitants, and a network of medieval streets and alleys between Notre Dame and the old royal palace) into a  government and administrative center, with an enlarged Palace of Justice, the Tribunal of Commerce, and several barracks.  The portion of the palace that borders the Quai des Orfèvres--formerly the goldsmiths' and silversmiths' quay--became the headquarters of the Paris municipal detective force, the Police Judiciaire.  [EB]

Across the boulevard du Palais is the Police Prefecture, another 19th-century structure.  On the far side of the prefecture is the Place du Parvis-Notre-Dame, an open space enlarged six times by Haussmann, who also moved the Hôtel-Dieu, the first hospital in Paris, from the riverside to the inland side of the square.  Its present buildings date from 1868.  The enlargement of the space around Notre Dame has turned the cathedral into a national monument, a museum piece dedicated to Gothic architecture (a building made popular by Victor Hugo's Notre Dame de Paris of 1831).  [EB]

3.  Parks and Promenades:  an enthusiasm of Napoleon III; meant to be functional; many parks designed bu Adolphe Alphans; filled with lakes, artificial hills; grottoes; gardens, etc; Bois de Boulogne; Bois de Vincennes; Buttes Chaumont; Montsouris Park; and the Park Monceau.

4.  Services:  Paris needed illumination, fresh water, sewers, and adequate cemetaries; gas lighting provided; fresh water supply doubled, using aqueducts; sewage network built, which dumped waste into the Seine at Asnieres; no solution to the cemetary problem (Haussmann envisaged a central cemetary 13 miles outside the city linked by rail to Paris--fearful the public would oppose it, so it was never constructed.  But it represents Haussmann's mind set.)

Haussmann and Nap III succeeded in driving a network of straight and board roads through Paris; how?

Haussmann & Nap III borrowed to finance the improvements, seeing them as an investment in the future; strong central and authoritarian government in Paris; had right to condemn property; not much protest from affluent, many of whom profited; true victims were the poor and those w/o leases; owners and lease-holders amply compensated;

3.  Describe the boulevards, avenues, parks, and squares built in Paris.

Boulevards an extension of those of the 17th-18th centuries; wide and tree lined; carried great amounts of traffic; still entertaining; people walked to be seen and to see;

Refreshment & entertainment important; see the park on the Champs-Elysees (p. 291); parks filled with restaurants and cafes and racecourses; squares not quiet like England, but full of motion;

Opera house and grand hotels of the Louvre and near the Opera

4.  Describe the sort of shopping arrangements that developed in Paris during the nineteenth century.  What is the significance of the Bon Marché?

early 19th century shopping = the passages, like the Passage des Panorams (p. 292); then the bazaars; the bazaars evolved into the department store, like the Bon Marche (1869-1872) (p. 294)

people came from around the world to shop, especially during the Exhibitions of 1855, 1867, 1878, 1889, and 1900; education and entertainment; also racy aspects of Parisian life;

5.  How did Eduardo de Amicis describe the Paris of the 1870s?

Note quotes on p. 296:  Paris as a "vast gilded net"; a "Tower of Babel"; "a great opulent and sensual city, leaving only for pleasure and glory"; taken with the lights on the streets;

6.  Describe the sections of Paris that foreigners like de Amicis did not visit.

Working class areas like the Faubourg St Antoine and the Gobelins-Bievre area; new arrondissements between the old customs wall and the Thier fortificationsl many workers lived outside the city's boundries

7.  What sort of life-style developed on Montmartre and who went there?  Note especially the picture by Renoir of the Moulin de la Galette and that of the Moulin Rouge.

Montmartre:  Moulin de la Galette became a pleasure garden; Boulevard de Clichy and Boulevard de Rochechouart became sites of cabarets, etc for the working classes; artists lured there in the 1880s; even a fashionable cult of the working class, hence association with a working class area ok; entertainments grew, like the Moulin Rouge, drawing tourists, who ultimately drove out the artists.