Stephane Kirkland gives an engrossing account of Napoleon III, Baron Haussmann, and one of the greatest transformations of a major city in modern history.
Traditionally known as a dirty, congested, and dangerous city, 19th Century Paris was transformed in an extraordinary period from 1848 to 1870, when the government launched a huge campaign to build streets, squares, parks, churches, and public buildings. The Louvre Palace was expanded, Notre-Dame Cathedral was restored and the French masterpiece of the Second Empire, the Opra Garnier, was built. A very large part of what we see when we visit Paris today originates from this short span of twenty-two years.
The vision for the new Nineteenth Century Paris belonged to Napoleon III, who had led a long and difficult climb to absolute power. But his plans faltered until he brought in a civil servant, Georges-Eugne Haussmann, to take charge of the implementation. Heedless of controversy, at tremendous cost, Haussmann pressed ahead with the giant undertaking until, in 1870, his political enemies brought him down, just months before the collapse of the whole regime brought about the end of an era.
Paris Reborn is a must-read for anyone who ever wondered how Paris, the city universally admired as a standard of urban beauty, became what it is.
©2013 Stephane Kirkland (P)2013 Audible Inc.
"fabric artist and quilter"
This was an interesting book but not the easiest of books to listen to unless you had a map of Paris in front of you most of the time. I know Paris quite well but even I was sometimes confused and was grateful that Google Maps were there at my fingertips.
It certainly showed that Napoleon III and Baron Haussmann didn't lack balls, as to make the boulevards that Paris is now so famous for, they had to carve up medieval and historic central Paris to put in the much needed thoroughfares and to make Paris into a modern city. Really only a despot and a single minded administrator could do it and thank God they did. This is the story about how they did it.
I enjoyed it but the narrator wasn't the best - he had a strange accent (English clearly wasn't his first language), he paused in the middle of sentences, but his pronunciation of the French names of people, areas and roads were a delight to hear akin to music.
Recommended to those that are interested in Paris, Urban Planning and understanding French History from 1848 - 1870.
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I don’t know when I first heard about Haussmann’s “renovation” of Paris; I know it was sometime after my first visit in 2004 and I find the subject so interesting!
Eager to learn more about it, I first downloaded “How Paris Became Paris: The Invention of the Modern City” by Joan DeJean but that book is really not well adapted for audio at all! It kept referring to maps and images which I don’t have and can’t see with an audio version! Dumb.
So I gave up on it, returned it, and bought this book instead and I am glad I did, it was exactly what I wanted.
I am lucky enough to have visited Paris 3 times in my life (so far!) and I think having a good mental picture of the city helped me appreciate this book even more because I could visualise it all so easily.
Now, I’m just in the mood to go back!
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