Colin Jones presents a moderate and historical description of the development of the city of Paris. According to Jones, although Paris was the center of European culture, it was also the center of political intrigues, rebellion, and revolution. From 1715, Paris became the witness of the sad pages in the books of Western history. Revolutions, religious wars, and political chaos descended the city – a result of factionalism. Indeed, according to the author, the beautiful city of Paris shrouded the problems which were common to the French state. From 1715
The reign of Louis XIV brought France to a period of relative peace and prosperity. The ‘Sun King’ built palaces throughout the country to commemorate his glorious reign. Near Paris, for example, he ordered the building of the Versailles Palace. The city, however, was relentless. Riots periodically broke out, as the supply of food in the city gradually diminished. In 1750, the city was again torn by civil dissent. This time, it was the issue of continued colonial wars. Many of the Parisians regarded the colonial wars as addition burden on the part of the common people.
However, when viewed from the lens of a historian, it was clear that the dissent was caused by periodic famine in the city. After the death of Louis XIV, the stage was set for a revolution. The reign of Louis XVI seemed to be calm and on the road to progress. Many of the Parisians, as most of the French people, liked the new monarch. He was spiritually subtle and politically mild. The extravagance of his court, however, caught the imagination of the people of Paris. France was suffering from bankruptcy; Paris was descending into another great famine.
The French monarchy did nothing to alleviate these sufferings. In fact, when Marie Antoinette asked, “what is happening to the city? ” her maid said, “the people do not have enough bread. ” The queen replied, “Then, they should eat cakes. ” Paris was ripe for a revolution. On July 14, 1789, the prison of Bastille was attacked by a large Parisian mob. The king was forced to call the Estate-General to resolve the economic and political issues. The Third Estate broke from the council and declared the establishment of a constitutional monarchy.
Over the years, Paris became a battleground of political ideologies. A republic was established. The king, together with prominent royalists, was executed. Over the course of five years, Paris saw the rise of Napoleon to the throne of France. Paris became the capital of the First French Empire under Napoleon. With the demise of Napoleon in the early 1800s, Paris was the scene of political turmoil. The monarchy was reestablished. By 1830, Parisians revolted against the monarchy during the July Revolution.
The February Revolution of 1848 ended the monarchy of Louis-Philippe. The Second Republic was established. The Industrial Revolution and the Second French Empire brought Paris the greatest development in its history. From 1840, rail transport allowed the flow of migrants into Paris. Most of these migrant were attracted by employment in factories. Under Napoleon II, the city underwent massive renovations. Streets were widened and the neo-classical facades of Paris were improved. During the Second and Third Republics, Paris was again renovated.
Modern buildings were constructed. During the First World War, the city known today was in place. It was spared from the trenches of the Western Front because the German Army failed to reach its suburbs in 1914. During the Second World War, the city was again spared. It was neither the center of German industry nor the primary target of Allied bombers. After the war, the city was renovated. It became the center of arts and culture in the European continent.
Colin Jones. 2004. Paris: The Biography of a City. New York: Penguin Viking.