views updated May 29 2018


Getting There
Getting Around
Public Safety
Health Care
Parks and Recreation
Performing Arts
Libraries and Museums
Holidays and Festivals
Famous Citizens
For Further Study

Paris, France, Europe

Founded: 53 b.c.
Location: North-central France, Western Europe
Motto: Fluctuat nec mergitur ("Battered, but never sinks")
Flag: Shield with white sailing ship and three yellow fleur de lys centered on a field with blue (left) and red (right) halves.
Time Zone: 11 am = noon Greenwich Mean Time (GMT); 6 am = noon Eastern Standard Time (EST)
Climate : Moderate. Winters are damp, but not severe. Snowfall is light; sunshine is rare in winter; gray, foggy days are frequent. Summer temperatures are rarely oppressive, but rain can be heavy.
Annual Mean Temperature: 12°C (54°F)
Average Annual Precipitation (total rainfall and melted snow): 68 cm (27 in)
Government: Mayor-council
Weights and Measures: Metric
Monetary Units: The franc, with one hundred centimes to a franc
Postal Codes: Five-digits beginning with 75.

1. Introduction

Paris is synonymous with all that is French. Known throughout the world as the "City of Light," Paris is celebrated for its beautiful city plan, its architecture, museums, bridges, cathedrals, parks, shopping, flea markets, sidewalk cafés, wide and luxurious boulevards, elegant cuisine, and numerous monuments. Once confined to an island in the middle of the Seine River, the Ile de la Cité, Paris, founded more than 2,000 years ago, quickly spread to both banks of the riverthe rive droit (right bank) and the rive gauche (left bank). The right bank is known for being the commercial heart of the city while the left bank is home to the University of Paris and all that is intellectual and artsy. Paris has always been known to have the aura of romance and mystery and has been the setting for many novels and movies. A character in a play by Oscar Wilde said, "When good Americans die, they go to Paris."

2. Getting There

Paris is easily accessible by plane, railroad, and automobile.


Driving to Paris from anywhere in France, road markers can be found indicating routes to Paris. There is a stone marker in front of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris from which all French roads begin.

Railroad Service

The letters S.N.C.F. indicate the French railway system, which is quite extensive. Paris is the center of the TGV (high speed train). One must make reservations in advance to ride this train. Train stations that connect Paris to the rest of Europe are the Gare de Lyon (for trains arriving from Switzerland, Italy, and Greece); the Gare d'Austerlitz (for trains arriving from Spain and Portugal); the Gare Montparnasse (for trains arriving from western France); the Gare Saint-Lazare (for connection with boats arriving in Normandy from the United States and Great Britain); the Gare du Nord (for trains arriving from Great Britain, Belguim, Holland, and Scandinavia); the Gare de l'Est (for trains arriving from Germany, Switzerland, and Austria). The information web site is


Two main airports, Roissey-Charles de Gaulle and Orly, serve the metropolis of Paris and neighboring areas. From these airports travelers can easily take public transportation (subway) or taxis to the heart of Paris in less than an hour. For more specific information, visitors can visit the Office du Tourisme booth in either airport.

3. Getting Around

Bus and Commuter Rail Service

Paris has many buses and local trains (called the RER), but the main mode of travel around Paris is the Metro or subway. No place in Paris is less than 500 meters (1500 feet) away from a metro stop. The cheapest way to travel is to buy a booklet (carnet ) of ten tickets for use on the metro and city buses. There are 368 metro stations in Paris serving more than six million people every day. To see more sights and have more time, the city buses are a more picturesque way to travel. Maps inside the metro indicate the shortest way to a given destination, as well as where to change trains if necessary. The metro is indicated by the letters R.A.T.P. The web site offering practical information, routes, and maps is

Paris Population Profile

City Proper

Population: 2,200,000
Area: 100 sq km (40 sq mi)
Nicknames: The City of Light

Metropolitan Area

Population: 9,638,000
Description: The 20 total arrondissements
World population rank 1: 22
Percentage of national population 2: 16.3%
Average yearly growth rate: 0.2%

  1. The Paris metropolitan area's rank among the world's urban areas.
  2. The percent of France's total population living in the Paris metropolitan area.


The best tours of Paris are by boat. One can get a one-hour cruise on the Seine in a sightseeing boat or bateaumouche, which points out the main monuments, bridges, and cathedrals (the best view ever of Notre Dame) and gives a history of the city. Bus tours are provided by various companies: Cityrama, Vision, and Parisbus are a few of the large companies.

City Fact Comparison
Population of urban area19,638,00010,772,0002,688,00012,033,000
Date the city was founded53 BCAD 969753 BC723 BC
Daily costs to visit the city2
Hotel (single occupancy)$146$193$172$129
Meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner)$79$56$59$62
Incidentals (laundry, dry cleaning, etc.)$20$14$15$16
Total daily costs$245$173$246$207
Major Newspapers3
Number of newspapers serving the city33132011
Largest newspaperLe ParisienAkhbar El Yom/Al AkhbarLa RepubblicaRenmin Ribao
Circulation of largest newspaper451,1591,159,339754,9303,000,000
Date largest newspaper was established1944194419761948
1United Nations population estimates for the year 2000.
2The maximum amount the U.S. Government reimburses its employees for business travel. The lodging portion of the allowance is based on the cost for a single room at a moderately-priced hotel. The meal portion is based on the costs of an average breakfast, lunch, and dinner including taxes, service charges, and customary tips. Incidental travel expenses include such things as laundry and dry cleaning.
3David Maddux, ed. Editor&Publisher International Year Book. New York: The Editor&Publisher Company, 1999.

4. People

Paris is the most populated city in France. The last estimate (1997) claimed 2,152,000 inhabitants lived in Paris. However, there are about ten million more people in the metropolitan area. Until World War II (193945), the population of France was largely monolithic in character. Most French people are descended from ancient Teutonic and Celtic tribes dating from at least 200 B. C. The language of the Parisians is French, which is required in all state-supported schools. After World War II, many people from former French colonies in Africa and Indonesia immigrated to France and particularly to Paris where they could find employment. Consequently, the population of Paris, although largely of original French stock, now includes people of African and Indochinese descent. Although these people speak a variety of languages, French is the only official language of France.

A full 90 percent of Parisians claim to be of the Roman Catholic faith. However, as in any large metropolis, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, and Protestant Christian faiths are represented. There are many Protestant churches as well as Jewish synogogues, the most renowned being the Rothschild Synogogue. The imposing structure of Notre Dame Cathedral on the Ile de la Cité speaks for the majority Catholic influence on the city.

The French are wildly enamored with their pet dogs. Dogs can be seen everywhereeven in fancy restaurants.

5. Neighborhoods

Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements (wards). They are referred to as arrondissements in English as well as in French. Each arrondissement has its own character. Central Paris is comprised of the first eight arrondissements; it is in these eight that most of the major historical and cultural sites of the city can be found. The remaining 12 make up the surrounding area.

1st Arrondissement

At one end of the Champs Elysées is the Louvre, arguably the greatest art museum in the world. Formerly the palace of the kings of France, the Louvre looks out on the Champs Elysées to the Place de la Concorde with its Egyptian oblelisk, and on to the Arc de Triomphe, built by the Emperor Napoleon I (17691821) to commemorate his military victories.

2nd Arrondissement

There are the banks, the stock exchange (La Bourse), and some wholesale fashion stores.

3rd Arrondissement

This district is called the Marais. An ethnic mélange, the Marais was once home to the majority of the Jewish population of Paris. It has undergone some urban renovation at many times in the history of Paris.

4th Arrondissement

The Ile de la Cité, the island in the middle of the River Seine, comprises this arrondissement. This was the original site of Paris at its beginnings, and it boasts the gorgeous cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris. Bridges cross the Ile, so sightseers can visit Notre Dame Cathedral on walking tours, as well as by way of the Metro or bus.

5th Arrondissement

On the Left Bank, the Quartier Latin, home of the University of Paris (Sorbonne college of arts and sciences), is the main living quarters for students and artists. There are many good places to eat and fine entertainment, such as the Comédie Française.

6th Arrondissement

Charming cafés attract many intellectuals and college students in this district.

7th Arrondissement

Also on the Left Bank is the famous Eiffel Tower (La Tour Eiffel). Visible from all points in Paris, the main entrance to this monument is on the Champ de Mars. One can also visit the Musée D'Orsay, dedicated to French Impressionist paintings.

8th Arrondissement

At the end of the Champs Elysées is the Arc de Triomphe built by the French Emperor Napoleon to commemorate his military victories. The Arc is located over a traffic circle called the Place Charles de Gaulle (formerly la Place de l'Etoile). This point is the beginning of 12 large boulevards going out into various points of Paris and beyond.

Ile Saint-Louis

A neighbor to Ile de la Cité, Ile Saint-Louis is renowned for a beautiful, small church called the Sainte-Chapelle.

La Défense

The newest development in Paris is the business and residential center to the west of Paris called La Défense. This area, developed in the 1960s and 1970s, has a new arch called the Grande Arche to celebrate the bicentennial of the French Revolution. It is set in a straight line with the Champs Elysées. There are many modern high-rise buildings that do not have to conform to the old building codes of Paris.


High on a hill overlooking the city is the area of Montmartre. The basilica of Sacré Coeur and many of the famous cabarets, including the Folies Bergères at le Moulin Rougehome of the cancan danceare located here.

Le Marais

Once known as the old Jewish quarter, Le Marais (once a swamp) is home to small hotels, restaurants, and bars. It is bordered by the Rue Beaubourg and the Boulevard Beaumarchais.


Once an embarrassing slum, the district of Beaubourg has been renovated and showcases the Centre Georges Pompidou. Pompidou was once the president of France. The center has a museum of modern art and a performing arts theater.

Neuilly, Auteuil, and Passy

The rich and super-rich inhabit these beautiful suburbs of the chic sixteenth and seventeenth arrondissements west of the city.

6. History

The history of Paris goes back more than 2,000 years when some 60 Celtic tribes called the Gauls inhabited the region, most notably in the Paris Basin on the Ile de la Cité. One of their tribes, the Parisii, eventually gave their name to the present-day city. The Gauls were composed of warrior tribes who hunted, fished, and lived in huts with thatched roofs. Their religion, called druidism, celebrated nature. Many present day religious festivals include remnants of druidic worship. The main festival, la fête du gui (mistletoe), welcomed in the new year. They also burned the Yule log to celebrate the return to light after a long dark season of winter. Their chief warrior, Vercingétorix, was defeated by the Roman army under Julius Caesar (c. 10044 B. C. ) in about 50 B. C. The Romans renamed the Gaulish capital Lutetia, which it remained until it was reconquered by a Germanic tribe called the Frankshence the name for present day France (land of the Franks). Their king, Clovis (465511) converted to Christianity and took the old name of Paris for its capital. By brute force, Clovis established the Merovingian dynasty of kings and established a code of laws known as the Salic Law. In 800, Charlemagne (747814) moved his capital from Aix-la-Chapelle to Paris, thus solidifying Paris as the permanent capital city of what would become modern day France. Between 900 and 1000, another tribe of invaders called Vikings (actually Norsemen) repeatedly invaded and pillaged Paris until they eventually became a civilized part of the community.

By the middle of the twelfth century, King Philippe Auguste (11651223) turned Paris into a true medieval city with a protective wall around it. He built his castle, which was little more than a fortress on the site of the modern-day Louvre. No one knows what the word Louvre means, except that it is thought to come from the Latin word for wolves. Philippe housed his wolf-hunting dogs in the fortress. The Middle Ages saw the beginning of the construction of the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris (1163), one of the most famous examples of Gothic architecture, and the founding of one of the greatest universities in the world, the University of Paris. The city of Paris, surrounded by walls, still was contained on the Ile de la Cité in the middle of the River Seine.

Gradually the city of Paris became so heavily populated that the walls were erected further and further out to accommodate the growing community. The last of these protective walls was razed in 1919 by the government of the Third Republic. The kings of France slowly enlarged and modernized the Louvre to become the palace of kings. The French Revolution (178993) was a turning point for the modernization of Paris. During that turbulent period, there were riots in the streets, and the people barricaded the narrow, winding streets to thwart the power of the government. The reign of Emperor Napoleon I (17691821) saw the building of monuments and the creation of a modern sewer system, which beautified and cleansed the city. The brief restoration of the monarchy (18481870) saw the rebuilding of Paris from a medieval town to a city of breathtaking beauty and grandeur. Under the leadership of Baron Haussmann (18091891), the boulevards were widened so that they could no longer be easily barricaded. Parks and monuments were created; the Louvre was completed; the Opera house was built; and an extensive system of sewers was constructed. The city was at that time organized into its present-day 20 arrondissements. Building codes were enforced to keep the neo-classical look and to maintain a low building height.

In 1889, the World's Fair came to Paris, which unveiled the newest crowning glory, the Eiffel Tower. At the time of its construction, it was thought to be a monstrosity, and the French people wanted it torn down immediately. The tower outlasted the controversy to become the symbol of Paris. In 1900, Paris joined London in the construction of the subway (the Métropolitain). The metro stations at the turn of the century were beautiful examples of Art Deco, with intricately designed ironwork gates. Some of these still exist today.

During World War II, the city of Paris was almost destroyed by German bombs. Miraculously, Paris survived the war intact. All of the treasures in the Louvre art museum were hidden by the French people during the war, so they would not be taken by the invading German army. The government of General Charles de Gaulle brought the French government to the present Fifth Republic.

Modern-day Paris is truly a feast for all of the senses. The classical beauty of the city is breathtaking at night when many of the monuments are lighted. A new opera house has been added at the former location of La Bastille (a political prison during the French Revolution), and some high-rise buildings have been constructed outside the central area. Basically, Paris remains true to the architectural plans of Baron Haussmann. The wide, main boulevards are crowded with people 24 hours a day. One can relax in a sidewalk café or visit any number of the many museums Paris has to offer. The cuisine is delicious, whether from a café or an elegant five-star restaurant. Shoppers can find the very latest in fashion or browse the flea markets for a bargain. New urban renewal during the 1990s saw the renovation of the Beaubourg area with the destruction of Les Halles (a central market place) and the creation of the Centre Pompidou (arts) in its place. New business centers in La Défense have been added to the International Communication Center. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, Paris has retained all the allure, mystery, and romance of its fabled past. That is why Paris is the number one destination for travelers around the world.

7. Government

The city of Paris is headed by an elected mayor. The mayor is in charge of the police force, which is headed by the préfet, and works with the town halls of the 20 arrondissements of Paris. The coat of arms of the city was created in 1210 featuring a boat from the watermen's guild. The motto Fluctuat nec Mergitur is the Latin for "buffeted by waves but does not sink" and was added in the sixteenth century. The Regional Council and the Economic and Social Committees govern any local problems. The most influential political parties are the Communist Party and the Socialist Party. The national government is a coalition government comprised of the various political parties.

8. Public Safety

All tourists visiting Paris, as well as France, must register with the police department. Usually the hotels will check passports and make a list of all registered guests. Paris has laws that prohibit the carrying of guns and is generally a safe city. However, there are always professional pickpockets and, as of late, gangs of small children organized by gangsters to be pickpockets reminiscent of those in Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens .

9. Economy

The French currency is called the franc, with 100 centimes to the franc. The economy of Paris is comprised of high finance, banking, and luxury tourist goods. The Champs Elysées and neighboring streets house many high-fashion couturiers (designers), parfumiers (perfume shops), and other luxury items. Universities, museums, and cafés cater to tourists and residents alike. Government employees are numerous as France is a bureaucratic country. France is also a member of the European Economic Community.

10. Environment

Paris is divided by the Seine River, which drains west to the Atlantic Ocean. It is used for transportation and tourism. Many tour boats, called "bateaux mouches," give tours of the city by circling the Ile de la Cité. Paris also has the feel of open spaces created by wide boulevards and parklands. The Champs Elysées is a 12-lane divided highway with wide sidewalks to encourage walking, window shopping, and people-watching at cafés. The Jardin du Luxembourg, the Bois de Boulogne, the Tuilerie Gardens, and the Place des Vosges (to name a few) give the tourists and residents beautiful garden spaces to relax and enjoy the magnificent views. There are many fountains and small squares in which to sit. Paris is very much a walking city. The sidewalks are always filled with strollers, as well as businessmen and tourists. The beautiful monuments give the city the air of an outdoor museum. The French government is concerned with cleanliness, and large fines are imposed for littering and graffiti. Every morning, workers armed with buckets and brooms can be seen sweeping the streets, getting the city ready for another day.

11. Shopping

Paris is a shopper's dream city. Two large department stores, Au Printemps and the Galeries Lafayette, can fill the most discerning shopper's wish list. The Au Bon Marché has gourmet delicacies galore. There are also boutiques that cater to the high-end market. Designers such as Chanel, Yves St. Laurent, Hermès, Louis Vuitton, and Cartier are also located on or near the Champs Elysées. The Boulevard Montaigne, off the Champs Elysées, also houses many expensive boutiques. Also the Rue du Faubourg St. Honoré has many clothing stores. For budget-minded shoppers, the Monoprix or Prisunic (dime stores), supply some moderately priced souvenirs. Fine leather goods, jewelry, perfumes, clothing, wines, gourmet foods, and fine art are plentiful. Bargain hunters can cruise the flea market (marché aux puces). Sidewalk vendors (some very fine artists) are always displaying their wares. Along the banks of the Seine are also many artists and booksellers. On Sunday mornings near Notre Dame Cathedral, one can visit the bird market. Live caged canaries, finches, and other exotic birds are for sale. One of the most unique stores, almost a must for tourists, is Le Drugstore. This is a Parisian's idea of an American drugstore. It has many high-priced goods for sale, as well as toiletries; however, the toiletries are too expensive there for the average tourist!

12. Education

The University of Paris, on the left bank of the Seine, is arguably the most famous school in the world. Outsiders often refer to it as the Sorbonne, but that is only the school of arts and sciences. Everyone in France is entitled to a free education, including that of a university. The catch is that one must pass a rigorous exam, called the baccalaureat, to gain entrance. Many students do not take this exam or fail it. School attendance is compulsory until age 16. One can decide on a college preparatory course or a technical course. All are free. The levels are in reversethat is, kindergarten is level 13 while the senior level is called one or "classes terminales." The educational system is run by the central government, which determines the curriculum. All students everywhere in France are studying the same lessons at pretty much the same time. If a student moves, he or she will fit right in to the new school curriculum because it will be exactly the same as the school he left. Students must study French at every grade level. The French are purists when it comes to language, and the courses are very difficult. Attention to grammar and spelling are important. People are constantly judged on their accent and grammar. Every educated person strives to attain a Parisian accent. Having other accents, such as that of southern France, is considered inferior. Discipline in French high schools (lycées) is strictly enforced. The famous cooking school Le Cordon Bleu offers courses in French, English, and Japanese.

13. Health Care

The government of France is largely socialistic. Every French citizen is afforded health care provided by the state. Taxes are very highin some cases almost 60 percent of total incomebut the government provides most social services. Life expectancy for men is 74 years, and for women it is 82 years. There is one doctor for every 361 people, and infant mortality is five per 100 live births. Many French people smoke, and the government has only recently tried to discourage people from smoking.

14. Media

French television is controlled by the government (outside of satellite television). There are five stations: TF1, Antenne 2, FR 3, M 6, and Arte. The Parisians do not have their newspapers delivered to their homes because there are too many French publications. Each Parisian usually picks up his favorite newspaper at a local kiosk or a café. Usually these papers reflect different political thought or are business papers. Some of the more well-known newspapers include France-Soir, Le Monde, Le Figaro, and Le Canard Enchainé. Radio stations are also government controlled. France Inter (87.8MHz) is the main radio station. Recently, the government made it mandatory to play 60 percent of all music in French. This angered French teenagers who love to listen to British and American rock and roll. All advertising must be in French, except for foreign companies.

15. Sports

One of the main sports in France is soccer. There is a French national team, as well as many university teams. Formula-One car racing, famous throughout Europe, is also very popular. The French Tennis Open is in June, just before Wimbledon in London. The most well-known sport, however, is cycling. The Tour de France, which takes place for about two weeks at the end of June and into July, is the most widely publicized sport. The race begins and ends in Paris with the winner cycling under the Arc de Triomphe and down the Champs Elysées. Another competitive sport is lawn bowling. This is played by average citizens, as well as championship teams. Information about sporting events can be found in the newspaper Le Figaro.

16. Parks and Recreation

Paris is surrounded by greenery. The most famous park in Paris is the Bois de Boulogne. Comprising more than 809 hectares (2,000 acres), the Bois boasts walking trails, lakes for boating, two courses for horseracing (Longchamp and Auteuil), a children's amusement park, an area for puppet shows, a miniature golf course, cafés and restaurants, a giant doll's house, and a small zoo. Another famous garden is the Tuileries, located in front of the Louvre museum. At the Place des Vosges in the Marais district is a small park featuring the famous author Victor Hugo's house. The Place de la Concorde has a beautiful fountain and small gardens. In the Seine River is an enclosed public swimming pool. On the left bank are the Luxembourg Gardens. Impressive fountains and beautiful statues representing Greek and Roman gods decorate this park. There is also the palace of Marie de'Medici (15731652), wife of King Henri IV.

Another huge parkland is the Bois de Vincennes. It is comparable to the Bois de Boulogne with a racecourse and a zoo. However, the zoo is larger in that the animals seem to roam free in unrestricted habitats.

Off the Périférique (ring road) is the Parc de la Villette with an interactive science museum and IMAX theater.

Just outside of Paris is the city of Versailles with the chateau of King Louis XIV (175493) with its magnificent grounds and gardens. A one-day visit may not be long enough to see everything. By RER (local train) it is about a 40-minute ride from Paris to Versailles.

Also just outside Paris is EuroDisneyland. As it is the same as the American Disney parks, American visitors may want to spend their time on other sites.

Giverny, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) outside Paris, is the home and famous gardens of Impressionist painter Claude Monet (18401926). It was here that he painted the famous Waterlilies.

17. Performing Arts

The National French Theater, La Comédie Française, was established in 1680 under the direction of the cardinal Richelieu. Modern-day productions include mainly the works of classical French writers of the seventeenth centuryMoliere, Racine, and Corneille. There are two opera housesthe Opéra Garnier, an eighteenth-century classical building, and the newer opera house at the Place de la Bastille. The Opéra Comique does light opera and works of French lyric composers. In the newer district of La Défense, the indoor arena of Bercy stages musical performances of popular performers. The famous cancan dancers can be found at the Moulin Rouge in Montmartre. Paris also has many smaller theaters and many movie houses. The Chaillot National Theater (next to the Eiffel Tower) also serves as a multicultural center. In the area of Beaubourg, the Centre Pompidou always has some interesting displays and performances.

18. Libraries and Museums

The Bibliothèque Nationale (National Library) was founded in the Middle Ages. In 1537, a copyright law was passed that requires every published work to be in the National Library. The library has many annexes and houses old manuscripts, engravings and photographs, maps, music, and printed books. Paris has a plethora of famous museums, but the following are some a first-time tourist should not miss.

The Louvre is one of the most famous art museums in the world. Once the palace of the kings of France, the Louvre was updated in 1989 by the architect I.M. Pei (b. 1917) who designed a new glass pyramid entrance to the museum. The Louvre contains paintings, sculptures, and other objects of antiquity famous around the world. The Mona Lisa, the Winged Victory, the Venus de Milo, the paintings of David and Leonardo, Egyptian treasures and classical sculptures are all too numerous to mention. A two-hour tape tour is recommended for the casual visitor. The building itself is a work of art representing the history of France as many kings added to the original structure begun by Philippe Auguste in the twelfth century. The basement contains the oldest known foundations of the Louvre and the torture chambers of Philippe Auguste.

The Musée d'Orsay, housed in a renovated railway station, now contains most of the important Impressionist paintings. Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Jean Renoir, Paul Cézanne, and Vincent Van Gogh are all well represented, as well as post-Impressionist artists.

The National Museum of Modern Art is housed on the fourth floor of the Pompidou Center in Beaubourg. The Musée Rodin is dedicated to the works of the famous sculptor, Auguste Rodin (18401917).

Notre Dame Cathedral is located on the island Ile de la Cité. One of the most perfect examples of Gothic architecture, Notre Dame has thousands of sculptures and stained glass windows. Tours are also given. On a neighboring island in the Seine, the Ile Saint-Louis, is the smaller church, the Sainte-Chapelle. The stained glass windows are among the finest in the world.

Historical museums abound. Les Invalides houses the tomb of Napoleon and a military museum, while the Arc de Triomphe has a museum dedicated to Napoleon's victories. The Eiffel Tower has a display of the construction of the Tower for the 1889 World's Fair. Gobelins' Tapestry Factory recounts the history of the famous tapestry maker from its beginnings in the thirteenth century. There are guided tours of the workshops, which still produce tapestries. The Hôtel de Cluny Museum is the remains of the old Roman baths and the medieval monastery. Wonderful artifacts, tapestries, and medieval art are on display. The Grévin Museum is a wax museum portraying scenes from history and interesting historical figures.

Père Lachaise Cemetery may seem a bit morbid, but millions of visitors come to see the graves of Bizet, Molière, Colette, Gertrude Stein, Victor Hugo, Balzac, Chopin, and perhaps the most visited, the American Jim Morrison. So many people come to visit and decorate Morrison's grave that there is usually security around it.

19. Tourism

The year 1999 saw France as the top destination for travelers around the world, with the overwhelming majority including Paris in their visit to France. Over 70 million tourists visited the City of Light last year, spending nearly $30 million (American dollars) in France. The best tours of Paris are by boat. One can get a one-hour cruise on the Seine in a sightseeing boat called a bateaumouche, which features the main monuments, bridges, and cathedrals (the best view ever of Notre Dame) and gives a history of the city. Bus tours are provided by various companies: Cityrama, Vision, and Parisbus are a few of the large companies.

The official tourist information center is at the Hôtel de Ville (town hall). However, there are tourist information centers at all train stations and airports.

20. Holidays and Festivals

Fashion shows begin

Easter Monday
Foire de Paris (Fair)

May Day Celebration (1st)
VE Day (8th)
Ascension Day

Air Show
French Open
Tour de France

Bastille Day (14th) National Holiday

Many museums, restaurants, and other facilities are closed for the traditional Parisian vacation month.
Assumption (15th)

All Souls' Day (1st)
Armistice Day (11th)
Beaujolais Nouveau (18th) Wine Festival

21. Famous Citizens

Robert de Sorbon (120174), philosopher and theologian, founded the Sorbonne, which became the University of Paris.

Nostradamus (b. Michel de Notredame, 150366), philosopher and astrologer.

René Descartes (15961650), father of modern mathematics.

Louis XIV, the "Sun King" (16381715), built the palace of Versailles.

Molière (b. Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, 16221673), playwright.

Napoleon Bonaparte (b. Napoleone Buonaparte, 17691821), Emperor of France from 1805 to 1809 and from 1810 to 1814.

Jean-François Champollion (17901832), discovered the Rosetta Stone.

Pierre Auguste Renoir (18411919), Claude Monet (18401926), Edouard Manet (183283)all French painters of the Impressionist style.

Victor Hugo (180285), one of the greatest and most prolific of all French writers, wrote Notre-Dame de Paris (Hunchback).

Alfred Dreyfus (18591935), involved in exposing the French government's policy of anti-Semitism, accused of treason, and exonerated in a famous court-martial.

Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann (180991), created wide boulevards which mark modern Paris and improved sewer system.

Alexandre Gustave Eiffel (18321923), engineer and one of the founders of aerodynamics, built the Eiffel Tower for the World's Fair of 1889 and designed the locks for the Panama Canal.

Georges Bizet (183875), composer of the operas Carmen and The Pearl Fishers.

General Charles de Gaulle (18901970), famous World War II general who helped Eisenhower with the World War II D-Day invasion of Normandy to defeat Hitler and Nazi Germany.

Maurice Chevalier (18881972), French singer and movie star (Gigi ).

Edith Piaf (191563), songstress nicknamed the "sparrow".

François Truffaut (193284), cinematographer who invented the nouvelle vague of the film industry.

Jean-Paul Sartre (190580), father of the philosophical movement of existentialism.

Simone de Beauvoir (190886), author of The Second Sex.

Albert Camus (191360), philosopher and writer.

Antoine de St. Exupéry (190044), World War II pilot, best known for his short novel The Little Prince.

Brigitte Bardot (b. Camille Javal, 1934), most famous French female movie star.

Gérard Dépardieu (b. 1948), French and American movie star.

22. For Further Study


Air France airline. [Online] Available (accessed December 20, 1999).

La Conciergerie. [Online] Available (accessed December 20, 1999).

Paris Pages. [Online] Available (accessed December 20, 1999).

Paris Tourist Office. [Online] Available (accessed December 20, 1999).

RATP. [Online] Available (accessed December 20, 1999).

Smartweb. [Online] Available (accessed December 20, 1999).

SNCF. [Online] Available (accessed December 20, 1999).

Government Offices

American Embassy in Paris
2 Rue St. Florentin
Paris, 75001

Tourist and Convention Bureaus

France and Paris Tourism
444 Madison Ave.
N.Y., N.Y. 10020
(212) 838-7800

676 N. Michigan Ave. #3360
Chicago, IL 60611

9494 Wilshire Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90212


Guide Michelin, Paris. John Murray Publishers, 1999.

Insight Guide Paris. Maspeth, NY: Langenscheit Publishers, 1999.

Jones, Colin. The Cambridge Illustrated History of France. London: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

Paris. London: Dorling Kindersley, 1999.

Safran, William. The French Polity. New York and London: Longman, 1985.


The Louvre (narrated by Charles Boyer). Monterey Home Video., n.d.


views updated May 18 2018


PARIS. In the early modern period Paris became the city it has been for most of its modern history: the true capital of France, one of the great cities in the world, and a cosmopolitan center of European cultural and intellectual life. Before the sixteenth century, its profile was less grand. Besides its status as a legal and ecclesiastical center, dense with courts and churches, its main claim to renown was the Sorbonne, perhaps the leading university in all of Europe, which attracted students and scholars from far and wide. Though the political capital of the realm, it was not the primary residence of French kings, who mostly remained itinerant, preferring Fontainebleau or the royal castles of the Loire valley to Paris. This would change in the course of the sixteenth century. After 1528, Francis I (ruled 15151547) made Paris his principal place of residence. When Henry IV (ruled 15891610) triumphantly entered Paris in 1598 he proclaimed: "Only now am I king of France." His reign would initiate a series of changes that set Paris on its modern course.


Unlike other French cities, Paris was never granted a charter of liberties that guaranteed a measure of independence from the crown. Its very geography was dominated by seigneurial powers: primarily the king, the archbishop of Paris, and the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, each of which had the right to exercise fiscal and legal control over parts of the city. Paris did have its own governing institutions, but even here there was division, competition, and overlapping jurisdictions. The main site of municipal government was the Hôtel de Ville, where the prévôt des marchands, along with four échevins (aldermen), sixteen quarteniers (district officers), and twenty-four city councillors exercised their power. The Hôtel de Ville regulated river traffic, collected rents from market stalls, and received various fees and duties from commercial transactions. It was rivaled by the Châtelet, which had jurisdiction over the city's courts and prisons. Although the Parlement of Paris had authority over a wide expanse of northern and central France, it paid particular attention to the city's affairs, frequently challenging the power of both the Hôtel de Ville and the Châtelet. Finally, a royal appointee, the prévôt of Paris, rendered justice in the king's name.


Francis I's decision to reside in Paris symbolized the monarchy's renewed commitment to the capital, manifested by a new royal chateau in the Bois de Boulogne and the refurbishing of the Louvre. But it was not until after the Wars of Religion that the imprint of the royal hand began to be seen throughout in the city. Henry IV extended the Louvre, constructed the Place Royale (now Place des Vosges), and completed the Pont-Neuf, the major bridge across the Seine. His widow, Marie de Médicis, erected her own palace, the Luxembourg. She was emulated by Cardinal Richelieu, whose Palais Cardinal became the center of a new area of urban development. The reign of Louis XIV (16431715) witnessed a veritable boom in public squares. Pioneered under the first Bourbon, they became emblematic of the monarchy's hold on the city, with their royal statues standing in the squares' center. Louis's personal dislike of Paris is legendary, but his minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert had visions of the capital as a second Rome. He demolished the old walls, graced the periphery with tree-lined boulevards, and installed new public fountains and street lanterns throughout the city.

Colbert's attempts at urban improvement were matched by royal intrusion into the city's governance. In 1666 he created the conseil de police and the following year the office of lieutenant de police, which exercised a broad range of policing activities. Thus not only crime in its myriad forms, but also much of the city's daily life came under royal super-vision and control, largely through the forty commissaires de police and a corps of inspectors who were responsible for patrolling Paris's neighborhoods. The prévôt des marchands, once elected from the mercantile elite, now tended to be chosen by the king from among his officials. The city's neighborhood officials were stripped of their former functions. In short, even though Louis XIV rarely set foot in his capital, monarchical authority prevailed over its municipal institutions as never before.


But other aspects of the city were in fact escaping royal control. Paris was growing and expanding, in part because of the enlarged royal administration, which fostered a steady increase in the number of officials, lawyers, judges, and aristocrats living in the city. Its population went from 250,000 in the mid-sixteenth century to nearly 700,000 on the eve of the Revolution. Much of that growth was in the burgeoning population of artisans and tradesmen who served the wealthy residents, catering to the varied tastes and expanding needs of urban consumers. In the early part of the seventeenth century, as part of the so-called Catholic Renaissance, the number of convents increased dramatically. The whole seventeenth century witnessed a building boom of aristocratic townhouses, with once marginal areas of the city, such as the Marais, transformed into choice neighborhoods for the elite. The poor too increased in number, attracted to the city by its charitable institutions. Urban growth began to run up against the obstacles of the city's traditional limits, something that the crown was intent on preserving. In 1638, an attempt was made to fix the city's boundaries by placing thirty-eight markers designating the limits of urban expansion, but to no avail. In 1670 Paris's city walls were finally torn down, a concession that its suburbs, especially those of Saint-Antoine, Saint-Denis, and Saint-Martin, were already part of the urban landscape.

In the eighteenth century Paris was second only to London in size among European cities. It had a reputation as a well-policed city, with its commissaires and police spies prowling its neighborhoods, backed up by the royal guard. It was also a city known for its amenities and improvements. In the late seventeenth century gas lanterns were installed throughout the city. Some of the clutter and crowding, so characteristic of early modern cities, was steadily eliminated in the course of the eighteenth century. In 1756 shops and stalls were removed from the Pont-Neuf. After Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot's reforms in the 1770s, the dead were no longer interred within the city limits; the Cimetière des Innocents, a gathering spot for all sorts of disreputable people, was closed in 1780, as was the Cour des Miracles, a notorious beggars' haunt. The Place Louis XV, soon to be known as the Place de la Revolution (now the Place de la Concorde), was constructed, offering Parisians a large expanse of open cityscape for strolling and congregating. The rue Royale, an extended boulevard, cut across a large swath of the city, connecting the newly constructed church of the Madeleine with the Place Louis XV. Although Baron Georges Eugène Haussman's great urban thoroughfares would only appear in the late nineteenth century, eighteenth-century Paris was already graced with several boulevards. The crown was still concerned with unauthorized urban growth, however. A series of edicts in the eighteenth century attempted to restrain the growth of Paris within fixed limits. And in 1780, the Farmers-General had a ten-foot wall constructed around the city to ensure the proper collection of taxes.


The royal court was at Versailles, but the city was the true center of the realm's cultural and intellectual life, especially after Louis XIV's death in 1715. It was the capital of print, with over 100,000 titles produced by its printing presses in the course of the century. The city's populace was relatively literate: in the latter part of the century, 90 per cent of the men and 80 per cent of the women signed their wills. Paris was Europe's prime theater venue, combining such establishment institutions as the Comédie Française and the Opéra with comic opera and a vibrant boulevard theater. It was a center of Freemasonry, with over one hundred lodges. A salon culture flourished among the city's cultivated elite in which ladies of fashion hosted gatherings that fostered the new sensibility of the Enlightenment. Art galleries, libraries, coffeehouses, and other meeting places abounded, many novel to the eighteenth century, which together served to create a kind of Parisian public. At the top of the cultural hierarchy were the royal academies: the Académie Française, the Académie des Sciences, and the Société Royale de Médecine, which by the second half of the century had largely been conquered by philosophes of the Enlightenment. Indeed, enlightened men of letters such as Voltaire, Denis Diderot, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau were commanding figures on the Parisian public stage, rivaling royalty in renown and importance. Eighteenth-century Paris was rich in by-ways for the cultivation and circulation of new intellectual and cultural trends, making it not only the capital of the Enlightenment, but the creative center of European culture for the next century.

See also Academies, Learned ; Cities and Urban Life ; Colbert, Jean-Baptiste ; France ; Francis I (France) ; Henry IV (France) ; Louis XIV (France) ; Salons ; Universities ; Versailles .


Primary Sources

L'Estoile, Pierre. The Paris of Henry de Navarre, as seen by Pierre de l'Estoile. Translated and edited by Nancy Lyman Roelker. Cambridge, Mass., 1958. Translation of Mémoires-journaux. (15741611).

Mercier, Louis-Sébastien. Panorama of Paris: Selections from Tableau de Paris. Based on the translation by Helen Simpson. Edited by Jeremy D. Popkin. University Park, Pa., 1999. Translation of Tableau de Paris (17821788).

Secondary Sources

Diefendorf, Barbara B. Paris City Councillors in the Sixteenth Century: The Politics of Patrimony. Princeton, 1983.

Duby, Georges, ed. Histoire de la France urbaine. Vol. 3, La ville classique de la renaissance aux révolutions, edited by Roger Chartier. Paris, 19801985.

Isherwood, Robert M. Farce and Fantasy: Popular Entertainment in Eighteenth-Century Paris. Oxford and New York, 1986.

Kaplow, Jeffry. The Names of Kings: The Parisian Laboring Poor in the Eighteenth Century. New York, 1972.

Ranum, Orest. Paris in the Age of Absolutism. Rev. ed. University Park, Pa., 2002.

Roche, Daniel. France in the Enlightenment. Translated by Arthur Goldhammer. Cambridge, Mass., 1998. See Chapter 20.

. The People of Paris: An Essay in Popular Culture in the Eighteenth Century. Translated by Marie Evans and Gwynne Lewis. Berkeley, 1987. Translation of Peuple de Paris (1981).

Robert A. Schneider


views updated May 14 2018


PARIS , capital of *France. In 582, the date of the first documentary evidence of the presence of Jews in Paris, there was already a community owning at least a synagogue, situated in the neighborhood of the present church of St. Julien le Pauvre. The murder of the Jew *Priscus, purveyor to King Chilperic, was avenged by a Christian mob – proof of the good relationship existing between the two religious groups. However, the sixth Council of Paris (614 or 615) decided that Jews who held public office, and their families, must convert to Christianity. When giving the council's decisions the force of law, King Clothaire ii ignored the baptism clause, reiterating the ban on Jews holding public office and laying down severe penalties for any breach of this. Although these two documents are proof not only that there were Jews living in Paris but also that their social standing was high, there is no reason to believe that one Solomon, who is mentioned as a toll-collector in Paris in 633, was a Jew or even an apostate. In the tenth and 11th centuries the Jews appear to have lived in the present Rue de la Harpe, between the Rue de la Huchette and Rue Saint Sévérin, and a street later known as the Rue de la Vieille Juiverie which lies between Rue Saint Sévérin and Rue Monsieur le Prince. In the tenth century a synagogue stood at the intersection of these two streets. From 1119 at the latest there was a *Jewish quarter, the vicus Judaeorum, situated right in the center of Paris on the Ile de la Cité; its boundaries were the present Rue de la Cité (the central part of which was called Rue des Juifs), the Quai de la Corse, and the Rue de Lutèce. The synagogue, which was 8 meters wide and 31 meters long, was built on the site of the present Marché aux Fleurs; after the expulsion of 1182 it was converted into the St. Madeleine Church. According to Rigord, biographer of Philip Augustus and one of the sources of *Joseph ha-Kohen's Emek ha-Bakha, Paris Jews owned about half the land in Paris and the vicinity. They employed many Christian servants, and the objects they took in pledge included even church vessels; jealousy of their prosperity gave rise to the rumor that they used the latter as wine goblets at table.

Far more portentous was the *blood libel which arose against the Jews of *Blois in 1171, appeared simultaneously in a number of other places, and reached the region of Paris. Even though *Louis vii, in answer to the intervention of the leaders of the Paris community, promised to take care that no similar accusation arose in the future and above all that no persecution resulted from it, he was unable to prevent this slander from being deeply engrained in the public mind, even among children. Thus Philip Augustus was told by a playmate when he was only six years old that Jews killed Christian children; according to his biographer, the hatred he conceived at this time was the origin of his expulsion order of 1182. On this occasion, the crown confiscated the houses of the Jews as well as the synagogue and the king gave 24 of them to the drapers of Paris and 18 to the furriers.

Rabbinical questions were addressed to the scholars of Paris from Rome around 1125. About 20 years later the rabbis of Paris took part in a *synod convened by *Solomon b. Meir (Rashbam) and Jacob b. Meir *Tam. In the second half of the 12th century Mattathias Gaon was head of a yeshivah in Paris; his son was the posek Jehiel. Among the other scholars of Paris before 1182 were the tosafists Yom Tov and *Ḥayyim b. Hananel ha-Kohen, the commentator Moses, the posek Elijah b. Judah, and Jacob b. Simeon, known for his activities in various fields. That the secular sciences were also studied is attested by the 12th-century epitaph (discovered in the 15th century) of one Zour, physician and astrologer. This stone points to the existence of a Jewish cemetery in Rue Pierre Sarrazin, behind Rue de la Harpe.

When the Jews were permitted to return to the kingdom of France in 1198 they settled in Paris in and around the present Rue Ferdinand Duval, which, coincidentally, became the Jewish quarter once again in the modern era. Around the end of the 12th century they lived especially in the present Rue de Moussy, Rue du Renard Saint Merry, Rue de la Tacherie, and on the Petit Pont; they were probably restricted to the Petit Pont in 1294, the date when residence in Jewish quarters became obligatory. However, the number of streets in Paris where Jews actually lived in the Middle Ages, as well as places named after them (Moulin aux Juifs, Ile aux Juifs, Cour de la Juiverie, etc.), was actually much greater; an exhaustive study of the Jewish settlement in Paris with precise dates is still lacking. The first scholarly history of Paris, written by Henri Sauval (1623–1676), barrister in the parlement of Paris, contained an important chapter devoted to the Jews (vol. 2, book 10, 508–32). Although permission to publish the Histoire de Paris was granted in 1654, it was not in fact published until 1724.

In the reign of *Louis ix, after the denunciations of Nicholas *Donin and Pope Gregory ix's order that Jewish books be examined, the famous *disputation on the Talmud was held in Paris in 1240. The Jewish delegation was led by *Jehiel b. Joseph of Paris. After the condemnation of the Talmud, 24 cart-loads of Jewish books were burned in public in the Place de Grève, now the Place de l'Hôtel de Ville (see *Talmud, Burning of). A Jewish moneylender called Jonathan was accused of desecrating the *Host in 1290, his supposed crime being revealed by various miracles. A commemorative chapel was speedily erected on the site of this alleged desecration (of which not only Jonathan and his family but also the whole Jewish community were accused) and the tale was spread in stories and pictures. It is said that this was the main cause of the expulsion of 1306.

Tax rolls of the Jews of Paris in 1292 and 1296 give a good picture of their economic and social status. One striking fact is that a great many of them originated from the provinces. In spite of the prohibition on the settlement of Jews expelled from England (1290), a number of recent arrivals from that country are listed. As in many other places, the profession of physician figures most prominently among the professions noted. The majority of the rest of the Jews engaged in *moneylending and commerce. In the space of only four years, as witnessed by the amount of the tax imposed on them, the Jews became considerably impoverished. During the same period the composition of the Jewish community, which numbered at least 100 heads of families, changed to a large extent through migration and the number also declined to a marked degree. One of the most illustrious Jewish scholars of medieval France, *Judah b. Isaac, known as Sir Leon of Paris, headed the yeshivah of Paris in the early years of the 13th century. He was succeeded by Jehiel b. Joseph, the Jewish leader at the 1240 disputation. After the wholesale destruction of Jewish books on this occasion until the expulsion of 1306, the yeshivah of Paris produced no more scholars of note.

After the return in 1315 the number of Jews who settled in the city and region of Paris – to judge from their contribution to the enormous fine imposed on the Jews of France a year before the expulsion of 1322 – was little greater than those who had lived there before. However, these few were left untouched by both the *Pastoureaux persecutions and accusations of having poisoned the wells. Relative to this community, the new one formed in Paris from 1359 was quite large. Notables of this period included *Manessier de Vesoul, procureur-général and commissaire of the Jews of Langue-d'oyl; his associate *Jacob of Pont-Sainte-Maxence; Mattathias b. Joseph, chief rabbi of France and head of the yeshivah (1360–85); and his successor, his son Jonathan, whose authority was contested by one of his father's former pupils, Isaiah b. Abba Mari, also known as Astruc de Savoy. Although Hugues Aubriot, the provost of Paris, took the Jews under his protection, this was to no avail against the murderous attacks and looting in 1380 and 1382 perpetrated by a populace in revolt against the tax burden. King Charles vi relieved the Jews of responsibility for the valuable pledges which had been stolen from them on this occasion and granted them other financial concessions; but the community was unable to recover from those blows, either financially or in number. Not many years later, in 1394, it was further struck by the Denis de *Machaut affair. Machaut, a Jewish convert to Christianity, had disappeared and the Jews were accused of having murdered him or, at the very least, of having imprisoned him until he agreed to return to Judaism. Seven Jewish notables were condemned to death, but their sentence was commuted to a heavy fine allied to imprisonment until Machaut reappeared. This affair was a prelude to the "definitive" expulsion of the Jews from France in 1394.

There is no evidence of Jews in Paris, not even of lone individuals, in the 15th and 16th centuries. In 1611 the physician Elijah of Montalto was called to the court of Marie de Médicis; though he had some contact with Concini, Marshal of Ancre, and his mistress L. Galigaï, there is no reason for supposing that either of these was a Jew. Still less should the old clothes dealers of Paris be taken for secret Jews just because their guild was known as the "synagogue"; in 1652 they murdered a citizen who used this term with reference to them. From the beginning of the 18th century the Jews of *Metz applied to the authorities for permission to enter Paris on their business pursuits; gradually the periods of their stay in the capital increased and were prolonged. At the same time the city saw the arrival of Jews from *Bordeaux (the "Portuguese") and from *Avignon. From 1721 to 1772 a police inspector was given special charge over the Jews, an office which the successive holders used to extort what they could from them in money and goods. After the discontinuation of the office, the trustee of the Jews from 1777 was Jacob Rodrigues *Péreire, a Jew from Bordeaux, who had charge over a group of Spanish and Portuguese Jews, while the German Jews (from Metz, Alsace, and Lorraine) were led by Moses Eliezer Liefman *Calmer, and those from Avignon by Israel Salom. The German Jews lived in the poor quarters of Saint-Martin and Saint-Denis, and those from Bordeaux, *Bayonne, and Avignon inhabited the more luxurious quarters of Saint Germain and Saint André. Large numbers of the Jews eked out a miserable living in peddling and selling secondhand clothes and rags. The more well-to-do were moneylenders, military purveyors (especially of horses), and traded in jewels. There were also some craftsmen among them: jewelers, painters, engravers, designers, and embroiderers. Inns preparing kosher food existed from 1721; these also served as prayer rooms since otherwise services could only be held in private houses – in either case strictly forbidden by the police. From at least 1736 an innkeeper from La Villette allowed his garden to be used for burials; after 1780 the Portuguese community acquired an adjoining plot of land which could officially be used for a cemetery. Soon after the Ashkenazim also acquired a cemetery, in Montrouge. Neither continued in use for very long but both were still in existence in 1971. The first publicly acknowledged synagogue was opened in Rue de Brisemiche in 1788. The number of Jews in Paris just before the Revolution was probably no greater than 500. On Aug. 26, 1789 they presented the Constituent Assembly with a petition asking for the rights of citizens. The Paris commune came to the defense of its Jewish residents, sending a deputation to the assembly to plead for them; full citizenship rights were granted to the Spanish, Portuguese, and Avignon Jews on Jan. 28, 1790.

After the freedom of movement brought about by emancipation, a large influx of Jews arrived in Paris, numbering 2,908 in 1809. These Jews were exempt from the general Jewish disabilities imposed by *Napoleon in 1808. Most of them lived in the present third and fourth arrondissements. In 1819, when the Jewish population of Paris had reached between 6,000 and 7,000 persons, the *consistory began to build the first Great Synagogue, in Rue Notre Dame de Nazareth. It stood for no more than 30 years and had barely been rebuilt when, in 1852 (the year of the foundation of the Rothschild Hospital), it became apparent that it was not large enough for a Jewish population which had reached 20,000. General difficulties beset the building of new synagogues (those in Rue de la Victoire and Rue des Tournelles were completed in 1877), but local difficulties led to the transfer of the Rabbinical Seminary of Metz to Paris in 1859. The consistory had established its first primary school in 1819; a second school was added in 1846, and three others between 1864 and 1867. At the same time charitable associations increased; their buildings frequently also served as prayer rooms for immigrant Jews. The capital was the seat of the Central Consistory of France (as well as the Consistory of Paris) and from 1860 of the *Alliance Israélite Universelle. Two Jewish journals serving all France were published in Paris: L'Univers Israélite and the Archives Israélites. The 30,000 or so Jews who lived in Paris in 1869 constituted about 40% of the Jewish population of France. The great majority originated from Metz, Alsace, Lorraine, and Germany, and there were already a few hundred from Poland. Apart from a very few wealthy capitalists, the great majority of the Jews belonged to the middle economic level. Alongside the peddlers, merchants, and dealers in secondhand goods, the proportion of craftsmen – painters, hat-makers, tailors, and shoemakers – was increasing. Many organizations and societies – the first dating from 1825 – encouraged young Jewish men and women to acquire an aptitude for and pride in manual work. The liberal professions also attracted numerous Jews; the community included an increasing number of professors, lawyers, and physicians.

With the loss of Alsace and Lorraine in 1871, the Jewish population of France numbered only 60,000 persons, almost two-thirds of whom lived in Paris. After 1881 their numbers were augmented by refugees from Poland, Russia, and the Slav provinces of Austria and Romania; this influx led to a noticeable increase in the percentage of manual workers among Parisian Jews. At the same time there was a marked increase in the antisemitic movement, particularly with the foundation of the journal La *Croix in 1883 and the agitation of E.A. *Drumont. The *Dreyfus affair, from 1894, split the intellectuals of Paris into "Dreyfusards" and "anti-Dreyfusards" who frequently clashed on the streets, especially in the Latin Quarter. With the law separating church and state in 1905, the Jewish consistories lost their official status, becoming no more than private religious associations. The growing numbers of Jewish immigrants to Paris resented the heavy hand of a consistory, which was largely under the control of Jews from Alsace and Lorraine, now a minority group.

These immigrants formed the greater part of the 13,000 "foreign" Jews who enlisted in World War i. Especially after 1918, Jews began to arrive from North Africa, Turkey, and the Balkans, and in greatly increased numbers from Eastern Europe. Thus in 1939 there were around 150,000 Jews in Paris (over half the total in France), the overwhelming majority Yiddish-speaking recent immigrants. The Jews lived all over the city but there were large concentrations in the north and east. More than 150 Landsmannschaften composed of immigrants from Eastern Europe and many charitable societies united large numbers of Jews, while at this period the Paris Consistory (which retained the name with its changed function) had no more than 6,000 members. Only one of the 19th-century Jewish primary schools was still in existence in 1939, but a few years earlier the system of Jewish education – which was strictly private in nature – acquired a secondary school and a properly supervised religious education, for which the consistory was responsible, in the synagogues, prayer rooms, and also in a few state high schools. As well as the French Jewish journals, the Yiddish press became increasingly important. Many great Jewish scholars were born and lived in Paris in the modern period. They included the Nobel prizewinners René *Cassin and A. *Lwoff. In the plastic arts Jews played an especially prominent part in the School of *Paris.

[Bernhard Blumenkranz]

Hebrew Printing

The first books containing Hebrew type issued in Paris were printed by A. Gourmont from 1508; and other works were printed during the next half-century. Robert Stephanus produced particularly beautiful Bibles between 1539 and 1556. Hebrew printing was resumed in 1620 by S. Cramoisy. When Louis xiii established a printing press in 1640, it had a Hebrew department of which, however, little use was subsequently made. Under Napoleon i the printer Setier issued some liturgical items. From the middle of the 19th century until the present day the firm of E. Durlacher, the first Jewish printer in Paris, has printed mainly liturgies.

Holocaust Period

On June 14, 1940, the Wehrmacht entered Paris, which was proclaimed an open city. Most Parisians left, including the Jews. However, the population returned in the following weeks. The German-imposed census of Jewish persons and businesses in November 1940 recorded a total of 149,734 Jews (over six years of age), 7,737 Jewish businesses (private), and 3,456 companies considered Jewish. The Jewish population figure was similar to the prewar one, but large numbers of Parisian Jews had preferred to remain in the southern, unoccupied French territory and a sizable number of well-known Jews fled to England and the U.S. (André *Maurois, Georges Gombault, Pierre Lazareff), while some, e.g., René *Cassin and Gaston Palewski, joined General De Gaulle's Free French movement in London. In August 1940 a number of Jewish shops on the Champs Elysées were stoned by French Nazis under German protection. The anti-Jewish measures which followed (see *France, Holocaust Period) first affected the Parisian Jews. Jews were active from the very first in Résistance movements. The march to the Etoile on Nov. 11, 1940, of high school and university students, the first major public manifestation of resistance, included among its organizers Francis Cohen, Suzanne Djian, and Bernard Kirschen (see also *Partisans, Jewish, in General Resistance in France).

The first major roundups of Parisian Jews of foreign nationality took place in 1941: about 5,000 "foreign" Jews were deported on May 14, about 8,000 "foreigners" in August, and about 100 "intellectuals" on December 13. On July 16, 1942, 12,884 Jews were rounded up in Paris (including about 4,000 children). The Parisian Jews represented over half the 85,000 Jews deported from France to extermination camps in the East; most of them were sent to Compiègne or *Drancy and from there to *Auschwitz, while about three convoys, in March 1943, were despatched to *Majdanek and one transport, in May 1944, to Kovno (*Kaunas). During the night of Oct. 2–3, 1941, seven Parisian synagogues were attacked. After an attempt to place the blame on the Jews themselves, it rapidly transpired that the attacks were instigated by the German sd (security police) in Paris (see *Gestapo) and carried out by French Fascists, led by Eugène Deloncle, with explosives supplied by the sd. ss-Brigadefuehrer Max Thomas, R.T. *Heydrich's representative to Belgium and France, was then recalled to Berlin, but his Paris subordinate, Standarten-fuehrer Helmut Knochen, kept his position and was even promoted.

Several scores of Jews fell in the Paris insurrection in August 1944. Many streets in Paris and the outlying suburbs bear the names of Jewish heroes and martyrs of the Holocaust period and the Memorial to the Unknown Jewish Martyr, a part of the *Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaire, was erected in 1956 in the heart of Paris.

[Lucien Steinberg]

Contemporary Period

In 1968 Paris and its suburbs contained about 60% of the Jewish population of France. Between 1945 and 1950 the Jewish population of the area grew from 125,000 to 150,000, and in 1968 it was estimated at between 300,000 and 350,000 (about 5% of the total population). In 1950 two-thirds of the Jews were concentrated in about a dozen of the poorer or commercial districts in the east of the city. The social and economic advancement of the second generation of East European immigrants, the influx of North Africans, and the gradual implementation of the urban renewal program caused a considerable change in the once Jewish districts and the dispersal of the Jews throughout other districts of Paris. The greatest change took place in the neighborhoods that in 1956–57 were still inhabited by artisans and small traders of East European origin. By 1968 the inhabitants of these neighborhoods had been replaced by the most impoverished of the North African immigrants. Between 1945 and 1968, the urbanization of the Paris region became accelerated. In 1941 10% of the Jews of Paris resided in the inner suburbs of the city; by 1966 about 20% were living outside the city limits. North African Jews were partly relocated in the large housing developments reserved for repatriated citizens. Between 1957 and 1966 the number of Jewish communities in the Paris region rose from 44 to 148. Like other suburban inhabitants, the Jews were employed mostly in Paris.

Paris is the center of Jewish activities in France, as all the major institutions have their headquarters there. The Paris Consistory, traditionally presided over by a member of the *Rothschild family, officially provides for all religious needs. Approximately 20 synagogues and meeting places for prayer observing Ashkenazi or Sephardi (North African) rites are affiliated with the consistory, which also provides for the religious needs of new communities in the suburbs. This responsibility is shared by traditional Orthodox elements, who, together with the Reform and other independent groups, maintain another 30 or so synagogues. The Orientation and Information Office of the Fonds Social Juif Unifié has advised or assisted over 100,000 refugees from North Africa. It works in close cooperation with government services and social welfare and educational institutions of the community. The numerous educational and cultural activities of various kinds include efforts to draw young people and intellectuals back into the Jewish community. From 1957 the *World Jewish Congress held an annual French-language colloquium of intellectuals. The Centre Universitaire d'Etudes Juives (cuej) exists for the purpose of introducing university students to Jewish culture. Paris was one of very few cities in the Diaspora with a full-fledged Israel-type school, conducted by Israel teachers according to the Israel curriculum. It served the relatively large colony of Israelis, as well as some French Jews who aspired to give their children a genuine Hebrew education. Numerous cultural and Zionist associations also present varied programs for the Jewish public each evening. However, only one-third of the Jewish population maintains any relations with community institutions. The *Six-Day War (1967), which drew thousands of Jews into debates and pro-Israel demonstrations, was an opportunity for many of them to reassess their personal attitude toward the Jewish people. During the "students' revolution" of 1968 in nearby Nanterre and in the Sorbonne, young Jews played an outstanding role in the leadership of left-wing activists (see *New Left) and often identified with Arab anti-Israel propaganda extolling the Palestinian organizations, particularly the terrorist Popular Front, as an example of the Third World struggle against imperialism. Eventually, however, when the "revolutionary" wave subsided, it appeared that the bulk of Jewish students in Paris, including many supporters of various New Left groups, remained loyal to Israel and strongly opposed Arab terrorism, although many of them criticized the Israel government for "ignoring the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination." The tension created by the Six-Day War also exacerbated frictions and led to several violent clashes between North African Arabs and Jews in lower middle class and proletarian quarters of Paris. Young Jews began to organize for self-defense against physical attacks, but the clashes ceased mainly through the intervention of the local police.

later developments

Since the 1970s Paris has undergone important urbanization which has transformed the countryside. One can no longer separate the 20 arrondissements within the confines of the capital which in 2005 contained 2.15 million inhabitants out of the 10.5 million residents of the Parisian (Ile de France) megalopolis. The Greater Paris economic and social conurbation covers 12,000 square kilometers in which, however, the numerous municipalities retain their autonomous administration.

Estimated at 300,000–350,000 persons, the Jewish community of Greater Paris ranks third (after Greater New York and Los Angeles) among the Jewish cities in the Diaspora. Paris and its environs have always attracted migrants and immigrants: it is a cosmopolitan city in which there live together people of every origin, race, color, and creed.

Within this mixture, the Jews constitute a sizable minority in Paris proper (about 6%–8% of the total population) and in several suburban towns. The great wave of immigration of Jews originating from North Africa in 1955–65 changed the ethnic composition of the Jewish community in the Paris area: Sephardi Jews are now the majority, even if, with the exception of Alsace, the Ashkenazi Jews are more numerous than in the other regions of France. Within Paris proper, the formerly typically Jewish neighborhoods have taken on a Sephardi nature. Some of them are on the way to disappearing, while others have been "Judaized." Parisian Jews, however, live in every district in the city. The Jewish population of the Paris region is very mobile, partly due to constant urban renewal. In their new places of residence, they establish new communities, most often with Sephardi majorities.

Moreover, the best known Jewish livelihoods – petty craftsman, small tradesman – have practically disappeared. The Jews are found in every type of occupation and practice in all professions. They play an important role in the Paris intelligentsia.


All of the large Jewish organizations have their offices in Paris. Even if some of them intentionally focus their activities in the provinces, Paris remains the main decision making center of community life. This Jacobinism, a constant of French political life, does not strengthen community unity.

In principle, the main religious organization is the Association consistoriale israélite de Paris (acip) comprising the community synagogues of the Paris area. The acip, however, is skirted by a number of ultra-Orthodox groupings such as Lubavitch, which form highly visible groups on the Paris scene. The acip does not succeed in controlling its synagogues, their kashrut, and certain of their public manifestations. At the other end of the scale Liberal and Conservative movements are developing which are modern and open to Jews in search of identity; they play an increasingly significant role in the return to Judaism and in transmitting it among milieux recognized by neither the ultra-Orthodox nor by the Orthodox consistory. The religious sector faces serious competition from the large number of associations offering cultural activities, all types of recreational or even political events. These associations may number a few dozen, a few hundred, or even a few thousand members. Large or small, they are the place for frequent meetings among Jews of all religious, Zionist, secular, and political trends. They are the expression of the broad ideological diversity found among the Jewry of the Paris area.

Finally, one cannot forget those Jews considered "peripheral" by the organized community: they rarely, actually almost never, have any connection to any Jewish organization whatsoever. Parisian cosmopolitanism clearly favors the formation of free unions, mixed marriages, and divorces, most often without a get. These Jews are nevertheless Jews, perhaps not according to halakhah, but through their affirmation of their attachment to their Jewish identity. They probably constitute the majority of the Jewish population in the Greater Paris region.

Cultural Life

Paris remains the center of the intellectual and cultural life of French Jewry. Conferences, colloquia, exhibitions, and other focal manifestations of Judaism in all its multifacetedness proceed apace. Paris is the home of the largest Jewish library in Europe, that of the Alliance Israélite Universelle; another very important library devoted to Yiddish literature, Bibliothèque medem; and significant archival collections concerning the history of Jews in France. The Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine and its Memorial des Martyrs Juifs is one of the leading memorial sites for the Holocaust created after World War ii. A new Musée d'Art Juif is under construction. Yet, most research carried out on Judaism, its history, its culture, and Jewish languages is to a large degree integrated within institutes of higher learning. Numerous teams at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique deal with research which may be called the "science of Judaism and Jewishness." A dozen Paris universities have departments or courses of study devoted to Hebrew, to other Jewish languages, or more generally to teaching and research related to Judaism and Jewish studies. Paris today is one of the main centers for Jewish intellectual life in the Diaspora.

[Doris Bensimon-Donath]


Gross, Gal Jud, 496ff.; B. Blumenkranz, Bibliographie des Juifs en France (1963), s.v.L. Kahn for 10 works and many periodical articles; J. Hillairet, Evocation du vieux Paris, 1 (1951), 361f.; idem, Dictionnaire historique des rues de Paris (19642), index; idem, L'Ile de la Cité (1969), 34–37; I. Loeb, in: rej, 1 (1880), 60–71; M. Ginsburger, ibid., 78 (1924), 156ff.; P. Hildenfinger, Documents sur les Juifs à Paris au xviiie siècle (1913); L. Berman, Histoire des Juifs de France (1937), passim; Z. Szajkowski, in: Yidn in Frankraykh (1942), passim; idem, Franco-Judaica (1962), index; idem, Analytical Franco-Jewish Gazetteer 19391945 (1966), index; R. Anchel, Les Juifs de France (1946), passim; U. Issembert-Gannat, Guide de Judaïsme à Paris (1964); C. Korenchandler, Yidn in Paris (1970); David H. Weinberg, The Jews in Paris in the 1930s: A Community on Trial (1977). holocaust period: J. Billig, Le Commissariat Général aux questions Juives, 3 vols. (1955–60), incl. bibl. index; L. Steinberg, Les autorités allemandes en France occupée (1966), incl. bibl. index; C. Lévy and P. Tillard, Betrayal at the Vel d'Hiv (1969); Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine Bibliothèque, Catalogue No. 1: La France… (1964), index; G. Reitlinger, Final Solution (19682), 327–51 and passim; L. Steinberg, La révolte des Justes (1970), incl. bibl. 1945–1970: M. Roblin, Juifs de Paris (1952); C. Roland, Du ghetto à l'Occident (1962).

Paris, University of

views updated May 29 2018


One of the oldest and most influential universities of Europe, founded as a voluntary association of teaching masters in the 13th century.

Origin and Early Development Before 1500

At the turn of the 12th century, such masters as Anselm of Laon, William of Champeaux, Peter Abelard, William of Conches, Adam du Petit Pont, Gilbert de la Porrée, Alan of Lille, and Richard and Hugh of Saint-Victor had attracted to Paris large numbers of masters and students from all parts of Europe. As a result of the influx, many of the teaching masters, especially those attached to the School of Notre Dame Cathedral, found it necessary to teach outside the cathedral cloister. They lectured in the open streets, particularly in the Rue du Fouarre, in the schools of the Abbey of Mont Ste. Gene-viève; on the Petit Pont, and, in the vicinity of Saint Germain-des-Prés, on the left bank of the Seine, henceforth known as the Latin quarter. The masters thus removed from the immediate control of the cathedral organized themselves, in accord with the contemporary guild movement, into a corporate association bound together by oath.

The masters' association was formally approved in 1200 when King Philip Augustus accorded the masters the charter of privileges that guaranteed them exemptions and immunity from the civil and criminal jurisdiction of the local provost and his magistrates, and recognized that as clerics they were subject to their own elected officials and to the bishop of Paris. Between 1208 and 1215 the university obtained papal sanction as a corporate association with the right to representation at the papal court, to have a seal of its own, and to regulate the dress, method of teaching, and the funerals of its deceased masters. It also affirmed the university's independence from the jurisdiction and control of the cathedral chancellor. Although the chancellor retained the power to confer the license to teach (licentia docendi ), he could not withhold it from anyone judged competent or qualified by a majority of the teaching masters. As a result of another revolt against local authorities, Gregory IX reinforced the university's autonomous rights in the bull Parens scientiarum (April 13, 1231), often referred to as the Magna Carta of the university. The provisions of this bull reaffirmed the university's right to make its own rules and regulations regarding the curriculum, the individual members of the association, and the rents of hospices, and to call a cessation of lectures whenever any of these rights were violated or abrogated.

Organization. By the early 13th century the teaching masters were differentiated into four Faculties: Arts, Medicine, Canon Law, and Theology.

Nations. The Faculty of Arts, the most numerous of the Faculties and the stepping stone to the others, was at an early period divided into four nations: French, Picard, Norman, and English (English-German). These nations, representing primarily geographical regions rather than states or localities, were probably based on an earlier voluntary grouping of the masters and students according to the land from which they had come or in which they were born. Masters in the French nation came not only from France but also from southern and eastern Europe and from Asia Minor; in the Picard, from Flanders and the Walloon country; in the Norman, from Normandy and Brittany; and in the English (English-German), from the British Isles, Holland, the Germanies, and Scandinavia, as well as from Hungary and the Slavic lands. Each nation had its own elected officers: a proctor who headed the nation, a treasurer or receptor, and its own bedels and messengers to serve the nation and its members; its own chapel, patron saint and feast days, places of assembly, and revenues. Moreover, each nation drew up its own rules and regulations in the assemblies called by the proctors. The four nations, through their proctors and other officers, also maintained matriculation rolls, looked after the schools in which masters of the nations taught, and took care of members who fell ill or died. The proctors or other delegates of the nations elected the rector, who served as head of the Faculty of Arts and eventually as head of the university association as a whole.

Each of the four Faculties had its own similar officers, statutes, and schools: in the Faculty of Arts the executive officer was the rector; in the three Faculties of Medicine, Canon Law, and Theology, a dean was chosen by the members of his Faculty. The deans, like the rector, presided over the Faculty congregations that discussed and drew up measures relating to the Faculty as a whole: curriculum, qualifications for matriculation and for obtaining the baccalaureate or other degrees, and the rules governing the determination or defense of the thesis by candidates for the degree or license to teach.

University Council. The other administrative agencies of the university were the council and the general university congregation. The council, which met at stated intervals and was made up of the rector, the three deans, and the four proctors of the nations, examined and acted upon matters relating to the university association and its members. It was at the university congregation, however, to which were summoned all the teaching masters, that measures affecting the teaching, the relations of the university to the outer world, and other matters, were drawn up, debated, and voted upon. At these congregations, and in accordance with specified rules, other officers elected to assist the rector in carrying out university measures were the bedels, treasurer, messengers, peciarii (supervisors of texts), parchment dealers, booksellers, and copyists or scribes.

Colleges. Since the University of Paris was a masters' association, the students were attached to it only through the masters and therefore at first lacked discipline and supervision outside the schools. To fill this need, as well as to provide for the basic necessities of food, lodging, and a small stipend for poor scholars, from an early date philanthropists and other benefactors endowed hostels or colleges. Provision was thus made for poor scholars and for those coming from specified localities. Examples of the former are the College of Eighteen (Collège des dix-huits); the College of the Good Children of St. Honoré, founded by Étienne Belot and his wife; and Ave Maria College. Illustrative of the latter are the Colleges of Bayeux and Narbonne, France, and of Linkoping and Skara, Sweden. The Collège de Sorbonne was founded by Robert de sorbon to accommodate poor scholars who were already masters of arts but who were studying in the Faculty of Theology. In time several colleges became places of instruction as well as of lodging.

Curriculum. The curriculum of the university was administered under the four Faculties. In the Faculty of Arts, instruction was based on the liberal arts, the mastery of which was to serve as the foundation and stepping stone for higher Faculties. The course of study in medicine comprised lectures on the Latin translations of the works of the Greek physicians Hippocrates and Galen, of the Arabic physicians Rasis and Avicenna, and of some Latin authors, with practical experience under the direction of a doctor of medicine for six months in Paris and for one year outside the city. In Canon Law the principal texts studied were the Decretum of Gratian, together with several additions, namely, the Decretals of Gregory IX, the Liber Sextus of Boniface VIII, the Constitutions of Clement V, and the Extravagantes or collection of papal laws. In theology instruction was centered upon the Bible, the works of the Church Fathers, Peter Lombard's Sentences, and compilations of Thomas Aquinas's Questiones and Summae, as well as upon some works of other medieval authors.

Method of Instruction. In general use was the lecture or commentary and gloss on a specific text, followed by the repetition or review and the collatio or discussion and conference. The lectures were usually divided into the ordinary, those given in the morning by the members of the Faculty, and the extraordinary or cursory, usually given in the late-afternoons or on feast days by guest lecturers or bachelors in the Faculty. In addition, there were disputations that applied the rational method of inquiry in the presentation, explanation, and proving of a specific proposition and the answering of objections raised against it. Frequent references were made to the Bible, the Fathers, Aristotle, and other standard authors. There were also the Quodlibeta disputations and the disputed questions. In the former, at a public session, the professor in charge was asked questions at random from the leading topics of the day. A bachelor closely associated with the professor then gave tentative replies; at a later session the professor made a formal reply in the form of a disputation. In the disputed questions, the professor set his own question and then proceeded in the form of the disputation.

Examinations: Determination and Inception. At Paris, after following a prescribed course of studies, the candidate for a degree or license to teach underwent a series of examinations: (1) a private interrogation or responsion conducted by his own professor to ascertain whether he was ready for the examination for the determination; (2) after a careful scrutiny of the candidate's qualifications and fitness, the examination for determination, conducted by a committee of professors chosen for the purpose; (3) the determination, consisting of a series of disputations carried on for several weeks by the candidate himself. If judged successful, he was accorded the license to teach anywhere (Licentia ubique docendi ). The final step was the initiation or inception (inceptio ) into the Faculty.

Rights, Privileges, Immunities. The University of Paris and its members, through the grants and support of the French monarchs and the papacy, held a highly privileged position. It enjoyed, among other exemptions, immunity from the civil and criminal jurisdiction of the local magistrates, from the disciplinary ban of excommunication by the local bishop, from all tolls and taxes as well as from military and other levies except under very unusual circumstances, and freedom from the obligation to respond to summons to civil or ecclesiastical courts outside the city of Paris except under the direct will of the pope. The university had the right to make and enforce rules and regulations for its own members; to set up courses and examinations; to regulate the time, content, and method of teaching; and to determine the rent of houses occupied by its members. University members also enjoyed the right to be named to vacant benefices, to be preferred to all others for appointment whenever such vacancies occurred, and to enjoy the returns of their benefices while they were studying at Paris for a period of from five to seven years. In the 13th century, moreover, they could call a cessation of lectures whenever their rights were violated. The provost of Paris served as the conservator of royal privileges; one of the bishops outside Paris, but in its vicinity, acted as the conservator of apostolic privileges.

Influence. The fame and importance of the University of Paris between the 13th and 15th centuries attracted many famous European scholars and theologians: roger bacon, alexander of hales, albert the great, thomas aquinas, bonaventure, duns scotus, Jean Buridan, william of ockham, Nicole Oresme, Jean gerson, peter of ailly, and others. The university's influence was far-reaching. Not only did it provide a model for the universities of northern Europe founded before 1500, but through its professors and graduates, bound to it in perpetuity by an oath, it made a strong impression upon contemporary thought and action. Many of its graduates were leaders in affairs of church and state: Innocent III, Gregory IX, Urban IV, and other popes as well as bishops, archbishops, and others who served as royal and ecclesiastical judges, counselors, and administrators. Doctors on the Medical Faculty, moreover, served as royal and papal physicians; other members of the university gave aid and counsel to the French monarchs, participated in the theological and doctrinal discussions of the time, served in the peace commissions during the Hundred Years' War, and played an important role in the Council of constance, which healed the papal schism.

Bibliography: h. rashdall, The Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages, ed. f. m. powicke and a. b. emden, 3 v. (new ed. Oxford 1936). l. j. daly, The Medieval University, 12001400 (New York 1961). p. kibre, The Nations in the Mediaeval Universities (Cambridge, Mass. 1948); Scholarly Privileges in the Middle Ages (Cambridge, Mass. 1962). l. halphen et al., Aspects de l'Université de Paris (Paris 1949). j. bonnerot, L'Université de Paris du moyen âge à nos jours (Paris 1933). a. l. gabriel, Student Life in Ave Maria College, Mediaeval Paris (Notre Dame, Ind.1955); Skara House at the Mediaeval University of Paris (Notre Dame, Ind. 1960); "The College System in the Fourteenth Century Universities," The Forward Movement of the Fourteenth Century, ed. f. l. utley (Columbus, Ohio 1961). p. glorieux, Les Origines du Collège de Sorbonne (Notre Dame, Ind. 1959).

[p. kibre]

Later History

Although the university's prestige was not enhanced throughout the 14th century, its numbers increased regularly (almost 800 master regents in the Faculty of Arts alone in 1408). It was "Milady the University, daughter of the king of France," and its members were conscious of its importance. The intellectual vigor of the 13th century, however, was lacking during the 14th and 15th centuries when minds went astray in subtle and often futile discussions. In 1400 Gerson said of his colleagues: "The theologians are the laughing stock of the other Faculties."

The western schism, in which the university took sides, dealt it a heavy blow. It not only turned certain students away, but what was still more serious, it provoked the departure of certain masters for Prague, Vienna, Cologne, or Heidelberg. Finally, the English conquest and occupation of Paris, to which the university rallied, and the establishment in the 15th century of several universities in France (Caen, Poitiers, Bordeaux) dimmed its radiance. Its renown was sustained, nevertheless, by such masters as Pierre d'Ailly (13501420) and Gerson (13631420).

The university, moreover, greatly impaired its intellectual prestige by allowing itself to become deeply involved in the Western Schism. After having rallied under pressure from Charles V of France to the French anti-pope, Clement VII (Robert of Geneva), the university decided in an assembly of the four Faculties to submit the matter of allegiance to the council (1381), thus following the teaching of its two illustrious masters, Conrad of Gelnhausen and Henry of Langenstein. It henceforth adhered to the resolution of the council, from which it did not swerve except when obliged by force to propose the abdication of the rival popes (1394) or the withdrawal of obedience (1398 and 140608). At the Council of Constance (141518), it was the Parisian masters Pierre d'Ailly, Guillaume Fillastre, and Gerson who were the leading spokesmen.

The university was no less engaged in political controversy than in religious disputes. In 1413 it condemned the theories justifying tyrannicide; but in 1418 the duke of Burgundy forced it to reverse its decision. Likewise, in February of 1413, the university joined the people of Paris in asking the king for reforms; in May it took part in the preparation of the ordonnances cabochiennes that prescribed the reforms.

Soon overcome by popular violence (of which Gerson was personally a victim), the university broke with the Cabochians and by its presence approved the session of the Parlement in which the king dissolved the ordonnances cabochiennes (September of 1413).

These political entanglements and the reversal of loyalty that often accompanied them could not enhance the authority of the university. The deterioration of scholastic methods also dimmed its scientific brilliance. Faced with growing humanism, the University of Paris could not recover its pristine vigor. When it became evident that a new body of teaching was necessary, the crown created it outside the aged body of the university, which had fought against registration of the concordat of 1516 in the name of Gallican liberty and thereby opposed both pope and king. In 1530 Francis I established royal lectors to answer the intellectual needs of the new age; the lectors later separated from the university to become the collÈge de france (built in 1610 on its present site). During the religious crises of the 16th century, the Faculty of Theology aligned itself against the reformers, while the university as a whole opposed the admission of Jesuits into France.

In 1598 Henry IV (whom the university had recognized the day following his entry into Paris) reformed the university, determining the discipline, the living arrangements of the students, and the curriculum. For the first time, university regulations were established without the intervention of ecclesiastical authority.

Development in the 17th and 18th Centuries. The university continued its educational function of training lawyers, physicians, and jurists. Just as it had been untouched by the spirit of the Renaissance, it remained insensitive to the great philosophical currents and the first signs of a modern scientific spirit.

At the beginning of the 17th century the Sorbonne became the center of the Faculty of Theology not only because of the quality of its teachers but also because of the number of its students. Cardinal Armand Jean du Plessis Richelieu, elected headmaster of the Sorbonne in 1622, restored and enlarged its buildings. Since then the Sorbonne has been the center of theological activity and of Parisian university life. By its approval or disapproval, it exercises a kind of spiritual magistracy that reaches beyond the limits of the Ile-de-France.

The Edict of April 1679 reformed all French universities into four Faculties: Theology, Décret (which in 1679, with the reintroduction of Roman law in Paris, became the Faculty of Law), Medicine, and Arts (which gave access to the other three). The rector, elected by the proctors of the four nations of the Faculty of Arts, administered the entire corporate body. He was admitted to the Parlement of Paris and to the king's council whenever the interests of the university were in question. Each Faculty was headed by a dean, elected by the regent doctors. The master and student personnel was increased by the addition of registrars, collectors, lawyers, and attorneys who defended the university's interests in Parlement and at the Chatelet (law court) of Paris; and by bedels, booksellers, illustrators, and writers. Mendicant monks (Franciscans, Carmelites, Augustinians), as well as Dominicans, regular canons of St. Victor, Trinitarians, and monks of Cluny and of Saint Germain-des-Prés were also affiliated with the university. All enjoyed important privileges (tax exemption, jurisdictional privileges, etc.).

As in the preceding period, the concerns of the university extended beyond the strict framework of teaching. Several times the Sorbonne interfered in political debates under pretext of juridical or theological questions (e.g., condemnation in 1616 of the theses of the Jesuit Anton Santarelli, who taught that the pope could remove incompetent princes; the attack on ecclesiastical competence in the matter of marriage apropos the annulment of Gaston of Orléan's marriage in 1634).

These political involvements were proof of the university's prestige without, however, increasing its influence. Concerned mainly with professional preparation, the university left new research to the academies. In the period following the expulsion of the Jesuits (1762) and the closing of their colleges, diverse projects were published on national education (La Chalotais in 1763, and also others in Parlement) that contained requests for the introduction of subjects ignored by the university: modern languages, modern history, geography, physics, etc. Renewing the heritage of the dissolved Jesuit colleges, the university changed the Collège Louis le Grand into a training school for teachers. The enterprise, however, was not successful. On the eve of the Revolution, the Faculty of Theology had ten professors; Law had seven in addition to 12 doctors; Medicine had 152 doctors, of whom seven were teachers; Arts combined the principals and regents of the colleges; there were 5,000 students. A doctoral examination for recruiting teachers for the Faculty of Arts was inaugurated in 1766.

From 1789 to 1896. The University of Paris disappeared together with the other universities during the revolutionary years, without being formally dissolved. The law of the three Brumaire year IV instituting central schools reestablished an outline for higher education. Medical schools were founded in the year XI (1804). The term university reappeared with the law of May 10, 1806, establishing a national university for the whole empire. In fact, an Imperial University was organized by the decree of March 17, 1808. Within this university, and according to territorial distribution, were Faculties of Catholic Theology, Law, Medicine, Sciences, and Literature. The entire organization was subject to strict control by the emperor. Isolated one from the other, these Faculties were not federated into universities. It was not until the laws of April 28, 1893 (art. 71) and July 10, 1896 (art.1) that Faculties were regrouped into universities. Juridically the University of Paris was reborn (the system of French universities is actually ruled by the decree of July 31, 1920).

In fact, the Faculties of Paris had resumed work as early as 1808. In 1821 Theology, Sciences, and Literature had set themselves up in the "old house of the Sorbonne." The Faculty of Law remained in the buildings that were planned by J. Soufflot and constructed for it between 1764 and 1772. After the suppression of Theology in March of 1885, the university became fully secular in orientation.

20th Century Developments. The beginning of the 20th century witnessed a renaissance of the University of Paris as a center for education and research comprising the five FacultiesLaw and Economics, Medicine, Sciences, Literature and Human Sciences, and Pharmacy. After World War II, the University of Paris continued the expansion begun at the turn of the century. This increase in enrollment had been accompanied by the multiplication of new educational subjects and the ever-broadening horizons in exact and human sciences, in all of which the university has shown great interest. The influx of students and educational developments necessitated additional space for new laboratories, amphitheaters, libraries, and study halls. In a saturated city where one university alone must meet the needs of eight million inhabitants, it was necessary to consider a dispersion of educational and research centers toward the suburbs. By the 1960s the Faculty of Sciences had already acquired a very important center at Orsay, followed by further expansion to the west and north of Paris. Student protests and riots led to the national crisis of May of 1968 and the resulting restructuring of the university into decentralized schools.

Bibliography: p. glorieux, "La Faculté de théologie de Paris et ses principaux docteurs au XIIIe siècle," Revue d'histoire de l'Église de France 32 (1946) 241264. l. halphen and p. glorieux, L'Université de Paris au XIII e siècle (Paris 1949). a. luchaire, L'Université de Paris sous Philippe-Auguste (Paris 1899). p. michaudquantin, "Le Droit universitaire dans le conflict parisien de 12521257," Studia Gratiana 8 (1962) 579599. g. post, "Parisian Masters as a Corporation, 12001246," Speculum 9 (1934) 421445. m. toulouse, La Nation anglaiseallemande de l'Université de Paris, des origines a la fin du XV e siècle (Paris 1939). a. douarche, L'Université de Paris et les Jésuites (XVI e et XVII e siècles) (Paris 1888). c. m. jourdain, Histoire de l'Université de Paris aux XVII e et XVIII e siècles, 2 v. (Paris 1888). a. j. m. lefrance, Histoire du Collège de France, depuis ses origines jusqu'à la fin du premier Empire (Paris 1893).

[j. gaudemet/eds.]


views updated May 29 2018


pre-revolutionary paris
revolution and empire
bourbon restoration and second empire
third republic

When the French king Louis XIV (r. 1643–1715) abandoned Paris for Versailles in 1682 the city drifted apart from the monarchy, following a destiny that would prove momentous for France. Although it was still governed by royal appointees, only the law courts, legal apparatus, and those who served them remained in the city. The rest of the government, the court, and a massive cohort of hangers on and those who catered to the king and his courtiers, followed Louis XIV to his enormous, sumptuous, self-indulgent chateau, gorgeously decorated and furnished, with an elaborate iconography—worked out by the king and Charles-François Le Brun—that made the palace the principal shrine of monarchical idolatry.

Once Louis had left his capital he seldom returned for the remaining thirty-five years of his reign and never again lived in Paris. His great projects and buildings—the grands boulevards that replaced the razed city walls, two triumphal arches, Les Invalides army hospital and hospice, the Place Louis-le-Grand (later and still the Place Vendôme), among others—had no sequel in the last three decades of Louis's long reign or those of his successors. After his last great public work in Paris, the eastern facade of the Louvre (designed by Claude Perrault in the 1670s) the king lost interest in Paris, lavishing his money and attention on Versailles. The short-lived regency (1715–1723) returned to Paris but contributed little to the city, and when Louis XV (r. 1715–1774), the great-grandson of Louis XIV, achieved his majority, the monarchy definitively departed Paris. The steady stream of royal projects that had endowed the city over the centuries with so many great buildings, dried up. His two successors would add some important embellishments—most notably Jacques-Ange Gabriel's Place Louis XV (where the guillotine would soon stand, today the Place de la Concorde), the Hôtel de la Marine and the Hôtel Crillon that anchor it, Charles de Wailly's Odéon theater, and the École Militaire (the last royal project before the Revolution)—but Revolutionary Paris was not physically much different than it had been in Louis XIV's day.

pre-revolutionary paris

Despite its many neoclassical buildings Paris remained a medieval city. The tangle of twisted streets was shared and contested by pedestrians and horse-drawn vehicles; the few tallow lamps suspended by ropes cast the dimmest light; garbage, offal, and human waste were thrown regularly into the streets; mean hovels were attached like barnacles to the great buildings; the courtyard of the Louvre-Tuileries was filled with squatters and their animals; it was impossible to cross the city without navigating the patternless maze of streets; and an inadequate police force struggled to keep order. At midcentury (1749) Voltaire pleaded for urban renewal. He lamented the lack of public markets, fountains, regular intersections, and theaters, and he called for widening the "narrow and infected streets" and liberating the great buildings from the sprawl and squalor he contemptuously called "gothic." With his inimitable malicious wit he regretted that Paris had not had a fire like that of London in 1666, which would have cleared away the "dark, hideous" accretions of medieval Paris. Not until a century later would Voltaire's prayer for transformation be answered.


Any number of factors set Paris apart from the court and the kingdom. It was far and away the largest city in France and although no statistics from the ancien régime are either accurate or reliable, the city's population increased significantly in the eighteenth century. By 1789 its estimated population was between six and seven hundred thousand, and its surface area was three times greater than it had been in Louis XIV's reign. Literacy rates were unusually high: 90 percent of men and 80 percent of women who made wills were able to sign them. Town criers no longer read out rulings of the law courts, they pasted them up on the walls for all to read. The elites no longer had a monopoly on written culture. By the mid-eighteenth century almost every parish had at least one free school for boys (half as many for girls), and most Paris children attended long enough to learn to read and write.

Paris was not a city of nobles, despite their domination of public life. A good modern guess is that two to six thousand noble families lived in the capital and made up about 3 percent of the population. They played an enormous role as cultural consumers, and theater, music, and art in Paris easily rivaled that patronized by Versailles. They also employed tens of thousands of domestic servants, another significant difference between Paris and its rival cities. This nobility too was changing from the old stereotype of proud ignorance and contempt for the charms of civilized domesticity that went beyond hunting and war. As the French Revolution approached, richly bound books began to appear in the background of noble portraits, displacing the heretofore dominant military accessories, and there were a growing number—well over a hundred—sizable noble libraries in Paris.

The overwhelming population, however, was working class, although it is difficult to find equivalent modern categories for the vast variety of jobs, skills, trades, and occupations. With the exception of the Marais area, where the elite of the legal system lived in splendid town houses, the east side of Paris was poor, the west side was rich. It is no accident that the great urban uprisings of the French Revolution came from the neighborhoods of St. Antoine and St. Marcel, on opposite sides of the Seine but in the eastern quadrant of Paris. From painstaking splicing of evidence we know the numbers of the poor were growing. The last great subsistence crisis in France was in 1709. Afterward mortality rates gradually fell, chances of survival improved for children, and life expectancy increased. In the Paris basin the population increased by 32 percent between 1750 and 1790, which meant in reality an enormous increase in the numbers of the poor. Between these extremes were the bourgeoisie of the eighteenth century, a middle class made up of professionals, rentiers (living on income from property and investments), and businessmen (both large and small), with a smattering of manufacturers.

Grandeur and misère

Paris produced a unique new literature in the eighteenth century, one which would have a vigorous life until the present day: books about the city. Most notable was Louis-Sébastien Mercier's Tableau de Paris (1781–1789) and Le nouveau Paris (1793–1798), a sequel to the popular Tableau. These eighteen volumes contained, in no discernible order, the author's descriptions of the varied life of the city, contrasting the high and the low, the grandeur and the misère of the teeming capital—a theme that would be taken up by Honoré de Balzac in the next century—where walking was hazardous (there were more than twenty thousand carriages) and the mud of the unpaved streets was "filthy, black with grit," and stank with a "sulphurous" odor and the "tang of nitric acid" created by the domestic waste running in the streets. A "spot of this mud left on a coat will eat away the cloth," Mercier states.

What made Paris so volatile and unruly, so immune to control, was its size, the enormous difficulty of provisioning such a city, and the concentration of the poor and the working class in densely packed neighborhoods. The royal government (and then the Revolution) struggled to keep Paris fed with decent and affordable bread: the best recipe for riot was expensive and/or adulterated bread. The first riot of the Revolution began as small, spontaneous gatherings for self-defense and culminated in the attack on the Bastille. On 14 July 1789 the price of bread was the highest it had been in a century. The next important riot, the Women's March on Versailles (5–6 October 1789), which began as a market riot over bread prices, returned the king to Paris as a virtual prisoner and made the capital the epicenter of the Revolution. From then on Paris's central place and importance in France would be uncontested.

revolution and empire

When Louis XIV left Paris it was an unwalled city with a population of less than five hundred thousand living on twenty-five hundred acres. When Louis XVI was brought to Paris in 1789 it was again walled—this time in wood with fifty-two booths for taxing everything that came into the city (the hated octroi)—and had a population of more than six hundred thousand spread over seventy-four hundred acres. The attack on the Bastille was the first urban insurrection of the Revolution and definitively yoked the Revolution to Paris and its unique problems. The dreaded prison was demolished and successor governments would strive to put their mark on the hallowed ground where the sinister building had stood. During the Revolution the space remained empty. Napoleon I tried to erect a fountain in the shape of an elephant, which collapsed before it could be cast in bronze. The July Monarchy ultimately built the July Column, which still stands and contains the remains of some who fell in the revolutions of 1830 and 1848.

Soon after the Bastille fell the National Assembly moved from Versailles to Paris, where the deputies would be under constant surveillance by the radical populace. The most characteristic aspects of the Revolution—the political clubs, the deliberations of the various elected assemblies, the organization of the city into forty-eight sections that represented local democracy, the urban mobs who overthrew the monarchy on 10 August 1792 and would continue to pressure and intimidate the new government—and some of its most famous acts—the prison massacres, the king's trial and execution, the purge of the Convention Assembly, and the Terror—were Parisian deeds. During its first years Paris and the Parisians directed the Revolution, shaped revolutionary politics, and provided the militancy that drove the Revolution on.

There was no time to build during the Revolution. The revolutionaries improvised, taking over abandoned palaces and ecclesiastical buildings for assemblies, committees, and bureaus. The radical Jacobins met in a former Dominican cloister, and the National Assembly met for a time in the royal riding academy in the Tuileries gardens. The Revolution planned to improve the capital and strip it of its royalist identity, but got only as far as toppling some statues, renaming some places and streets, and making the Plan des Artistes, a carefully drawn, accurate, and influential map of the city with radical proposals for new streets and an attack on the medieval tangle of Paris. This plan, the first such to consider the city as a whole, the first to propose cutting straight streets through Paris, the first to imagine a modern rather than a medieval city, would influence all the subsequent governments until the Second Empire, when a new plan superseded the Plan des Artistes.

Napoleon Bonaparte (later Napoleon I, r. 1804–1814/15), who seized power in a coup d'état (1799), had grand plans for his capital. Like everything else Napoleon did, his transformations of Paris fell far short of his sometimes fantastic dreams. He imagined a city of ten million (the approximate population of Paris and its suburbs in 2005). In fact the population of Paris was about the same under Napoleon, who took the first census, as it had been during the Revolution. (The population did not begin its steady upward climb until 1817.) On the same scale of grandeur, Napoleon envisioned a gigantic palace for his son, the king of Rome, which was never built. Nor were most of his grandiose schemes built. Curiously Napoleon had no overall plan for the city. The many urban projects he undertook seem to have been inspirations or improvisations of the moment. But if he built in fits and starts he built a great deal. There were monuments to his glory: the Arc de Triomphe (unfinished at his fall), the Vendôme Column, the elephant fountain where the Bastille had stood, and the arch of the Carrousel (Louvre-Tuileries courtyard). He built the Bourse du Commerce (the grain exchange), the Bourse (the stock market), and a temple of peace (which became the Madeleine Church), as well as the rue de Rivoli adjacent to the Tuileries, the first east-west straight street in Paris, with its stately, arcaded buildings (left unfinished). He enhanced the Louvre-Tuileries, which became the imperial court (he never liked Versailles), and elegantly decorated the Malmaison (his home with Josephine) and St. Cloud (his preferred residence in Paris, now destroyed). He built the Ourcq canal, which improved Paris's water supply, as well as the abattoirs, a wine market, and two bridges over the Seine: the ponts Austerlitz and Jena. He was also one of the great Paris vandals, razing a number of churches and ecclesiastical buildings. He did little or nothing to protect the city's small and precious legacy from the Middle Ages.

bourbon restoration and second empire

After Napoleon, the city fell on spare times. The Restoration of the Bourbons (1815–1830), constrained by an enormous war indemnity, added only one significant Paris building: the Expiatory Chapel to honor the guillotined king, Louis XVI. The sluggish economic revival of the July Monarchy (1830–1848) allowed some building but it was piecemeal. Again there was no comprehensive plan for urban renewal. The population reached a million around 1846, but the timid bourgeois government was parsimonious and narrow-minded: the idea and practice of deficit spending was not realized until the 1850s. However, the cholera epidemics, especially that of 1832, persuaded everyone that Paris had to be cleaned up. The July Monarchy cleared the slums around the Hôtel de Ville, but cut only one important street, the rue Rambuteau: it foreshadowed the future. It was the first broad street cut in the center of Paris, through the dense urban fabric (next to Les Halles, the great city markets), and it was lined with new, uniform buildings. The regime also put in place all the legislation needed to condemn property for urban renewal, along with elaborate building regulations, and it made Paris the hub of the French rail system, just then being built, thus ensuring Parisian predominance in France.

It was Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, the nephew of Napoleon I, who as Emperor Napoleon III (r. 1852–1871) undertook the enormous task of transforming Paris. His authoritarian government, directed by a man worshipfully devoted to his uncle's every dream and ambition (both real and imagined) created the modern city in the spirit of the first Napoleon. The new emperor appointed Georges-Eugène Haussmann (1809–1891), a tough, egotistical, efficient, and arrogant career bureaucrat, as the Prefect of the Seine. Haussmann translated the emperor's vague desires into urban realities, and put tens of thousands to work reviving an economy recovering from the bad harvests and stock market catastrophes of the late 1840s.


The transformation of Paris was the largest urban renewal project in history, and so it remains. The street was the principle element and instrument of urban transformation, and a new word was coined: haussmannization

roughly means urban renewal by demolition. All his projects, except those streets in unurbanized western Paris, involved massive demolition. He cut great thoroughfares through the city, like saber-thrusts in the novelist Émile Zola's graphic image, razing whole neighborhoods to do so. His most radical project was the Ile de la Cité, the original cradle of Paris. He destroyed virtually all the housing on the Ile—it had become a slum—and left standing only official buildings and the great cathedral of Notre-Dame. So it remains, a kind of urban ghost town at night.

After carefully making the first accurate topographical map of the city, Haussmann divided the work into three réseau or stages, depending on their priority. The first projects were concentrated in the center of the old city, where he began by cutting north-south and east-west axes through the urban fabric to make the so-called grande croisée.

All the work was financed by substantial grants from the national government and municipal income (mostly from the octroi or internal customs duty on everything entering Paris), but there was never enough money, and Haussmann adopted some unorthodox financial expedients—most importantly deficit spending, at that time a radically new idea. He also invented other expedients that were dubious and probably illegal. He forced city contractors, for example, to give the city an enormous security deposit, which he then used for other projects, and even issued bonds based on future revenues. The city's debt, amassed by Haussmann, was not retired until 1929.

The new city taking shape within the old—some of which, especially on the Left Bank, was left intact—was quickly becoming one of the wonders of the Western world. The regular, rectilinear boulevards, lined with chestnut trees and stately apartment buildings whose height, distance from the street, ornamentation, and balconies were regulated by law, had many partisans, and still do. As impressive as was Paris above ground, Paris underground was even more so. Haussmann built an enormous sewer system, its channels and chambers following the streets above. After a long polemical struggle with the advocates of drinking water from the polluted Seine, he also gave Paris a new water supply, carried to the city by more than one hundred miles of aqueduct. The emperor had become enamored of parks and residential squares from his exile in England. Haussmann dutifully built parks throughout the city. The two largest, the Bo is de Boulogne (on the western edge of Paris) and the Bois de Vincennes (on the east) were described by Haussmann as the "lungs of the city."

Model city

Although Haussmann has been much criticized for his banal taste, disregard for the poor, neglect of some public services (especially schools), and his contempt for the medieval parts of Paris, he was also a man of vision. In 1860 he incorporated the surrounding townships, the so-called banlieue into Paris, thus nearly doubling the size of the city and immensely increasing its population. It is precisely here that the greatest growth and expansion of Paris has taken place since his day. He also proposed the novel idea of moving the cemeteries out of the city and serving them with a new rail line. This suggestion was rejected.

Whatever judgments one makes about the man and his work, he completed the transformation of Paris from a medieval to a modern city. He proudly enumerates, in his Mémoires, the kilometers of sewer pipe laid, chestnut trees planted, and new streets cut. But Haussmann's Paris is more than stone, infrastructure, and population control—the boulevard Sébastopol effectively divided Paris into east and west, and in the eastern part of the city (around the St. Martin Canal) he constructed one of his few strategic projects to quarantine street fighting. (Since the French Revolution street barricades had become the hallmark of urban insurrection.) Paris was, at least until the early twentieth century, the very type of a modern city, much imitated, much admired, and much visited.

Grumbling about the perpetual work site that Paris had become, resentment of the prefect's highhanded and callous manner and demolitions, and public complaints about the cost of the projects, brought Haussmann's dubious financial arrangements under attack. He was dismissed in 1870. Paris lived on and haussmannisme has remained the dominant form of urban planning until the present day.

The template of new streets and the architecture of the Beaux-Arts school lining those streets fixed the itineraries and the look of Paris well into the twentieth century. A few unique structures—the Eiffel Tower, for the World 's Fair in 1889 (the centenary of the French Revolution) and the Sacre-Cœur church (1909), originally built as a political deal to placate both the Left and the Right in France—broke sharply with the recent past, but there would not be, could not be, another major transformation of Paris until there was land to build on. With the destruction of the last military wall around Paris, built in the 1840s, land finally became available (1919), but only on the outskirts of the city.

third republic

Haussmann's disgrace, followed some months later by the German victory at Sedan and the collapse of the Second Empire, brought all his projects to a halt. Despite the Prussian siege of Paris and the horrendous bloodletting of the Commune, and the passionate resentment of the empire, its works, and the humiliations it brought on France, a number of the projects of Haussmann's third réseau were soon resumed. The Paris Opéra of Charles Garnier (1825–1898), the single most expensive building of the Second Empire, was completed and opened in 1875. A number of Haussmann's boulevards were similarly completed. Indeed haussmannisme continued long after its creator's fall, even after his death. One of the last Haussmann boulevards to be finished, ironically enough, was the boulevard Haussmann, completed in 1926. Walk down almost any of the new boulevards and it is difficult to distinguish the apartment houses of the Second Empire from those built thirty or forty years later. Young architects clamoring to be heard deplored the staid Paris of their fathers, the sclerosis of the Beaux Arts aesthetic, but haussmannisme held the city in thrall for decades. His legacy lived on.

It is striking that Haussmann's Paris, frozen in the old patterns and styles, should serve as the stage for some of the most innovative, daring, imaginative, and liberating art movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The impressionist painters celebrated the new city, with its distinctive boulevards and parks: Gustav Caillebotte painted his own neighborhood, around the new Opéra; Claude Monet painted the parc Monceau and the trains in the new Gare St. Lazare; Pierre-Auguste Renoir painted the boulevard des Capucines; Camille Pissarro did serial paintings of the boulevard Montmartre; Édouard Manet painted the new Opéra and the Gare St. Lazare. The brilliant efflorescence of the belle epoque unfolded in Haussmann's city: Marcel Proust's novels would be unimaginable without the Bois de Boulogne and the boulevards. Art nouveau, with its fantastic sinuosity, easily attached itself to Paris. The first Métro line was opened in 1900, on the Right Bank, and a number of Métro stations were designed by Hector-Germain Guimard (as well as a synagogue with an undulating facade, which still stands in the Marais), the father of the movement. Cubism, a contemporaneous development, did not contribute to urbanism or Paris street furniture.

By the turn of the new century, marked by the Paris World's Fair of 1900, the city had a population of nearly two-and-a-half million; the Third Republic had weathered, albeit desperately, the plague of political scandals and the Dreyfus affair; and the divisions in society, deep and poisonous, were engraved on the map of the city. The east end continued to be working-class neighborhoods, and would, with the surrounding communes, soon become known as the Red Belt, a voting bloc regularly supporting the French Communist Party. The banlieue, incorporated by Haussmann but largely undeveloped at the time, became another home of the working class, the poor, and left-wing

politics. It was here that massive urbanization, industrialization, and population growth took place. The city had been deindustrialized by Haussmann, now this policy was reversed. This centrifugal movement away from the center of old Paris by the poor and the working classes had been encouraged by Haussmann, who razed so much poor and marginal housing in the core city. The movement continued, and Paris became a city with a prosperous center surrounded on three sides—the western suburbs are wealthy—by potentially antagonistic populations (the contrary of most American cities).

The flowering of cultural life from about 1880 to 1914 masked much of the urban misery and tensions. After World War I the belle epoque appeared even more attractive and was retrospectively mythologized. But life in Paris, except for the happy few, was difficult in the decades before the war. Class antagonisms, always present, now had representation in the Chamber of Deputies (Jean Jaurès, the great socialist leader and orator, was elected in 1885 and again in 1893). Tuberculosis had reached epidemic proportions, and the city identified a number of îlots insalubres, which were declared unfit for habitation and destined for destruction. A wave of strikes between 1904 and 1907, both nationally and in the reindustrialized capital, accentuated the economic and social crisis, and war was in the air as Europe stumbled from one international crisis to another. The city itself had built no significant housing for decades, and the expanding population put extraordinary burdens on Haussmann's city. Nor had public transportation caught up until Paris began constructing the Métro system (rather later than London).

By 1900 Paris lagged behind many of the great capitals of Europe. Bedazzled by the belle epoque, the city had avoided its problems. Only a generation after Haussmann's Paris had captured the world's imagination as the very ideal of a modern city, it was being surpassed. Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand's witty remark about the life of the privileged in the last years of the ancien régime comes to mind: "Anyone who did not live before the Revolution cannot understand the art of living." In the belle epoque, as during the ancien régime, Paris was elegantly poised on the edge of catastrophe.

See alsoBerlin; Cities and Towns; Class and Social Relations; France; Haussmann, Georges-Eugène; Housing; London; Rome.


Chevalier, Louis. The Assassination of Paris. Translated by David P. Jordan. Chicago, 1994.

Everson, Norma. Paris: A Century of Change, 1878–1978. New Haven, Conn., 1979.

Favier, Jean. Paris, deux mille ans d'histoire. Paris, 1997.

Jordan, David P. Transforming Paris: The Life and Labors of Baron Haussmann. New York, 1995.

Marchand, Bernard. Paris, histoire d'une ville, XIXe–XXe siècle. Paris, 1993.

Sutcliff, Anthony. Paris: An Architectural History. New Haven, Conn., 1993.

David P. Jordan


views updated May 18 2018



Twentieth-century Paris was born in the 1860s, when Napoleon III (r. 1852–1871) put Georges-Eugène Haussmann (1809–1891) in charge of creating a capital worthy of France. This remodeling of an old city involved annexing the communities situated between the enclosures of the fermiers généraux (enclosures constructed between 1784 and 1787 for the purposes of levying a tax on merchandise entering Paris) and the fortifications erected by Prime Minister Louis-Adolphe Thiers in 1841. Paris would be served by a network of streets and boulevards able to accommodate the subsequent arrival of motorized transportation; it would possess a modern sewage system and water supply, as well as parks such as found in London. A geographical cleavage between poorer eastern and wealthier western parts of Paris during the first half of the nineteenth century, according to Maurice Agulhon, was marked symbolically by the "national-military imperial triangle" (composed of the Place Vendôme, l'Etoile, and Invalides) and "the liberal-secular-republican couple" (the Pantheon and Place de la Bastille). The Second Empire preferred to play up the economic power and associated values of the new France, represented by the new aesthetic of the railroad stations, such as the ornate restaurant at the Gare de Lyon, or the grand hotels and the Opéra Garnier, all to affirm the city's cosmopolitan character. One consequence was to reinforce—though perhaps less than once thought—the east-west division and the social cleavage between the older center of Paris and newer, wealthier sections of the city.


Governing powers in the nascent Third Republic in the late nineteenth century, and successive presidents of the current Fifth Republic, have all attempted to leave their imprint on the cityscape of Paris, the symbolic center of French government, finance, and cultural life. The Third Republic continued and completed the work of Haussmann without significant modification apart from the state's financial disengagement. The regime's pedagogic character and mania for erecting statues, which dominated the city until the turn of the century, prompted republicans to engrave their own values in the architecture of the schools and the mairies of the various arrondissements. Two statues in particular, each of which symbolizes the Republic, were erected at Place de la République and Place de la Nation, reaffirming the east-west division.

The World's Fairs of 1889 and 1900 were occasions for lasting edifices of another kind. The Eiffel Tower, opened in 1889, became for all the symbol both of the city and of a triumphant modernity, offering the world a new image of France. The Paris subway, inaugurated with the 1900 exposition, promoted a distinctive image of the "city of light." The city thus transformed was allowed to play host to dramatic spectacles that showed off France's new national identity—such as the funeral of the novelist Victor Hugo in 1885, when his body was transferred to the Pantheon, restored for the occasion as a civic temple. Similarly, the new Fêtes de la Fédération was an annual banquet for the mayors of France.

Such a profusion of construction erupted in Paris that it was soon saturated by buildings. Beginning in the 1920s, many existing structures were put to new uses, conferred with new symbolism. Indeed, the unknown soldier's entombment beneath the Arc de Triomphe was one example; another would be the transfer of the remains of the socialist politician Jean Jaurès (1859–1914) to the Pantheon in 1924. Construction of new monuments diminished for several decades prior to the 1960s, when urban planners in Paris created a project that might be dubbed New Haussmanism. This plan, inspired by radical designs for renovation presented by Le Corbusier (Charles-É douard Jeanneret; 1887–1965) in 1925 attempted to resolve the conflict between what was required to make Paris a great business center while still bearing the imprint of history and overall design. With legislation in 1962 (the Loi Malraux), the plan called for restoring historical monuments and full renovation of the decrepit peripheral neighborhoods that were annexed by Paris in the 1860s. The historic hub of food distribution in Paris, Les Halles, was transferred to Rungis, and the old Baltard pavilions were torn down to make way for the Forum des Halles, a shopping center inspired by the malls in the United States. Some new buildings markedly broke with the surrounding architecture, such the Tour Montparnasse. Whole neighborhoods were reconstructed from the ground up without regard for the original buildings or of the urban topography; this was the case at Front de Seine, La Défense, and Les Olympiades. Some buildings followed an international architectural style associated with the Fifth Republic, such as the Palais des Congrès and the Maison de la Radio. President Georges Pompidou (1911–1974) radicalized this modernization program, intending to "adapt Paris to the automobile and to renounce a certain aestheticism." He undertook construction of the voie sur berge by the Seine and the National Museum of Modern Art at Beaubourg. This architectural policy deeply affected the social fabric of the capital, which was losing small merchants, working-class jobs, and inexpensive lodgings, and declining in population.

This "second massacre of Paris," in the words of Louis Chevalier (1967), provoked a protest movement due to the conjunction of several factors, including studies that showed the importance of the nineteenth-century urban patrimony, the accession of Valéry Giscard d'Estaing (b. 1926) to the presidency, and, most important, an economic upturn in 1973. The plan for urban renewal soon was revised with greater concern for coherence of the cityscape, and renewed respect for the older lines of the city and for the overall fit of new construction within the existing neighborhoods. As one consequence, such projects as an express highway on the Left Bank and along the Canal St. Martin, more towers, and the "Vercingetorix" project behind Montparnasse were abandoned. The notion of historic monuments, broadened to include contemporary structures, preserved the Gare d'Orsay from demolition as well as the CitéFleurie, the studios of the painters Paul Gauguin (1848–1903) and Amedeo Modigliani (1884–1920), and many others. When he came to office in 1981, President François Mitterrand (1916–1996) set about creating an architectural program that was sometimes described as "Pharaoh-noiac." The new Parc de la Villette and the project known as the "Grand Louvre," which involved transferring the Ministry of the Economy and Budget to Bercy, were part of the grand travaux; so was construction of the gigantic arch at La Défense, the new Opéra Bastille, and the much-discussed Tres Grande Bibliothèque. This was done with the intention of permanently reorienting Paris by constructing prestigious buildings in a way that would overcome the older tendency to develop the city to the west, with marked effects on its political, cultural, and everyday life.


The state's stranglehold on Paris has not been accomplished exclusively or even principally through architecture. The domination has long been administrative and political.

For nearly a century, Paris was able to make and unmake political regimes, but this role diminished after the defeat of the Commune in 1871 and the rebirth of universal manhood suffrage in 1875. The law of 14 April 1871, passed with a majority of provincial representatives, restricted the role of Paris as much as possible and forbade its municipal council any political incursions into the nation's life. This legislation held with passage of the municipal law in 1884 after republicans were victorious. Paris, excluded by the law of 1884, remained without an elected mayor until 1973, when statutory modification brought it back under common law, permitting Jacques Chirac (b. 1932) to be elected to City Hall; Paris remains to this day formally under the supervision of the prefect of police.

Until 1909 Paris was politically Radical while the French government was obediently opportunistic and moderate. The municipal majority became right wing and remained that way even when the left wing took power nationally. However, the city recovered its role of opposition when Jacques Chirac was mayor of Paris and François Mitterrand became president of the Republic. Paris repeated the same pattern, passing power to the Socialist Party, at the time elsewhere in disarray, when electing a mayor in 2002 as the country chose Chirac the right-winger as president.

Its exceptionalism has long retarded the expression of a municipal identity that is distinctively Parisian. Putting to one side the city's motto, the capital has only with difficulty striven to acquire symbolic expressions; one example would be the equestrian statue of Etienne Marcel, provost of the Paris merchants of the fourteenth century, erected in the gardens of City Hall in 1888, though to little effect. Although a commemorative stela can be found in every commune in France, the honor of hosting the Arc de Triomphe with the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which symbolizes all the war dead of France, exempted Paris from erecting a monument of its own. Municipal efforts to impose itself politically have been unusual because of a war that forced the national government to flee the capital in 1914.


Extending over some nineteen thousand acres, Paris is considerably smaller than either London or Berlin. The prevailing population density is somewhat greater, with about five hundred inhabitants per acre. In the mid-nineteenth century the city was clearly more multifunctional compared to London, which early became associated with the service sector, or to Berlin, a mainly industrial city. So Paris remains. Before World War I, the old trades and professions that long occupied the center of Paris began to give way to upscale value-added industries. Industry moved from the center to the periphery of Paris, to factories in places such as Quai de Javel or Ile Seguin, which remained operational until not long ago, when they closed to make way for new construction. This phenomenon continued during and after the war. The automobile took over and remodeled the space of the city. The Salon de l'Automobile became an annual event; with 1933 came the lighted Citroën sign on the Eiffel Tower, and the metalworker, popularly called a Metallo, became another symbol of Paris.

The growth of industry brought employment to the secondary sector of manufacturing, which predominated until the economic crisis of the 1930s. When it began, deindustrialization was limited to Paris, but later it spread to include the entire region. An economic downturn during the 1970s only amplified this tendency. Half of all headquarters of companies that employed more than five hundred employees represented an unparalleled concentration of large companies, both French and foreign, as Paris and its surrounding region came to occupy a strategic place in the world economy. This "global city" forms part of a transnational economy as one of the four or five major centers of international business; it ranks fourth in the world in terms of production, third in productivity. Diversification, long ahead of London, has lost steam, and deindustrialization is more intense than in the provinces; by 2006 Paris had just 850,000 jobs in industry, compared to 1,800,000 in 1975. As a consequence, Paris, long a working-class city, has become a city of executives and service workers. Where in 1975 the latter outnumbered factory workers by two to one, in 2006 that proportion was five to one.

These demographic shifts have effected the organization of the urban space and influenced politics—whether it is a question of luxury office buildings around La Défense, laws and regulations for preserving the city's historic center, or concern over the environment. They have sometimes affected political theater, such as the bicentennial parade organized by the graphic artist Jean-Paul Goude on Bastille Day in 1989, or various cultural celebrations and festivals, often playing to foreign visitors as much as to Parisians themselves and contributing to the exponential growth of tourism. The city runs a risk of turning into a museum and creating a nostalgic image of itself; in less than twenty years the city has added some seventy thousand square meters of museum space.

From a demographic standpoint, Paris has never ceased to expand as a region in terms of employment. With some 1.7 million inhabitants in 1861, Paris grew rapidly, less because of a rising birthrate than because of its status as a migratory magnet for the rural population. Until World War II, most newcomers to Paris came from the provinces, fewer from the surrounding countries; to this should be added the cosmopolitan influx of intellectuals and artists. By the end of the twentieth century, inflow from the provinces had ceded place to immigration from abroad; 14.5 percent of the Parisian population in 1999 consisted of foreigners. By 2006 immigration in Paris was more visible than in the past, whether in terms of politics or culture. It created neighborhoods of high visibility that remained nevertheless the space of more micro-local cohabitation than was found in other capitals.

This demographic growth, first confined to the twenty arrondissements (metropolitan boroughs) of Paris proper (2.9 million inhabitants in 1921 and 2.2 million in 2006) early on extended to the small, medium, and large suburbs, the constituents of what in 1976 became the region known as the Île-de-France (nearly 12 million inhabitants in 2006). The lack of working-class housing (43 percent of the population in overcrowded or unhealthy housing in Paris in 1926), the price of available land, the need for housing and new infrastructure to absorb additional industry (water mains in the first place), and hygienic concerns all rapidly brought about the development of industrial and living sites outside the city limits. This phenomenon, which started in the 1890s, only grew more prominent in the 1920s without any special official policy or regulation. The suburbs nearest the city, collectively known as La Petite Couronne, grew up in an anarchic manner and resulted in widespread substandard housing. Laws designed to remedy the situation were adopted but had no chance of being implemented before the economic crisis of the 1930s. There was also the problem of public transportation, with the subways only serving Paris proper, unable to meet the needs of a growing commuter population.

Gradual destruction of the city fortifications started in 1919, and the municipal customs barriers, which came down in 1930, did not create a single municipality, as in London or Berlin. The "Prost Plan" for the region, developed in 1934, was not approved until 1939, on the eve of World War II. But legislation passed under the Vichy regime and after the war created a state-run urban zone. A conception expressed by Jean-François Gravier in his Paris et le desert français (1947) helped to guide a policy of decentralization that contributed to reduced industrial employment in the region (loi de 1955) and to the plan for urban redevelopment of the Paris region (PADOG), adopted in August 1960. The Fifth Republic's ambitious aims, however, soon rendered the program obsolete. A new plan, created in June 1965, envisaged construction of an entire region around eight new towns that would be served by a vast network of highways and a railroad system, to be known as the RER. It was only approved in 1976, just when the economic conditions prevailing at the time of its conception had disappeared. From 1954 the government also attempted to deal with the housing crisis that worsened with the baby boom and economic growth. Beginning in 1964 it undertook construction of mammoth housing projects in various locations in the suburbs, though I within a decade they were being severely criticized. The creation of these projects and its consequences were said to be a new urban disease known as "Sarcellitis" (after the first project, at Sarcelles, just north of Paris). The suburbs were largely unequipped to deal with the presence of these projects, either in terms of their construction or their inhabitants. Their massive development around Paris, together with the péripherique, the circular highway that separated the suburbs from the city proper, seemed to more clearly mark the frontier, preserving the sense of a fortified city, turned inward toward its center. Paris alone was created as a department in 1964.

The common law status accorded both city and region, together with the "general orientation" law passed in 1991, permitted improved financial arrangements and regional solidarity—limited, however, by new ways in which the city was developing. The influence of Paris as a "world city" continued to extend in ways that favored the networks, at the risk of new tensions between the city thus reconstituted and the abandoned interstitial spaces, as Marcel Roncayalo said in a 1994 article in Le Debat "that we know only are to be labeled negatively."

The Parisian population owes to its history and to all these various factors its diversity of cultures. The suburbs support various ethnic groups while individual neighborhoods in Paris continue to possess distinct identities such as can be found in Belleville, Ménilmontant, Montmartre, and Montparnasse. Paris is filled with professional and social groups of all provenance and kind. The population, taken as a whole, has so long been blended and mixed as to create a singular people defined by a way of life and thought. Lively urban spaces, from the Faubourg St.-Antoine to Belleville, Billancourt, Montparnasse, and Bastille all express the city's essence. This culture is not confined to Paris proper but, as Louis Chevalier suggests, can also be found in the surrounding banlieues (suburbs). Paris understood in this way has long meant a mix of professional, social, cultural, and ethnic categories that make for porous interaction among various groups. These powerful social mediators allowed for rich social relationships, attested to by the nature of family and social networks and the possibility of social advancement, which was easier in Paris than elsewhere.

From diversity arises the fluidity that has permitted this scattered aggregation to become a people—a single word representing the social complexity by which Paris grew unified and became whole. The special fabric of traditional neighborhoods and homes, more populaire than working class, has been part and parcel of the same process. Such neighborhoods have long constituted a powerful social apparatus for absorbing migrants of all origins; they are places through which they pass, not points of segregation. The working-class neighborhoods of Paris have mixed populations; they are open to a city of a modest size in comparison with London or Berlin, facilitating appropriation. One can walk and wander; quite unlike London, the cafés are open meeting places. Though tourists or the upscale public may rarely venture into the working-class districts—at least before the recent gentrification—the inhabitants of those neighborhoods move about as they like. In this sense, Paris creates social spaces and events that facilitate the circulation of people and ideas, and a mix of cultures friendly to creativity.

The loosely defined efflorescence of painting sometimes called the School of Paris, as one example, invented new images of the city and other modern works, some of which were influenced by Parisian street life. In another vein, occupation of the same social spaces and events helps explain French manifestations of social rejection and xenophobia, which were always less prominent in Paris than in the provinces. This is still true in the early twenty-first century, as indicated by the small number of voters for the political Far Right within Paris proper. The capital's history can periodically bring back to life all the various myths of the people and the city, something that constitutes an additional unifying factor. Images of workers at the barricades, evoked around Belleville and in the suburban "red belt," or le peuple of France as a whole, are evidence of an uncommon political identity.

Thanks to its history-laden streets, cafés, and boulevards, Paris constitutes an unparalleled politicized space. Its specifics are expressed in atypical ways, in its role, for example, during the Boulangist crisis of the 1890s and in the early stages of the emergence of the extreme right-wing patriotic leagues, which played a major role in French politics until their dissolution. Paris became the site of robust and frequent political interventions and street demonstrations that targeted elected representatives. It has ceased to be the place where regimes were created and undone and no longer represents France as a whole. That high-profile demonstrations in Paris in 1997, in support of the illegal immigrants known as the sans-papiers, were actually larger than 1995 manifestations in defense of social security indicated still more recently the existence of a "moral-minded people" as distinct from the "social-minded" people elsewhere.

Demonstrations in Paris can create important moments in the life of the nation; two examples are the battles between groups on the extreme right and the antifascists in February 1934 and the events of May–June 1968. Political centralization and the repercussions of events in the capital helped Paris remain influential in determining which issues acquired a national dimension and the point of reference for public opinion. In May 1968 la France profonde, its "silent majority," managed to make its voice heard only after the Gaullists organized a powerful demonstration on 30 May, at the same time that the dissolution of the National Assembly was announced. The riots taking place in "sensitive" neighborhoods only became a national problem once they reached the outskirts of the capital. This is the way that the rhythms of Parisian history and those of the nation continue to blend together.

See alsoBicentennial of the French Revolution; France; Le Corbusier; Riots in France; School of Paris.


Bastié, Jean. Nouvelle histoire de Paris: Paris de 1945 à 2000. Paris, 2001.

Chevalier, Louis. Les parisiens. Paris, 1967.

Danielle Tartakowsky


views updated Jun 08 2018


Paris, the largest city in northern Europe in the 1500s, was the commercial, financial, and intellectual center of France. Although the French royal court continued the custom of traveling around the kingdom, the nation's king Francis I made Paris his main residence in 1528. His action added political strength to the city's economic and cultural power.

In the first half of the 1500s the population of Paris nearly doubled, reaching 250,000 to 300,000 at midcentury. The number of residents fell in the 1560s and 1590s during times of war, but recovered during periods of peace. Most people lived in the crowded city center. However, buildings sprawled beyond the city walls despite repeated bans on construction. Royal officials erected large townhouses on the right bank of the river Seine away from the city center. The first signs of Renaissance architecture in Paris appeared in this neighborhood. The left bank of the river contained the city's printing shops, the University of Paris, and religious buildings.

Economy and Society. Agriculture, trade, and manufacturing formed the basis of the city's economy. As home to the nation's elite*, Paris supported a growing market for luxury goods. The production of such items became the city's leading industry. Over time, however, many wealthy merchants abandoned commerce to seek royal offices that promised greater income and the chance to advance into the nobility. They also invested heavily in land, which was associated with noble status, rather than in commerce or industry. In the long term, this hurt the French economy. Guilds* controlled most industries in Paris, although work performed by women fell outside of the guilds' rule. As the 1500s wore on, the guilds offered less opportunity for advancement. Besides guild members, the city had a large pool of unskilled laborers who often turned to begging during times of scarcity. The city established a public office to help the "worthy" poor, but those considered unwilling to work faced expulsion from Paris.

Government and Politics. A corporation of merchants governed many civic* functions. It built ports and roads, regulated trade, raised the militia*, and collected taxes. Although the merchants' corporation was an elected body, most of its highest officers came from a few wealthy families. These families often held on to their offices, even after abandoning trade and taking positions in government. Merchants who had little chance to move up in the ranks of the corporation filled most of the lower offices. Despite the presence of the corporation, the king often took personal control of city government. He delegated power to an appointed director, known as the provost, and a military governor, who ruled with the help of lesser officers. The king also used the merchant corporation and the high court of the French assembly, or Parlement, to carry out royal policies.

Taxes and forced loans on the city paid for many of France's wars in Italy and the civil wars of the late 1500s. However, the city's financial power enabled it to protect local privileges or to protest royal policies. Paris leaders displayed this leverage during the Wars of Religion, a prolonged struggle between Catholics and Huguenots*. The Catholic loyalties of the city's leaders made it difficult for French monarchs to negotiate and enforce peace treaties after several of the religious wars.

The Holy League, a militant group of Catholic leaders, eventually led the city in a revolt against King Henry III. The king formed an alliance with the Protestant Henry of Navarre to oppose the league. Before his death in 1589, Henry III named Henry of Navarre his heir. Navarre claimed the throne as Henry IV and laid siege* to Paris for several months during 1590. However, the league fell apart when its leaders began to argue among themselves. In 1594 Parisians allowed Henry's forces to enter the city. Henry showed mercy on most of the league's leaders but tightened royal control over the government of Paris. He also began a building program that boosted the city's economy and tied it more firmly to the crown.

(See alsoFrance; Wars of Religion. )

see color plate 8, vol. 3

* elite

privileged group; upper class

* guild

association of craft and trade owners and workers that set standards for and represented the interests of its members

* civic

related to a city, a community, or citizens

* militia

army of citizens who may be called into action in times of emergency

* Huguenot

French Protestant of the 1500s and 1600s, follower of John Calvin

* siege

prolonged effort to force a surrender by surrounding a fortress or town with armed troops, cutting the area off from aid


views updated May 09 2018


In Greek mythology, Paris was a handsome young prince who eloped with the most beautiful woman in the world and caused the Trojan War*. The son of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy*, Paris seemed destined for disaster from birth. Shortly before he was born, his mother dreamed that she gave birth to a flaming torch that destroyed Troy. Priam consulted a seer, who warned the king that the dream foretold disaster for the city. He advised Priam to have the baby killed.

seer one who can predict the future

nymph minor goddess of nature, usually represented as young and beautiful

When Paris was born, Priam ordered a shepherd named Agelaus to take the infant and abandon him on Mount Ida. Agelaus followed the instructions, but when he returned to the mountain after several days, he found the infant still alive. Moved by pity, the shepherd took the baby home and raised him as his own son. Paris grew into a very handsome young man. In time he married Oenone, a mountain nymph, and lived with her in the mountains, where he tended cattle.

One day Priam sent servants to the mountains to fetch a bull as a prize for a festival. When the men chose Paris's favorite bull, Paris decided to go to Troy, enter the festival contests, and win the animal back. The young man won all the events, defeating Priam's other sons. Agelaus revealed Paris's true identity to Priam and, forgetting the prophecy , Priam welcomed Paris and restored him to his rightful place in the royal household.

Some time later, Zeus* chose Paris to decide which of three goddesses was the most beautiful. Eris, the goddess of strife or discord, had tossed a golden apple inscribed with the phrase "For the Fairest" into the midst of the guests at a wedding. Hera*, Aphrodite*, and Athena* all claimed the prize. Each goddess promised Paris a special gift if he decided in her favor. Hera promised to make him a powerful ruler. Athena promised him wisdom and victory in battle. Aphrodite offered Paris the love of the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen of Sparta. Paris awarded the golden apple to Aphrodite. His decision, known as "the judgment of Paris," enraged Hera and Athena, who began to plan their revenge.

Paris abandoned his wife, Oenone, and went to Sparta. King Menelaus welcomed Paris and introduced him to Helen, his wife. Aided by Aphrodite, Paris won the beautiful queen's heart. While Menelaus was away, Paris sailed off with Helen, taking part of Sparta's treasure with him. According to some stories, Hera sent a storm that nearly destroyed their ship, but Aphrodite protected them until they reached Troy

In the war that followed, Paris played only a minor role. As a warrior, Paris was greatly inferior to his brother Hector*, and his cowardly nature won little respect. At one point, Hector forced Paris to fight a single-handed combat with Menelaus after the Trojans and Greeks agreed that this would end the war. When Menelaus came close to winning, Aphrodite stepped in and rescued Paris, and the war continued.

prophecy foretelling of what is to come; also something that is predicted

Paris later killed the Greek hero Achilles* by shooting an arrow into his heel, the only spot where Achilles could be wounded. Then Paris himself was struck by a poisoned arrow. He was carried off the battlefield and taken to his wife, Oenone, who had the gift of healing. Angry that Paris had abandoned her, Oenone refused to help him. When she relented shortly afterward, it was too late. Paris was dead.

See also Achilles; Aphrodite; Hector; Hecuba; Helen Of Troy; Iliad, The; Menelaus; Priam; Trojan War; Zeus.

* See Names and Places at the end of this volume for further information.


views updated May 11 2018


Although Paris is not an ocean port, it has played a significant role in international trade because of its importance as a manufacturing, financial, and administrative center. Most major French companies are headquartered in Paris, and the city has long exercised enormous influence in the creation of luxury goods, from the tapestries and furniture created for princes and nobles in the seventeenth century to the fashion business today.

Paris has been a leader in the production of luxury goods since at least the late seventeenth century. It took the lead because of the enormous demand generated by the royal court and by the large number of wealthy nobles and royal officials who lived in or near the city. The court hired artists and skilled artisans, and the nobles and officials did the same; the Crown even created businesses, such as the Gobelins royal tapestry and furniture works, that gained an international reputation. The demand was particularly strong in the late seventeenth century when King Louis XIV (1638–1715) was building an enormous chateau in Versailles, and it helped to create the sort of network of middlemen and skilled and creative workers that we see today in places such as Silicon Valley. Princes throughout Europe built imitations of Versailles and generated more demand for French luxury goods, and in the eighteenth century elites throughout Europe bought furniture and other luxury objects created in Paris by the city's innovative merchant dealers and the army of skilled workmen whom they employed. The pattern persisted well into the nineteenth century. In 1867 the sort of luxury goods produced near Paris accounted for perhaps 26 percent of French exports of manufactured goods, and Paris remains a trendsetter in the fashion business.

Luxuries are of course not the only good that France has exported. The country has had a comparative advantage in agriculture for centuries, particularly in high quality agricultural goods such as wine, and in the eighteenth century it shipped slaves and supplies to the Caribbean islands it possessed and brought back the sugar the slaves produced. This eighteenth-century trade in slaves and sugar and the ongoing traffic in wine enriched ports on France's Atlantic coast, but it did little for Paris. It was all interrupted when the French Revolution erupted in 1789, however, and as France recovered in the nineteenth century, trade shifted from the Atlantic ports to manufactured goods produced in the northern and eastern portions of the country. Paris profited because it stood at the nexus of the road network and inland waterways; by the end of the nineteenth century it was at the center of railroad traffic too.

The nineteenth century made Paris a center of international finance. Parisian banks financed a great deal of international trade in Europe and helped to invest France's trade surplus abroad by helping to arrange long-term financing for mines, railroads, manufacturing plants, and new financial institutions in Europe, the Middle East, and even the Americas. These banks continue to be important today.

SEE ALSO Bordeaux; Cargoes, Freight; Chambers of Commerce; Empire, French; France;La Rochelle;Marseilles;Nantes.


Cameron, Rondo E. France and the Economic Development of Europe, 1800–1914: Conquests of Peace and Seeds of War. Chicago: Rand McNally, 1966.

Sargentson, Carolyn. Merchants and Luxury Markets: The Marchands Merciers of Eighteenth-Century Paris. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1996.

Philip T. Hoffman


views updated Jun 11 2018

Paris Capital of France, on the River Seine. When the Romans took Paris in 52 bc, it was a small village on the Ile de la Cité on the Seine. Under their rule it became an important administrative centre. Paris was the capital of the Merovingian Franks in the 5th century, but subsequently declined. In the 10th century, it was re-established as the French capital by the Capetian kings. In the 11th and 12th centuries, the city expanded rapidly. During the 14th century, Paris rebelled against the Crown and declared itself an independent commune. It suffered further civil disorder during the Hundred Years' War. In the 16th century, it underwent fresh expansion, its architecture strongly influenced by the Italian Renaissance. In the reign of Louis XIII, Cardinal Richelieu established Paris as the cultural and political centre of Europe. The French Revolution began in Paris when the Bastille was stormed by crowds in 1789. Under Emperor Napoleon I the city began to assume its present-day form. The work of modernization was continued during the reign of Napoleon III, when Baron Haussmann was commissioned to plan the boulevards, bridges, and parks. Although occupied during the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71) and again in World War II, Paris was not badly damaged. The city proper consists of the Paris department, Ville de Paris. Its suburbs lie in the departments of the Ile-de-France region. It has many famous buildings and landmarks popular with tourists. Sights include the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, Notre-Dame, and the Pompidou Centre. Paris remains the hub of France despite attempts at decentralization, and retains its importance as a European cultural, commercial and communications centre. Paris is noted for its fashion industry and for the manufacture of luxury articles. Industries: motor vehicles, chemicals, textiles, clothing. Pop. (1999) 2,125,851; 9,643,880 (metropolitan).