How Paris Became Paris: The Invention of the Modern City

Joan DeJean, Author
Joan DeJean. Bloomsbury, $30 (320p) ISBN 978-1-60819-591-6
Reviewed on: 12/02/2013
Release date: 03/04/2014
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-1-62040-768-4
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Although 19th-century Baron Haussmann often receives credit for Paris’s iconic features, this witty and engaging work shows that it was the 17th-century Bourbon monarchs who first transformed Paris into the prototype of the modern city that would inspire the world. Penn professor DeJean (The Essence of Style) notes that Henri IV (1553–1610) was the first to consider the practical value of public works and how they could improve people’s lives. Besides centralizing France’s administrative functions, Henri IV built the first bridge to cross the Seine in a single span (the Pont Neuf) and the first urban public square (the Place Royale, now the Place des Vosges). Louis XIV took his grandfather’s plans even further by tearing down the city’s fortifications, replacing them with tree-lined boulevards around the city’s perimeter, and instituting a “grand design” that would influence Haussmann 250 years later. A charismatic and knowledgeable narrator, DeJean shows how an open city where men and women from all stations could congregate fueled the rise of the self-made man, the financier, the real estate developer, the artisan, the merchant, the Parisienne, and the coquette. With panache and examples from primary sources, guidebooks, maps, and paintings, she illustrates how Paris changed people’s conception of a city’s potential. B&w illus., 8-page color insert. Agent: Alice Martell, the Martell Agency. (Mar.)
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