Archive for the ‘history’ Category



You can’t miss the bouquinists.  Along the Seine, nine hundred of their bottle-green boxes with 400,000 second-hand books figure as one of the symbols of Paris. They hark back to medieval times when manuscript sellers chose the riverbank near the university to trade their goods.

Booksellers frequently had problems with authorities if the contents of the books displeased the powerful. Should the city police be on the lookout for forbidden material, the owner of a small folding stand was at an advantage, especially if he offered non-censored pamphlets and scandalous gazettes.

In 1859, after many tribulations with the law, the bouquinists finally obtained the authorization to exercise their profession. The Town Hall set up concessions, allowing the salesmen to install the boxes in fixed places. Only second-hand books, antique art prints, and old magazines can be sold in these stands, although–if you take a closer look– you’ll see plenty of kitschy recent pictures of Paris. The average foreign tourist prefers that to antique French books.

Year after year, the number of stands keeps increasing: 156 in 1892, 200 in 1900 at the Universal Exhibition, and 240 in 1991, the year in which the second-hand booksellers were listed as the UNESCO Heritage. Today, three kilometers of bouquinist stands can be seen along the Right Bank from Pont Marie to Quai du Louvre and on the Left Bank from the Quai de la Tournelle to the Quai Voltaire.



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Hubert Sattler: Paris 1867

(From Paris Partout! A guide for the English and American Traveller in 1869 or How to see PARIS for 5 guineas)


Recent history

1789 Capture of the Bastille

1792 Republic proclaimed

1793 Execution of Louis XVI

1804  Napoleon Bonaparte proclaimed Emperor.

At the outbreak of the Revolution in 1789, one-third of Paris had been occupied by ecclesiastical property. Since much of it was subsequently expropriated, and then sold to speculators or retained by the state, Napoleon availed himself of an opportunity to beautify the city, opening the rue de Rivoli, completing the Louvre Palace, and beginning the Arch of the Etoile.

1814 Abdication of the Emperor. Restoration of the Bourbon Louis XVIII.

1824 Succession of Charles X

1830 Three-day revolution. Louis-Philippe, Duke of Orleans, proclaimed King. He completed the Arch of the Etoile, the Madeleine, enlarged the Hôtel de Ville, and repaired many neglected monuments, as well as widening principal thoroughfares. During this reign, Paris was surrounded with the present fortified wall and ditch, and the detached forts erected.

1848 February revolution. After two days’ fighting, Louis Philippe fled, and republic was proclaimed. The words ‘Liberté, Egalité, et Fraternité’ met the visitor’s eyes in every direction; they have now been erased. Louis Napoleon, son of Louis Bonaparte, King of Holland and nephew of the first Napoleon, elected by universal suffrage President of the French Republic.

1851 2 December. Discretion compels us to pass over the coup d’état which took place on this date. Suffice it to say that exactly a year later, Louis Napoleon was elected Emperor by universal suffrage, and the present regime, known as the Second Empire was established. In 1853 Louis Napoleon married the present Empress, Eugénie de Montijo. Since these events, works of public utility in Paris have proceeded at a pace quite stupendous, throwing into shade everything previously achieved in any city of the world. Picturesque but insalubrious quarters of narrow and crooked streets have been cleared, the boulevards extended, railways constructed.

Paris today

Today visitor to Paris will find a population between one and a half and two million. In 1860 the line of fortified walls which surrounds the city was made the municipal boundary; this wall is rather more than 22 miles in circuit and has 66 entrances or gates.

The city is divided into 20 arrondissements, with their own administrations, over which are placed the Prefect of the Seine, Baron Georges Haussmann, and his municipal council. The modern fashionable quarter comprehends the bright and brilliant rue de Rivoli, Place Vendôme, Boulevard des Italiens and the Champs Elysées. The Palace of the Tuileries is the Paris residence of the Emperor and Empress; on the Ile de la Cité are the law courts, central police office, and the great hospital; there is nothing like ‘the City’ in London – the Bourse or Stock Exchange being close to the fashionable quarter. In the Faubourg Saint-Germain, on the Left Bank of the river Seine, stand the vast hotels of the nobility, in which some of the traditions of old French society are maintained; in the adjoining Latin Quarter, many thousands of students lead a life of riot and license hardly to be understood by a foreigner. To the East, in the Faubourg S. Antoine, are numerous manufactories and the dwellings of those who work in them, formerly the hotbed of terror and insurrection. On the outskirts, as in the Faubourg S. Victor, Mouffetard, Belleville &c, are to be found the most wretched of the population; but Paris may at least be proud that it possesses fewer dens of misery, filth, and vice than the vicinity of Tottenham Court Road or Drury Lane can exhibit.

Next: Find a hotel

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The storming of the Bastille fortress by the people of Paris

An excellent tool for learning about the events is the French Revolution Timeline here.


THE FIRST REPUBLIC 1789-1792 (The Reign of Terror)

The guillotine



In 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte declares himself Emperor of the French.

Napoleon I



Louis XVIII (House of Bourbon) is installed as king.






The crown goes to Louis Philippe (House of Orléans).

Louis Phillipe





The nephew of Napoleon I, Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, is elected president.

Louis Napoleon, president of the 2nd Republic



In December 1851, Louis Napoleon Bonaparte stages a coup d’ėtat. He becomes Napoleon III of the Second Empire.

Napoleon III (same man, upgraded wardrobe)



The Third Republic established itself after the defeat of Napoleon III during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871). Taken prisoner after the decisive Battle of Sedan, he was later exiled to England, where he died in 1873.

Napoleon III prisoner of Bismarck



September 19, 1870 to January 28, 1871

Besieged by the Prussian army, the Parisians eat everything on four legs, including rats.

A soup kitchen during the Siege of Paris

In the meantime, a new European power, Germany, is born in the occupied palace of Versailles:

bismarck versailles

Anton von Werner, The Proclamation of the German Empire (January 18, 1871)



March to May 1871. Popular uprising comparable to the revolution of 1789, severely repressed by the government and ending in the Bloody Week during which an estimated 30,000 people were killed or summarily executed.

Paris burning during the Commune – in the foreground the imperial palace

End of the Bloody Week – bodies exhibited for identification

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