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TitleHow Paris came to be ParisSubtitleThe innovation of the modern CityAuthorJoan Dejean

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Today, Paris is a city that light and romance, complete of wide avenues, picturesque bridges and also countless tourist visiting come soak in that is charms.

You are watching: How paris became paris

But the French funding wasn"t always a stylish destination, says chronicler Joan DeJean. She"s written about all points French and also fashionable, indigenous the bear of luxury goods to the rise of the celebrity hair stylist (which began during the terribly chic power of luigi XIV). In her new book, How Paris came to be Paris, DeJean starts through a look in ~ the dismal problem of Paris in the so late 1500s. The lengthy wars between Protestants and Catholics had ended, yet the toll fee on the city had actually been immense.

"It to be a city torn apart by warfare. Paris at the time is therefore desolate, so burned out, that modern observers talk about wolves roaming easily in the streets of the city," DeJean speak bromheads.tv"s Renee Montagne. "Paris was additionally a city mostly empty: large spaces of north terrain all over in the city. And also the new king, Henry IV, had actually a many imagination and also energy."


Over the complying with century, Henry IV and also later rulers, together with their engineers, architects and also planners, revolutionized that desolate landscape right into the modern city we recognize today. DeJean speak Montagne around what to be so brand-new about the Pont Neuf, why windy flirtation ended up being a brand-new trend and how Paris changed the nature the tourism.


Interview Highlights

On the invention of the Pont Neuf, Paris" "new bridge"

To start with, it to be wide, 75 feet wide. The London leg at that point was 12 feet wide to 20 feet wide, for this reason 75 feet vast is very, very wide. It"s quiet the widest leg in Paris. It was also, and also this is probably the most amazing thing, was constructed without residences lining both sides. People who know, because that example, the Ponte Vecchio below in Florence today, still check out a version of this bridges with houses, and also that"s exactly how all bridges had been constructed for jae won reasons. The constructions paid because that the leg itself. However Henry IV want a leg without houses. So he had all the wine lugged into the city the Paris, every cask brought in, to be taxed. So one observer said the drunkards paid because that the brand-new bridge ...

They might do so countless things , it to be extraordinary. For example, on every side that the leg there to be a increased walkway. These were the very first sidewalks in the city to have been viewed in modern times. Therefore that meant that pedestrians were totally free to walk and to perform something no one had actually been maybe to carry out before: simply admire the watch along the flow on either side of the bridge. Likewise on the bridge, people collection up little makeshift theaters, so there would be performances on the bridge. People even collection up little stalls, and also they would sell things there.



Joan DeJean is the writer of 10 publications on French history and culture.

Candace DiCarlo/Courtesy that Pantheon

And another remarkable thing: Parisians of every ranks. You see bad people on the bridge, you watch bourgeois ~ above the bridge, and also you see an extremely wealthy people, both men and women. This is really important: the city at the time was not a location where ladies circulated freely, and also in Paris, beginning with the bridge, women did feel the they could come out, even come out alone and walk top top the bridge.

On the creation of tree-lined boulevards

People this particular day think of together the guy who gave France Versailles. However, long prior to Versailles to be opened, luigi XIV was a young king rethinking the city of Paris, and in the 1690s he came up v a setup that was among the most revolutionary plan for any kind of city of any type of time.


... Paris to be a walled city, together were many cities at the time, through fortifications designed to protect it indigenous invasion. Luigi XIV approve a proclamation saying the under his rule, Paris to be going come be safe from invasion, so they didn"t need the wall surfaces anymore. Therefore he and also his engineers and also city planners had the walls torn down and also they used the rubble and the dust from the to make a large boulevard. They called it "The Boulevard"; it"s the very first use of "boulevard" together a walkway and thoroughfare in a modern-day city. It to be 120 feet wide with two dual rows of elm trees lining every side.

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On how boulevards led to another new trend: publicly flirting

One of the things that ns love about the boulevard is the on the boulevard itself, by later decades of the 17th century, foreign observers said civilization would remain out at night. They put lights in those elm trees, and people would dance top top the boulevard until three and also four in the morning. The boulevards also connected to Paris" new gardens, i beg your pardon were fully public, open to people, and in the public gardens, men and women would meet with every other and flirt, males handing females flowers.