At the start of the 17th century, Paris was known for a few monuments, but it had not yet put its brand on urban space. Like many European cities, it was still emerging from its medieval past. But within a century, Paris would be transformed into the modern and mythic city we now know. Most people associate the signature characteristics of Paris with the 19th century.
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. 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 people reasons to be out in public as never before and as nowhere else. 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 1700 Paris had become the capital that would transform forever our conception of the city and of urban life.
©2014 Joan DeJean (P)2014 Audible Inc.
For that reason, it's the worst audio book ever! There are apparently lots of maps and historical illustrations included in the printed book. When the narrator says "… as in the illustration…" you're out of luck. If I had known this, I would not have bought it.
The book was fairly easy listening, given the topic, but it made regular references to illustrations - to which I didn't have access. I'm going to read the book myself instead.
This book contains a wealth of information that complements our knowledge of European history in the early modern period. It is far more than merely a history of Paris: it sheds light on a variety of elements that together constitute the transformation of the European world. I felt constantly delighted and enriched, and was reminded of the joy I experienced when in the 1970's I read Braudel's 'Civilisation matérielle et capitalilsme', a seminal book that opened up many new vistas. The present book not only makes life in 17th century Paris more real, it also ties together many strands that thread through that epoch, thereby enhancing our understanding of France and Europe.
Many "aha" moments.
No, but he is just about the only narrator who pronounces French well, and that alone makes him my favorite narrator for any book that contains many French names. I can understand some listeners not liking his way of speaking, but I think it is fine, and good French pronunciation (alas so rare) is in itself worth at least a star!
Yes, but perhaps that would be too much. It is inebriating but intellectual stimulation cannot be enjoyed in one gulp.
Having read some of the more negative comments, and not feeling inspired myself during the first half hour, I was VERY pleasantly surprised as the book went on. I do agree that this is a book that particularly appeals to those with an interest in European history, and especially to those acquainted with French history and with Paris. If you have not already developed such an interest, this is perhaps not the place to start. If you have, the book is not to be missed.
Bottom line: listen to a sample of this narrator before you buy.
I listened to this in preparation of an upcoming visit to Paris. The history of the city is fascinating and relevant. The author breaks up certain aspects of the city's development (e.g. building the Pont Neuf, development of Paris's fashion dominance) and talks about how each contributed to the Paris we know now--and ultimately, every modern city.
But wow, the narrator is absolutely horrendous. He reads every sentence with so much drama and superiority, you'd think he was actually trying to evoke the ridiculous stereotype of a stuck up Parisian. I am not sure why the narrator insisted on reading like that, because it doesn't sound natural and the text itself doesn't read like that at all.
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