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Being a responsible scholar, Joan DeJean includes 80 pages of notes, bibliography, illustration credits and an index.

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Paris caused urban planners to invent what a city could be, and it caused visitors to dream of what a city might be. Click here for reprint permission. Click to Read More and View Comments. Click to Hide. May Cheryl K. Breakthrough projects only become origins, the inspiration for those who live elsewhere and for subsequent generations, when someone draws them to the attention of a broad public. As soon as urban planning began to remake Paris, a second transformation began: for the first time ever, a city was instantly elevated to legendary status—almost before the mortar was dry on the public works being celebrated.

All through the seventeenth century, every time its cityscape was redesigned in an important way, Paris benefitted from what would now be called a rebranding campaign. In the Paris represented by playwrights and novelists, by historians of the city and the authors of guidebooks, by painters and cartographers and engravers, both the city and its inhabitants had a special glow: it and they were more elegant and more seductive than anywhere or anyone else.

A mythic idea destined to survive for centuries thus took root. The numerous visions of Paris then created reflect simultaneously the reality of a city being transformed and the fantasies about urban life of those who celebrated it. Many also surely served to some extent as propaganda. The vast and varied literature of Paris then produced shows us how the city represented itself to itself.

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These books and images also helped produce a new kind of city. They made Parisians proud and thereby created a sense of community. They also taught people how to use revolutionary public works and services—how to mingle in public gardens, how to take advantage of street lighting and public transportation to negotiate an expanding urban footprint. All these works combined show us the original vision of Paris as the key capital of modernity.

Playwright Pierre Carlet de Marivaux had a character categorically affirm: Paris is the world. Next to it, all other cities seem mere suburbs. And one of the first true Europeans, the Marquis de Caraccioli, proclaimed it both the capital of the universe and the metropolis of the universe.

In , after the French defeat at the battle of Agincourt, their monarchs abandoned the city. Henri IV, his successor and the first king of the Bourbon monarchy, twice failed to take Paris by force.

He finally won over through diplomacy a capital exhausted and ruined by decades of war. The city he entered in was big—the largest west of Constantinople—but in no way a functioning capital. However, Henri IV was a fast worker. By , he had accomplished the first objective of his reign, peace, by promulgating the Edict of Nantes, which made religious tolerance official state policy, and by signing a treaty with the Spanish.

During the Wars of Religion, provincial governments had enjoyed great autonomy. But it was with his work as a builder that Henri IV changed Paris most profoundly. Throughout a cityscape devastated by war, Henri IV started ambitious public works projects.


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In the little more than a decade before he was himself assassinated in , he put Paris well on its way to becoming a place that could be billed as the capital of the universe. Indeed, the king conceived of his plans for Paris in just such grandiose terms. And he quickly put those intentions into action. The king began making empty land into a novel kind of urban landscape, creating in the process a city completely different from what it had been in , as foreigners and Parisians who returned after even a few years away never failed to point out—" une ville nouvelle ," a new city.

Paris became ever newer as the century progressed. The first is a list of major construction projects that ends: grandeur and magnificence everywhere. It would have been impossible to walk fifteen minutes in any direction without encountering reminders of the fact that Paris was a city in transition, shaking off its past in a hurry.

How Paris Became Paris : The Invention of the Modern City by Joan Dejean read book FB2, DJV, DOC

Major construction sites were found all over seventeenth-century Paris. And Louis XIV followed all these projects in the smallest detail. In London after the Great Fire of , plans to modernize the devastated areas—including one by Christopher Wren that closely followed the Parisian urban model—were submitted to Charles II. But property owners concerned about their rights and taxes quickly began rebuilding.

All thoughts of major change had to be abandoned. In Paris the combined efforts of a determined monarch and equally determined municipal authorities made it the first capital in modern history not to grow randomly from a village into an urban sprawl.

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Instead the new Paris became a vision of straight lines, right angles, and oblique radiating avenues—a vision that shaped many cities to come, first in Europe and later well beyond. In , an English visitor remarked: The streets [of Paris] are so incomparably fair and uniform that you would imagine yourself rather in some Italian Opera … than believe yourself to be in a reall Citie. Of all the public works then realized, one of them represented the biggest thinking of all, as historian of city governance Delamare first pointed out in Until now, every ruler with authority over Paris has improved its fortifications to protect it from invasion.

Louis XIV replaced an architecture of paranoia with an architecture of openness; he thereby made Paris the first open city in modern European history. This was a crucial step in the transition from the walled city to the modern cityscape. Like many of the ideas that transformed Paris into a modern city, the rampart, as Louis XIV originally named it, was financed jointly by the crown and the municipality.

From on, a third individual was essential to the transformation of Paris: Nicolas de La Reynie — , appointed by Louis XIV to be the original lieutenant general of the Parisian police. And thus it was that the rapidly modernizing city acquired a more modern government. In many cases, however, the vast construction sites that dotted the face of Paris were not publicly financed. Henri IV had inherited a financial system as devastated as his capital. He could never have accomplished so much so quickly had he not turned to private investors, and his two successors followed his example.

At several moments during the seventeenth century, Paris was a boomtown: land speculation was both a sign and a cause of the boom. Developers bought up tracts of barren land, added infrastructure, and, in collaboration with architects who were themselves also speculators, built them up, always hoping to turn the property over for a huge profit.

Some made fortunes, while others lost everything. A surprising number of those who did get rich through real-estate speculation were of quite modest birth; some had begun life, for example, as shop clerks.

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They used their new wealth to acquire the trappings of the good life formerly the exclusive preserve of the nobility: luxurious carriages, mansions as grand as and grander than those of the greatest aristocrats. Their stories are symbolic of yet another facet of the new Paris: as a major center of finance and very ostentatious new wealth. These figures introduced Parisians to the idea that money could change the most fundamental social structures.

They could start anew, reinvent themselves. In the modern city, you could pretend to be anyone or anything you liked, as long as you could afford to look the part. Joan DeJean demonstrates that the Parisian model for urban space was in fact invented two centuries earlier, when the first full design for the French capital was implemented.

During this period, Paris saw many changes: It became the first city to tear down its fortifications. A large-scale urban plan was created and executed, with organized streets and boulevards, modern bridges, sidewalks, and public parks.


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  4. Venues opened for urban entertainment, from opera and ballet to another pastime invented in Paris, recreational shopping. Parisians enjoyed the earliest street lighting and public transportation, even as theirs became Europe's first great walking city. A century of planned development made Paris beautiful and exciting. It gave Paris its modern identity as a place that people dreamed of seeing. As Joan DeJean shows us in this compelling portrait of a city in transition, by Paris had become the capital that would transform forever our conception of the city and of urban life.

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