Paris before and after Baron Haussmann
Unlike London, a city rebuilt after extensive damage suffered during the great fire of 1666, Paris in the 19th century had changed very little in appearance since the Middle Ages. The times, however, had changed considerably. Overpopulated, unsanitary, insalubrious and ill-adapted to the modernity imposed by the Industrial Revolution, the city had a justifiably bad reputation as a dangerous and poverty-stricken hotbed of sedition. The transformations that gave Paris the shape and appearance we know today were for the most part carried out over a period of just 17 years between 1853 and 1870. During that period, 20,000 buildings were demolished to make way for 40,000 new ones built by 80,000 construction workers. 600 kilometres of underground sewers were also built along with 64 kilometres of new roads above ground. 80,000 trees were planted and the Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes woods west and east of the city were landscaped, while 80 public squares and gardens were created. These were the days of the Second Empire. The emperor Napoleon III, a nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte was proclaimed emperor of France in 1852 after a coup d’état against the French republic, of which he was already president. A great admirer of British modernity, he set out to transform Paris into a leading light among European cities. In 1853 he engaged the recently appointed Prefect of the Seine, Georges Eugène Haussmann to oversee the work and apply the plans and recommendations of the Commission Siméon which had studied in detail the question of embellishing the city. Ably assisted by the engineers Eugène Belgrand and Jean-Charles Alphand, this trained lawyer set out to implement a massive public works programme that became known as Haussmann’s renovation of Paris. Fiercely criticised for his spending, the extent of his projects, accused of expropriating the citizens of the city and gentrifying the centre of Paris, he was unwavering in his commitment to change. The outcry led to his dismissal in 1870, but work continued until 1927 on project which he had instigated and the distinctive image of Paris with tree-lined boulevards, apartment buildings of handsome regularity and monuments that can be admired from a distance and which contribute greatly to Paris’ reputation as a beautiful city to visit can all be traced back to this indefatigable administrator.This tour will take you to a number of sites associated with Baron Haussman to give you an idea of Paris before and after the work carried out in the mid-19th century and the extent of his transformation of the city.
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