Joan DeJean, author of nine highly regarded books on French history and culture, in How Paris Became Paris - The Invention of the Modern City has produced a work that anyone interested in the rise of the modern European city, French history, and especially Paris will greatly benefit from. It gave me a much better feel for Paris as it emerged from the Middle Ages and became a center for all that makes life worth living, art, love, food, music, literature and great architecture and brilliant city planning. As a side benefit, it is also a totally interesting account of the history of Parisian Tourism. From this book you can see how a medieval town with narrow roads with no bridges across the Seine became a role model for countless cities from Washington DC to Brasilia.
The fascinating opening chapters talks about early tourist guide books to Paris and how they altered over time. One of the biggest problems face in the development of Paris was the Seine River which divided the city and made intercity commerce difficult. DeJean goes into wonderful detail in her account of how a construction of the first real traffic bridge across theSeine changed Paris.
Most people see Paris as first becoming a great city in the early 19th century. DeJean lets us see that there were carefully done plans for the development of the city in the early 17th century. These plans included grand roads, beautiful large parks, operas, art galleries and palaces.
Paris was the first European city to tear down the fortified walls of the city. This signaled that Paris was a city of the country of France, not one afraid of the outside world. It was the first European city to have paved roads and sidewalks. By 1700 Paris was well on the way to being a city all the educated world would admire and hope to visit. In time no young Englishman's education was complete without time in Paris. Paris began to develop city services like trash pick up long before many other cities. DeJean explains how Paris became known as the city of love, why it attracted young sexual adventures like James Boswell, how it became known for fabulous food.
Anyone interested in French literature will enjoy thinking about their favorite authors walking the streets of Paris, hanging out in the bars and cafes, as the read this book. DeJean makes a lot of interesting literary and visual arts references I enjoyed.
Words and Peace hosts a weekly meme in which you can include a link to any France related books or topics you posted on in the week. It is an excellent source of reading ideas, I have been following it for a long time.