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How Paris Became Paris: The Invention of the Modern City [Kindle Edition]

Joan DeJean
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (94 customer reviews)

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Book Description

At the beginning of the seventeenth century, Paris was known for isolated monuments but had not yet put its brand on urban space. Like other European cities, it was still emerging from its medieval past. But in a mere century Paris would be transformed into the modern and mythic city we know today.

Though most people associate the signature characteristics of Paris with the public works of the nineteenth century, Joan DeJean demonstrates that the Parisian model for urban space was in fact invented two centuries earlier, when the first complete design for the French capital was drawn up and implemented. As a result, Paris saw many changes. It became the first city to tear down its fortifications, inviting people in rather than keeping them out. Parisian urban planning showcased new kinds of streets, including the original boulevard, as well as public parks and the earliest sidewalks and bridges without houses. Venues opened for urban entertainment of all kinds, from opera and ballet to a pastime invented in Paris, recreational shopping. Parisians enjoyed the earliest public transportation and street lighting, and Paris became Europe's first great walking city.

A century of planned development made Paris both beautiful and exciting. It gave people reasons to be out in public as never before and as nowhere else. And it gave Paris its modern identity as a place that people dreamed of seeing. By 1700, Paris had become the capital that would revolutionize our conception of the city and of urban life.


Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Within a century after the medieval period, Paris had moved beyond the old model of a scattering of village dwellings behind fortified walls to become a well-planned urban space of public parks, boulevards, street grids, street lighting, public transportation, and modern bridges. As early as the 1600s, Henry IV and his successors Louis XIII and Louis XIV set in motion the design for a city that would incorporate the arts, entertainment, commerce, and government in the capital city, facilitating the whole life of Paris citizens. With public spaces that encouraged social interchange, with both the high-born and the low-born circulating together, picking up on gossip, new ideas, and fashion trends, Paris became one of Europe’s first great walking cities. French literary and cultural scholar DeJean details the planning behind the Pont Neuf, the Louvre, and other iconic sights as she offers a historical perspective on the forces that created Paris and led the way to a new conception of urban living. Maps and drawings add to the appeal of this engaging history of the growth of Paris into a modern city. --Vanessa Bush

Review

Illuminating . . . Dejean obviously knows and loves Paris, and she provides coherent history that effectively explains the evolution of a city built by a few prescient men. (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)

Witty and engaging . . . With panache and examples from primary sources, guidebooks, maps, and paintings, she illustrates how Paris changed people's conception of a city's potential. (Publishers Weekly)

The City of Light is indisputably one of the world's most beautiful, and as Joan DeJean, who's written exhaustively about France and the French, explains in How Paris Became Paris: The Invention of the Modern City, its transformation began in the 17th century, with a great urban plan for boulevards, bridges, sidewalks, and public parks. Visit with new insight and appreciation or just marvel at its conception with DeJean's book in hand. (Publishers Weekly "Top Ten Travel Books this Spring")

DeJean's depth and scope of research are impressive . . . Like its subject, DeJean's biography of Paris emanates charm and wit. What makes [her] analysis so intriguing is her capacity to weave strands of history together. With such rich context, How Paris Became Paris is more than a history: It's the best kind of travel guidebook. (BookPage)

This lively history charts the growth of Paris from a city of crowded alleyways and irregular buildings into a modern marvel. (New Yorker)

Highly readable and well illustrated with color plates and numerous black-and-white images, this book is a joy for anyone who loves Paris. Because this work is aimed at a general audience, there are no footnotes, although quotations are identified and references given. A solid bibliography ends the work. (D. C. Baxter, Ohio University, CHOICE)

Product Details

  • File Size: 30107 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1 edition (March 4, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00GC53AEA
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #91,208 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
(94)
4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
I freely admit I will read/watch just about anything that has Paris as its subject, or even uses that city as a background, but this book took me ages to finish. (A highly unusual situation for me it must be said!)

So constantly I got the feeling that I was just reading the same page over again.
The author knows her material, and presents it in quite a conversational tone but repeats and repeats similar anecdotes and facts until you get this odd feeling of déjà vu .

Yes Paris may have been innovative in so many ways but again and again we are told this and she lauds the praises of that particular city so constantly that even I became more than a little bored, ...and I hasten to add that Paris is my very favourite city in the world!

Each chapter is devoted to another area or field where Paris apparently "led the way" in becoming "modern".

Now there's next to nothing on the very extensive work carried out under the direction of Baron Haussmann at all, ...everything here takes place in the 16th/17th centuries and basically starts off with the removal of the surrounding defensive walls, the building of the Pont Neuf with footpaths, Place des Vosges, Place Vendome, and the development of the up until then barren Ile St. Louis.
She charts the rise of shops and also what we would call "developers" and "financiers", but I think they were probably more like astute speculators than anything else.

Oh, and she does harp on (and on!) about the streets being "lit", ...but as this was only by single candles, suspended one to a street so I don't think the "city of light" was all that bright for quite some time.
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34 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Historical information is interesting but..... May 3, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I love Paris. Each summer for the last five years I've spent a couple of weeks going over each arrondissement and discovering something new each stay. From museums, public spaces, parks, monuments and bridges, the city is beyond compare. I was looking forward to this book and to be honest, I did enjoy certain aspects and information. I just felt the writing was a bit dry and many of the key points were repeated over and over to the point that I was anticipating the "rewind" before it appeared (examples of Paris being the center of "la mode" were just beaten to death). All in all the book could be so much more concise.
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34 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Bridge to the Future March 7, 2014
Format:Hardcover
For a paper that I am writing on urban history, I knew I would include Paris. I've only been there for three days, but it was just enough time to experiences it wonder, and now I know more reasons why! The significance of the Pont Neuf bridge revealed in this book opens the mind to how interwoven humans are with environment. She examines how the unique design of the bridge brought people together in new ways - from the fun of flirtation to unfortunate robberies.

I am most inspired by DeJean's thorough study of how the most modern city in the world had its foundation laid in the seventeenth century. Her writing style is appropriate for most readers, although it may be too casual at times for serious historians. Quite frankly, I find it a breath of fresh air. If there is anything out there on this time period that has similar academic caliber as Cities Perceived: Urban Society, I'd be interested to know, but this is good for me right now! It's a great read that will certainly enhance the way you see the world.
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39 of 50 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars repet June 21, 2014
By rtlaud
Format:Hardcover
DeJean repeats her assertions over and over as if merely saying something makes it true. She seems to know a lot about Paris but is completely unaware of similar innovations in other European cities--especially London and Amsterdam. She refers over and over to the "modern city" but never offers a definition of what this mythical concept might be. Some of her material is plain wrong (for example: her treatment of an "innovative" and "new" plan to develop a silk industry at Henri IV's Place Royale neglects that Lyon was a major player in the European silk trade...) She goes on and on about cloak thieves (another "invention" of 17th-century France??) while neglecting that they're a commonplace in the literature of antiquity and the Middle Ages. EVERY phenomenon she discusses is new or "the first." Conclusion: seventeenth-century France invented EVERYTHING (fashion, "home," champagne, perfume, cafés...). See her other books. Attention Professor: nihil ex nihilo gignitur.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars How the Parisian Scene Was Set August 18, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
So many useful facts about the Pont Neuf and other architectural gems and the ways they changed French style and behavior during the time of Louis IV. For some reason, I think the book's editor must have been asleep because there was so much repetition in Ms. De Jean's narrative and story. It seemed as if each chapter was meant to be a stand-alone piece, possibly for student lectures? Nonetheless, even though I lived in Paris for about 18 years I learned a lot in this book!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Factoids on Paris June 9, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Interesting collection of facts on 16th - 18h century Paris and how the fabric of the city came to be as we know it today, but fairly lightweight historical writing. Lot of needless repetition, showing a lack of a vigorous editor.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Oustanding!
In this well researched work, Ms. Joan DeJean very convincingly defends the thesis that Paris became, in the 17th century, the first « modern » city, notably awarding a high... Read more
Published 4 days ago by Pierre Gauthier
5.0 out of 5 stars Why the City of Light? Now I know...
So much good information about Paris and the city's impact on cityscapes throughout the world. From public spaces, to streetlighting to urban transportation, Paris had been a... Read more
Published 22 days ago by Gloria Lenhart
3.0 out of 5 stars Just OK
Not sure what I expected,,, but this was not it.
Published 26 days ago by Captain Steve
5.0 out of 5 stars Well done
Very thoroughly researched and documented account of the modernization of Paris starting with the Pont Neuf bridge. I have recommended it on Facebook as well.
Published 29 days ago by Lavender Siren
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
iT'S A BOOK THAT DO NOT GIVE ME THE ANSWERS THAT I AM LOOKING FOR
Published 1 month ago by Ebottone
4.0 out of 5 stars How the 17th Century made Paris Paris.
A very readable history of how Paris became a modern city, but almost exclusively focused on the 17th Century and the key developments during that time that set Paris on its famous... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Thomas R. Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars Very, very interesting...
I've never been to Paris, but someday, I hope to go. I'll take this book with me when I do.
Published 1 month ago by Lynn Y. Lloyd
4.0 out of 5 stars A valuable read!
I didn't know what to expect, but what I got was a very interesting history of Paris' development primarily during the reign of Louis XIV. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Ted Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars A very satisfying read
I simply love this book. I've always loved Paris and now my fascination for this city has only grown. I highly recommend you to read this delightful book.
Published 2 months ago by Stephen Healey
3.0 out of 5 stars Paris really IS that wonderful and different!
For those who already love this magnificent city, now you have several more reasons. In what reads in many ways more like a collection of related articles than one larger package,... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Michael McCarthy
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