Paris Reborn

Paris Reborn

Napoleon III, Baron Haussmann, and the Quest to Build A Modern City

Book - 2013
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Stephane Kirkland gives an engrossing account of Napoleon III, Baron Haussmann, and one of the greatest transformations of a major city in modern history

Traditionally known as a dirty, congested, and dangerous city, 19th Century Paris, France was transformed in an extraordinary period from 1848 to 1870, when the government launched a huge campaign to build streets, squares, parks, churches, and public buildings. The Louvre Palace was expanded, Notre-Dame Cathedral was restored and the French masterpiece of the Second Empire, the Op#65533;ra Garnier , was built. A very large part of what we see when we visit Paris today originates from this short span of twenty-two years.

The vision for the new Nineteenth Century Paris belonged to Napoleon III, who had led a long and difficult climb to absolute power. But his plans faltered until he brought in a civil servant, Georges-Eug#65533;ne Haussmann, to take charge of the implementation. Heedless of controversy, at tremendous cost, Haussmann pressed ahead with the giant undertaking until, in 1870, his political enemies brought him down, just months before the collapse of the whole regime brought about the end of an era.

Paris Reborn is a must-read for anyone who ever wondered how Paris, the city universally admired as a standard of urban beauty, became what it is.

Publisher: New York :, St. Martin's Press,, 2013.
Copyright Date: ©2013
ISBN: 9780312626891
Characteristics: vi, 327 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates :,illustrations (some coloured), maps (some coloured), portraits (some coloured) ;,25 cm.


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Nov 30, 2016

This book is an easy and fast read, well written, and enjoyable. To a great extent, it repeats the history of Haussmann's work which has been commented on many times before. The one contribution the author appears to have made is ascribing greater influence for the overall project and objectives to Napoleon III, as opposed to Haussmann, who is usually given the credit. However, the author's text makes it clear that even Napoleon III was not the original creator as ideas about modernizing Paris had been bruited about for decades before the advent of the Second Empire. Also, in a quick aside near the end, the author mentions briefly the works of the Third Republic which completed, continued and extended the previous accomplishments. This book succeeds as a light even frothy history of events but does not deliver for a reader seeking a solid, deeply researched account of the incredible complexity of what was accomplished, and this in spite of the author's architectural background. Also, there are no detailed maps showing the extent of the works and the transformations wrought.

Apr 05, 2015

Kirkland does not simply adopt a young neo-liberalist's approval of Second Empire France, he is positively revanchist and would reanimate the nephew if he could. Coupled with that, of course, is thinly veiled disgust with 'the excessive power of the urban masses' (67), who he imagines deserved to be suppressed by the coup d'état and ruined everything in the end.

Sep 22, 2013

I just love history. I went to Paris last year and shared a drink of Jack Daniels with Jim Morrison.

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