Paris: A History


Paris: The City of Light, Love, and History

After a year of focusing on specific elements of Paris, I've decided to take a step back and focus this weeks post on Paris and its history. This city has been around for centuries and has been a focal point for much of ancient and modern history. Today millions of people visit it each year to see its beauty, discover its past, and enjoy its food. So, I present to you, Paris.

Celtic Beginnings

In the Third Century, a Celtic tribe known as the Parisii settled on the shores of the Seine. They built the first bridges over the river, had a walled fort, and even used coins to trade goods. Its location made the tribe grow wealthy and others envious of its success.

Roman History

As early as the First Century, the Romans have been intrigued by the city. After Caesar visited the city himself, he sent troops to go conquer it and take Parisii under Roman rule. The Romans ruled over the city through the Fifth Century. They built baths and arenas, some of which can still be seen today in underground ruins. They settled on Ile de la Cité and the Left Bank. The city became known as Lutece. But of course with the collapse of the Roman Empire, Paris became free of its Roman rule.

The Louvre

First Kings

Clovis was known as the first Christian king of France. He made Paris the capital of the kingdom in the Sixth Century. Through the centuries of the Carolingian rule, the kings we buried in the St. Germain des Pres church. Paris became the main residence of the Kings and nobility of what was then the beginnings of France.

Middle Age Expansions

Through the Middle Age, Paris expanded and became more and more powerful as France became more powerful. Kings resided in palaces in the city center. The Louvre was built as a royal residence. King Louis IX was known for his devotion to Catholicism and had the Sainte Chapelle built as his own private chapel. The Left Bank became a place for scholars of theology. And as the Enlightenment came, France, and Paris, became one of the most powerful places in the world.

The French Revolution

We've all studied it in school: the French Revolution. And Paris was the main stage. In 1789, people stormed the Bastille, a French fortress used as a prison, for arms. The people were fed up with staving, having no rights, and the monarchy. What preceded was months of terror for the nobility, the guillotine, and new ideals. A new republic was established, building public museums, libraries, and turning churches into centers of knowledge. But this time period came to a close with the rise of power of an emperor.

Les Invalides


Napoleon changed quite a bit of Paris. He had the Hôtel des Invalides built to honor those who died in war. The Arc de Triomphe was also built under Napoleon's command. Napoleon is buried today in six coffins in the Hôtel des Invalides. But all this took place after he had crowned himself emperor in 1802. Through his reign, he had many military victories, which were then honored and displayed in his constructions across the city. Napoleon was responsible for a lot of the changes of the city, some of which remain iconic today.

Restoration and Monarchy Again

After Napoleon's downfall, much of Paris changed again. Places were renamed. Buildings were given new purpose. Paris was trying to find its identity once again. The kings came back into power and the population of the city was growing rapidly. Revolutions sprang up as people's basic needs were being ignored, thus inspiring Les Miserables. But by 1848 Napoleon III became the first elected president of France, and the city continued to see changes. With Baron Haussmann making aesthetically pleasing buildings and changes to the city, the Paris we see today was finally coming into its own.

Belle Epoque

In the late 1800s, Paris was gearing towards hosting yet another World's Fair. The Eiffel Tower was build along with many other Art Nouveau inspired buildings. Scaré Cœur was built in the Byzantine style to try and bring the city closer to religion once again. People were experimenting in art, and Paris quickly became one of the artistic capitals of the world. By the end of this period, public transportation became easily accessible to Parisians as the metro was built.

Le Pont Neuf

World War I

While Paris was not directly occupied by the Germans like it was in World War II, it still suffered many casualties. It was heavily bombed and the Parisians suffered an outbreak of the measles and typhoid, and then there was the Spanish Influenza that affected many European nations. When the Germans attempted to capture Paris, the French government fled to the south while the soldiers defended the city by blocking the Germans' path in the Marne. Taxi drivers would drive supplies to the front to help the soldiers. Finally, in 1918, just outside of Paris, the Armistice was signed, and the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919, ending the war.

The Crazy Years

In France, the Roaring 20s are referred to as the crazy years, les années folles. Paris became the playground of many artists and writers who chose to indulge in many of Paris' vices and some of its virtues as well. While France was hit with the depression in the later years, it was in the 20s that it really thrived. Places like Follies Bergères and Moulin Rouge sprang up to entertain all types of people. Art was an important part of life, and surrealism and dadaism thrived in Paris.

The Eiffel Tower

World War II

World War II was a dark time for the city. It was quickly occupied by the Germans as the French government either fled to England or established Vichy France. Jews and Roma were quickly removed from the city and sent to deportation camps like Drancy in the north, then onto concentration or extermination camps. The Parisians suffered many shortages and were forced to find other means to survive, whether that meant cozying up to the Germans or dealing in the black market. The Resistance eventually helped with the liberation of the city in 1944, taking part in a battle that lasted quite a few days in the summer. Using cars and cobblestones are barricades, the French Resistance was able secure the city and the arriving allied troops were met with large crowds and the surrender of the Germans when they entered the city in the summer of 1944.

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