PARIS by Johannes Willms


From the Revolution to the Belle Epoque
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 An absorbing and intimate history of the City of Lights. Willms, a senior editor of the newspaper SÅddeutsche Zeitung, combines the intellectual rigor of the historian with the accessibility of the journalist in this study of the French capital. The locus of French culture during the ancien rÇgime, Paris became the undisputed center of European politics during the revolutionary and Napoleonic periods. Carefully tracing the evolution of the metropolis, Willms demonstrates how political, economic, and cultural currents converged to make Paris the ``capital of Europe.'' More than London, Berlin, or Rome, Paris became the major protagonist in the history of its nation-state. Whereas Italy was divided into fiercely independent cities, England influenced by the landed gentry, and Germany dominated by Prussia, the fortunes of France were more strongly tied to its capital city. We can only witness the dynamism and expansion of the city with awe; its inhabitants have been unceasingly at work for centuries shaping and reshaping their physical environment. The city, as Willms presents it, becomes a living, breathing construction, reflecting the foibles, fantasies, and desires of its citizens. As Willms points out, it was in Paris, rather than London or New York, that the social and moral phenomena of modern life (including the rise of urban planning, an aggressive new version of nationalism, and a heightened emphasis on such matters as race and health) first appeared in the 19th century. The city has prospered and suffered because of this for the last century. The city's coat of arms depicts a sailing ship with the motto Fluctuat, nec mergitur (tossed by the waves, it does not sink). And while the 20th century did not sink Paris, the First World War did begin the long process of its displacement as the capital of Europe. Based on a wide range of sources, this is a work that will delight the specialist and the tourist alike. (maps and illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-8419-1245-9
Page count: 456pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1996


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