Aerial view of London, 1850. View of London looking north-east, from Westminster and showing the course of the River Thames; in the foreground are Westminster Abbey, with the Houses of Parliament on the right, which show the completed Clock and Victoria Towers and St James’s Park to the left. / Getty Images
Urban Growth and Urbanization in the Nineteenth Century
The Graben-Street of Vienna, c.1890, photo by August Stauda / Ausstellungskatalog des Wien Museums: Blickfänge einer Reise nach Wien
I want to do the impossible and talk about urbanization and urban growth in fifty minutes. In doing so, I want to emphasize a couple of points. One is that the nineteenth century was a period of phenomenal urban growth and urbanization. I will distinguish those in a minute. Secondly, one of the things that emerges out of this urban growth and urbanization, but particularly the growth of cities large and medium in the nineteenth century, is an increasing geography of class segregation.
Paris, as in other cities — London is a good example — shows a more prosperous west and an increasingly less prosperous east. Also, one of the things that I really enjoy talking about in trying to help people understand is why it is that European suburbs are not at all like American suburbs. Why is it that some people feared by elites were perched on the edge of European cities, whether it’s Vienna, Paris, or lots of other places, and not in the center; whereas, in the United States, if you think of the riots in 1967, before most of your times, in Detroit, or Newark, or Watts, or East L.A., it was people in the center with the wealthy people in the periphery fearing the poor people living in the center. Why is it just completely different?
I remember in the early 1990s we were doing a book, just a bunch of essays in France, called Banlieues Rouges, which means the red suburbs. I was supposed to write something tying the book together. It was at the time of the Rodney King trial. Most of you are — not of the trial of Rodney King, but when Rodney King, who was an Afro-American who was beaten up by cops in L.A. It was filmed by somebody who just happened to have a camera and was filming this. There was a big trial. The police who beat the hell out of him were acquitted. They were acquitted by a white jury in the suburbs. People in France couldn’t get over that, the idea of wealthy people living in the suburbs as opposed to poor people living in the suburbs in Europe. We had to hold the book for a couple weeks until I could figure out how to explain this. That’s one theme also under the rubric of center and periphery.
Why are European cities different? Human intervention has something to do with that in the case of Paris. That’s fun to talk about, so I’m going to do that in the last half of the talk. Just a few points at the beginning. I sent around, I hope it will reach you, something I sent out on October 16 on this class server, which has most of these terms on the board.
The nineteenth century is a period of both urban growth and urbanization. Why are those different? Urban growth is, say, a population of any city — the population of Vienna rises from, say, 500,000 to 1,000,000. I don’t remember the statistics. That is urban growth. Vienna is bigger at the end of the nineteenth century than it was at the beginning of the nineteenth century, or any place you want to pick. But the most important point is that there is urbanization in the nineteenth century. You could have urban growth absolutely and de-urbanization if, at the end of any period that you’re looking at, you had more people living in cities, but they represented a smaller percentage of the population. You could actually have de-urbanization if you had more people living in the countryside at the end of the period, relative to those living in the cities. So, it depends on how you define what an urban area is.
In the case of France, where they have all these great censuses all the time, in the Restoration, that is 1815-1830, a city had 1,500 people in it. There’s that many people lined up at the Milford Mall when it opens in this country. In 1841 they start using 2,000 people agglomerated, that is, living in an urban — the church, the steeple. Open up the church and look at all the people or whatever. You know what I mean. That’s an urban area. In the United States, I have no idea. A city used to be 5,000. I think it may be 25,000 or something like that. It doesn’t matter. Depending on what you define as urban, there’s a remarkable increase in the urban population in the nineteenth century.
Panoramic view of Rome, 1850 / The Illustrated London News, Vol. 16 (Jan. to June 1850)
It’s not just big, huge cities like Naples, or Constantinople, or London, which is so enormous compared to Paris, compared to any city spatially. But it’s also small towns that increase in size because of industrial, commercial, administrative functions. All this is perfectly obvious. The nineteenth century is the growth of big, big cities and the first conurbations, that is, cities that just run into each other, such as now for example Boston to Washington is practically a conurbation. In France it would be Lille, Tourcoing, Roubaix. In the north of England it would be Manchester and its expanding suburbs. That’s all perfectly obvious.
The next step is to say, “Where does the population of cities come from, and who are all these people that are increasing the population of cities and are part of this process, in a statistical sense, of urban growth?” The second point that I’ll make is what people thought about this. What did they think about these teeming cities? “Teeming” was a word that they started to use to describe these cities that seemed to be kind of runaway cities. First of all, I’m not going to write this on the board, despite the fact it’s the only mathematical formula that I even know. If you were trying to explain the growth of any city from Point 1 in time to Point 2 in time, what you do is simply look at the population at Point 1 in time, say 1811 or something like that. Then you try to find out where the population came from that increased it to Point 2 in time, if the city reclassified what was considered urban, if they annexed its suburbs. That’s what Lyons does in 1852, or Paris does in 1860 on January 1, or almost anywhere they do this. That would be one factor. Then you would have births minus deaths.
Do you have a natural increase in population? The other thing is in versus out migration. Do you have more people arriving in the city than leaving it? There are people leaving and people arriving all the time. But if you look at particularly the first half of the nineteenth century, to make a generalization, more people die in cities than are born there, because cities are very unhealthy places, which helps create this kind of image of biological sickness that I’ll discuss in a minute, that I’ll evoke with some conservative commentators from those times. What do I mean by that? The average life expectancy in Manchester, counting infant mortality, so it’s a little bit exaggerated, was about nineteen years old. You guys would have about had it. Lille, in the north of France, is the same thing. That’s pretty young. But that counts life expectancy.
If you made it to the ripe old age of eighteen, then your chances of living longer were pretty gray. You still had places where you have phenomenal, still cases particularly in areas where you have all these spinsters in Brittany and in Ireland, of old women who live a very long time. Women lived and still live longer than men. Another reason why you have more people dying in cities, among other reasons, is infanticide. Foundling homes in these big cities. You name the big city — Rome, Berlin, anywhere you want, St. Petersburg, Moscow — they have huge foundling homes with thousands and thousands of babies abandoned every year. One-third of those babies die before the end of the next year. Infanticide. The church, which obviously opposes infanticide and obviously opposes abortion in the nineteenth century, what they do is they finally agree to put in these little things called tours.
It’s an awful example to give and it comes out of an institution that no longer exists, Machine City, but anyplace that you have those kind of machines and you put money in and you hope that the window is going to turn around and actually give you your M&Ms. To make a crass example, that’s what these tours were. They encouraged young women, usually unmarried or uncoupled women, to abandon their babies instead of exposing them and having them die. You put your baby in the foundling homes. You ring the bell, you put the baby in this little thing that turns around and then the good sister comes and takes the baby to the foundling home. If all goes well, the baby will be there in a year, but one-third of them are not there in a year.
You’ve got a lot of babies who die. This increases the mortality rate. Then you’ve also got a lot of old people who come into the cities — and young people — to beg, seeking those last vestiges of charity, who are clutching at passersby as they go to church, and who some people give them money and most of the people don’t give them money. Often they form part of the community, which is obviously the case here at Yale. A lot of the older people die. Policemen going on their rounds in any city, Milan, or Turin, or anywhere, are going to find dead people the next morning. You’ve got more people that die in cities than are born there, really, in most places way into the nineteenth century.
Immigration into the Cities: The Uprooting Hypothesis and Chain Migration
Children at a London ‘ragged school’ in 1853. At this London ‘ragged school’ for poor boys, the boys did carpentry and other work. ‘Book-learning’ (reading, writing and arithmetic) was an extra. / BBC
The point is obviously that it’s immigration that causes urbanization and urban growth. Massive immigration, usually from the hinterland, that is the region around cities. In the case of Berlin, northern Germans from Brandenburg or Pomerania and many Poles were moving into Berlin. There were very poor people moving into Berlin. In the case of Paris, people who come into Paris are from Normandy, or from Champagne, or from central France where a lot of them are seasonal migrants and they ended up living there permanently. In the 1880s you’ve got a huge wave of Bretons from Brittany who don’t speak French. If you go to the station of Montparnasse, you’ll see a lot of the cafes around Montparnasse are named after Breton towns — “à la ville de Saint-Brieuc,” la ville de Dinon. Still today at that station, Montparnasse, the first thing you see when you get off a train there is a sign for public assistance for Bretons. It’s in the station at Montparnasse.
The population in Marseilles includes lots of people from the south of France, from Provence, but also Italians. This is very obvious. People who move into Barcelona are far more likely to be Catalan than they are to be Galician, or Castilian or something. This is all obvious. There’s no surprises there. The image that people had of this rapid migration into cities of poor people. The majority of people who moved to these cities are poorer than the people who are already there. In the case of the 1950s and 1960s, in most of the cities it’s not the case. The 1950s and 1960s they were young professional couples who get enough money to come to rent an apartment in London, good luck, or to buy an apartment in London, or in Berlin, or someplace else, or Munich.
In the nineteenth century you have waves of poor people. The kinds of people you’ve seen before who are coming to work as domestic servants, coming to work as day laborers. In the case of London, coming to work on the teeming — there’s that word again — docks of the Thames River, as London is that imperial city looking out on its vast empire. The interesting thing about London, I wish we had days to talk about this stuff, but it’s really only in London that you had people of color. You could find them already by the end of the nineteenth-century, people coming from India, from what would become Pakistan, people coming from the Caribbean. In other cities, you simply didn’t have that. The number of North Africans coming to Paris is merely a trickle really until after World War I.
Anyway, contemporaries had the idea that what this whole process was, and I should have written this on the board, but you can write it down if you would please, called the uprooting hypothesis. They didn’t call it that. That’s social science from the 1960s. These people were uprooted from their steady, rural roots of organized religion and from family support and they are thrown into the maelstrom, into the chaos — sometimes a creative chaos, but nonetheless, the perception was a dangerous chaos that was urban life.
The result of all of this was that revolution becomes seen as an extension of purse snatching. In fact, some of the bad social science from the 1960s in trying to explain the riots in Detroit and places like that said, “Well, you’ve got a lot of poor people coming from Alabama and Arkansas,” which is certainly the case, “or from South and North Carolina move up to Detroit and try to get a job in the factories there. They get to Detroit and they just freak out, because those rural roots have been cut.” You still see this in various electoral campaigns even today, even as I speak, this idea that cosmopolitanism, which is also by the way in almost every language sort of a code word for anti-Semitism.
When people say, “Cities are so cosmopolitan,” they meant they are full of Jews. This is particularly true in this sort of anti-Semitism and racism of eastern and central Europe where you had such a large Jewish population living in cities like Prague, Budapest, Vilnius, Riga, just about anywhere you could name. With the kind of increase in ethnic populations with the Estonization of Tallinn or the Czechization of Prague, you had fewer Germans and fewer Jews living in those cities, but you had this sort of anti-Semitic discourse that lingers. Vienna is the classic case. Vienna goes from being sort of a liberal city in the 1850s and 1860s to sort of a hotbed of anti-Semitism, where the mayor of Vienna at the end of the nineteenth century, a buffoon called Carl Lueger, says, “I say who’s a Jew.” That’s one of his more infamous statements. “I declare who’s a Jew and who isn’t.”
Of course, one wants to understand how Adolf Hitler got his anti-Semitism. It really comes from World War I, but the basis was already laid there by growing up in Austria in the 1890s and the first decade of the twentieth century. If you think about that, does this massive immigration necessarily lead to urban chaos? The answer is obviously not. We have the effect that now we know a lot about, historians, and social scientists, and social geographers, and sociologists, which is called chain migration. Take the case of China. People who have studied Beijing discovered a long time ago, I remember this from days when I was studying Chinese history back at Michigan, and all these people pouring into Beijing in the nineteenth century. They formed native places associations. It’s obvious. You get together with people that you know from your part of China. They are sort of the intermediaries between you and the city.
The Irish are a classic case. We’ve already seen how the British elite are scared the hell out of the Irish, of the Irish, because they’re Catholic and all that. They don’t just pour into Manchester, Liverpool, and London and freak out. It doesn’t work like that at all. They live with their families. Their families make a little money and say, “Why don’t you come along?” It’s the same thing. Look at the case of America, people coming to the United States at the end of the nineteenth century first of all massively from northern Italy and then in the twentieth century from southern Italy. They send money back all the time. It’s very different than the Germans who came to the United States. They were almost never in contact with their families again, relatively, and the same with Swiss. But the Italians always stayed in contact.
In any case, all these people, it’s very sensible. If you come from California to Yale, there are a couple high schools in L.A. that send all of these students to Yale. If you’re kind of freaking out when you get to Yale and saying, “All these people are all so smart,” or whatever, then the next thing you do is you go to people that you wouldn’t even say hello to in high school and say, “Why don’t we hang out tonight,” or something like that. You find people who have origins like you, geographic or whatever, and hang out with them. It’s a logical thing. It happens every single time.
In the case of people moving to Paris, Limousins, people from the center part of France, Limousins, they live in certain neighborhoods around the center of Paris in the way that Bretons lived around what became the station of Montparnasse. This is chain migration. You see it in Philadelphia. You see it in London. You see it in Moscow. You see it in St. Petersburg. You see it everywhere. But, having said that, that’s not the way contemporaries viewed this.
Representations of the Corrupt City
St. John’s Church, Paddington District, London / Wikimedia Commons
Let me just give you a couple examples of how often well-meaning, but not always, contemporaries saw the phenomenon of urbanization and urban growth. These are taken from an excellent study by Andrew Lees. Let’s listen to a preacher called James Shergold Boone, minister of St. John’s church in the Paddington district of London. This is his sermon. When he’s talking about cities, he’s evoking Sodom and Gomorrah. “The very extent of edifices and the very collection of vast masses of human beings onto one spot, humanity remaining what it is (bad is what he means), must be fraught with moral infection.”
They continually use words like “infection,” that there’s a biological inequality of people with each other. The poor are biologically less likely to, in a world where Darwin and post-Darwin misuse of Darwin is very important, to survive the challenges of illness of disease. In illness, the cholera carries away poor people more than rich people. Going back to the good minister,
Cities are the centers and theatres of human ambition, human cupidity, human pleasure. On the one side, the appetites, the passions, the carnal corruptions of man are forced in a hotbed into a rank and file luxuriance, and countless evils which would otherwise have a feeble and difficult existence are struck out into activity and warmth [this is biological contagion. This is a disease metaphor constantly] by mere contact with each other. On the other side, many constraints and safeguards are weakened or even withdrawn.
This is what I mean by leaving those imaginary rural roots in which solidarity was considered to be automatic and family support so very, very important. He goes on. “In cities there is a complication of evils. External forces cooperate with inward desires.” You can conquer those inward bad desires in the countryside, but all is lost in the demon rum of moral corruption. The reality is from urban life, etc., etc. Sir Charles Shaw, who was police chief of Manchester, described the residents of industrial cities. He called the residents of industrial cities such as his own as “the debris which the vast whirlpool of human affairs deposited here in one of its eddies, associated but not united, contiguous but not connected.” That’s a perfect description of the uprooting hypothesis. There’s nothing you can do to save people from themselves. To take an example from Paris, because I’m going to talk about Paris in a while, in the 1830s a certain Vicomte — quite forgettable — exclaimed,
How ugly Paris seems after one year away. How one stifles in these dark, damp, narrow corridors [damp, that’s a key word in all this] which you are pleased to call the streets of Paris. One would think that it was an underground city, so sluggish in the air, so profound the obscurity. In it thousands of people live, bustle, throng in the liquid darkness, like reptiles in a marsh.
Or Victor Hugo. “Cities, like forests, have their dens in which hide all the vilest and most terrible monsters. All is ferocious.” It couldn’t be any more condemning than — particularly in Germany, where the whole sense of having a hometown, of being attached to a particular space and all of the corruption that comes from big cities. You see this over and over again. Take New York. Here’s another reverend, the Rev. Amory D. Mayo, who attacked the city.
All the dangers of the town may be summed up here, that here withdrawn from the blessed influence of nature [that is, out of the country] and set face to face against humanity, mankind loses his own nature and becomes a new and artificial creature, an unhuman cog in a social machinery that works like fate.
Again, in Émile Zola, the theme of fate is terribly important, of destiny along with, as you’ll see, people that have those, if you’ve read other Zola, that have the bad genes. They’ve got the drinking genes or whatever. You find all this appalling stuff. Here’s another one in a lecture in 1844, The Young Americans.
The cities drain the country of the best part of its population, the flower of its youth of both sexes. They go into the town and the country is cultivated by a so much inferior class.
That was the image. And, of course, all of the revolutions have a lot to do with that. Simon, I can’t find my wand. Is it up there? It’s not? Voilà. Can you do it? Thanks. Let’s look at an example of this. I’m sorry, I can’t click. I’m just going to have to wave my hands frenetically, or something, or jump up and down.
The City of Paris: A Case Study
View of a busy Paris street in 1850 / Wikimedia Commons
I want you to look at Paris and think about what I’ve said. This is Paris in 1839. Compared to London — I don’t have to talk about this. In London you can walk miles and you’re still staggering around looking for the next Tube stop, because it’s about three times as big, at least three times as big physically. Paris, in 1837 you could walk from the Arc de Triomphe, which is up on the left, to the ending about an hour and a half. This is before the inner suburbs are annexed for tax reasons, but also for reasons of imposing order on the troublesome periphery. This is part of the lecture.
What you’ve got is, if you know Paris at all, it doesn’t matter if you don’t know Paris, here’s the Garden of Luxemburg. You’ve got the Tuileries up along the Seine there. You’ve got your basic Seine river. You did have three islands, now there are but two. They cemented that one over. Ile Saint-Louis there, which is now one of the great tourist traps in Western civilization, but it’s still beautiful. There’s Cité with old Notre Dame right in the middle. You’ve got an enormous population. You’ve got in the central districts three times the density of population that you have now. We have an apartment in the Marais a couple of blocks up from Notre Dame. The density there in the 1840s in this neighborhood which is called the Arcis [today it is just part of the Marais], was three times what it is now. You’ve got this enormous implosion of people into the center from the provinces.
Next one, please. Voilà. The reason I put this up here, this is the first photo of Paris. This is what you call the daguerreotype, daguerreotype. I can identify this as — I’m sure not the only one, but this is the faubourg. It’s an English word as well as French. It means it’s sort of an extension of the town. It’s a difficult etymology. It doesn’t really come from false bourg, but from other things. It’s beyond the walls. But this is the first one. This is also from about 1837. Now, Haussmann, the Alsacian Attila, he built these boulevards that became the staging ground for the so-called Belle Époque. But there were also boulevards anywhere around, because the boulevards were where the walls had once been. Vienna is a great example. The rings around Vienna were the rings where the walls had been that were knocked down as the city grew. In Berlin you find the same thing.
Next, please. This is cheating a little bit. This is just unhealthy. This is an eighteenth-century hat. Look at the guy. He’s a nineteenth-century guy looking progressively forward to the nineteenth century with his bourgeois outfit. This could be the Restoration, actually. He’s going to get hit. “It’s raining,” he says, but it’s not. It’s a chamber pot being dumped on his head. In the 1860s only about ten percent of buildings had water above the second floor. Next, please. This is by a guy called Charles Meryon. It doesn’t matter. The point of this is this is Cité. There’s Notre Dame there, before Viollet-le-Duc’s big spire on it.
The point is that before the rebuilding of Paris this was among the most densely populated parts of Paris. At the end of the period, that is 1870, it’s the least densely populated part of Paris. Because — remember capitalism and the state? They build government buildings. The hospital is one of them. The Prefecture of Police, which had all the fighting around it in 1944, in August, was built as well. These places disappear. The morgue, one of the more important morgues was here also. That again, gave the idea of the disease of the center city. Next, please. Name those people. There we go.
You have the filling-in of the center. You’ve got the periphery with the emergence of these suburbs. It’s the suburbs that have increasingly poor people living in them who can’t afford to live in the center of Paris. That’s the big difference. That’s a big, big difference. You have a customs barrier around Paris. Every time you bring things into the city, or any other French city, you have to pay taxes on it. A six-pack of beer, you pay a tax. You have more space outside the city walls, so that’s where you build factories. You’re nearer to the canals and to railroads, so that’s where you build factories. The center city froze the unwanted industries, the dirty industries — soap, chemical, etc. — outside.
Sugar factory of Darboussier at Pointe-à-Pître, Guadeloupe, erected by Cail in 1868, interior view dating from the late 19th century. / Wikimedia Commons
Paris doesn’t de-industrialize. You still have the garment industry. But the dirty industries, the big industries stay on the outside. That’s where your labor force lives. How different that is than Philadelphia or Detroit, where you already had all this space and you’ve got the population moving into big central areas and essentially staying there. To be sure, in the United States, we have places like a very small part of New Orleans. You’ve got San Francisco. You’ve got Beacon Hill. You’ve got Manhattan. You’ve got places where you’ve got a lot of wealthy people living in the center city. But places like Detroit are more really common of the American experience.
I can remember when I was a kid, when I was younger than you, I think, going to a Yankee-Tiger doubleheader in 1967. Roy Whit played third base. We walked out and the city of Detroit was on fire because of the riots. It’s still all burned out there. One of the interesting things was Grosse Pointe, Michigan, which is a very fancy place. We have a lot of students here from Grosse Pointe. I’m not dissing Grosse Pointe, Michigan, but the municipal council tried to figure out a way that you couldn’t get to Grosse Pointe from the center of Detroit unless you had a map, unless you really knew how to get there to try to keep “them,” that is, the poor people of the center, from going to the suburbs. The upper classes of Grosse Pointe armed themselves with their hunting rifles, just as the constables had in central London in 1848. The spatial juxtaposition is incredible.
The Market and Fountain of the Innocents, Paris, 1823 / Wikimedia Commons
Those were lots of people in the center. The theme here is overcrowding. Here is the Market of the Innocents, which it’s called. Now it’s down by the forum Les Halles. Lots of people. Then the big market Haussman built would later be torn down. Lots of people in the middle. That’s a theme. Next, please. The Rue Pirouette in 1860. These are really old medieval buildings. A lot of them get destroyed by the rebuilding. Next, please. Violà, this is a good one. This is one of the streets that would disappear. You could say, “What the hell is he talking about? Where are all those people?” If you have really good eyes, you can see that there are a few people here, because of these long exposures, there’s actually some people standing there. This had already been condemned to be destroyed, rather like the Rue Transonain. It had part of the collective memory of the massacre there.
There were some sewers in Paris, but it was very unhealthy. In these areas, this is right near the Panthéon, that is sort of in the center left, eastern part of Paris. People just get destroyed by the cholera in 1832, and again in 1849, and again in the 1880s, in 1884. Fundamental inequality before death of the poor. This street — this is actually a great photo. This is by a guy called Charles Marville, who went around and took pictures of these neighborhoods that were going to disappear. Don’t worry about the names. Don’t worry about the streets. I’m trying just to make a point. Not everybody lived on those streets. In the second empire, that is 1852-1870, Napoleon III, people lived it up. A lot of Zola’s novels are really amazing about that. He didn’t like Louis Napoleon terribly much.
Something that comes in the nineteenth century, the idea of having red wine with cheese. You do have white wine with goat’s cheese. Or having white wine with — most with fish and fowl and that kind of thing, and these long, elaborate banquets of one course following another. I can hardly condemn that, having sat through a few thousand of them myself. Anyway, there we go. Fancy people.
Liberty Leading the People, by Eugène Delacroix, 1830 / Louvre Museum, Paris
This is revolution in 1830. The bourgeois guy doesn’t belong there. He never went out there anyway. Marianne — this is a highly romantic view of death. Here’s your street urchin there, who’s fighting the good fight in 1830. This is Delacroix’s famous Liberty Leading the People. This is an enormous painting. These people look like they’re kind of playacting. They’re kind of saying, “Oh, I’m dead now.” A few minutes later they’re going to get up again. This is very romanticized.
La barricade rue de la Mortellerie, 1848 (The barricade in rue Mortellerie, Paris), June 1848, by Ernest Meissonier / Louvre Museum
Compare this to Meissonier. This is a very underappreciated painting. Again, the name doesn’t matter. It meant something to him and it does to art people, but this is called The Barricade. This is only eighteen years later. This is 1848. This is real death. These are ordinary people. Again, look at the gray-green, the sick corridors. This is an affectionate look at people who are dying for a good cause in the center of Paris. Louis Napoleon, Napoleon III, didn’t want revolution again. Since there were barricades in so many of these revolutions, barricades begin on the day of the barricades in Paris in 1572, or something like that, before this course stokes up. He said, “Let’s build the boulevards so wide that you can’t build barricades across them.” In 1944 and in 1968 barricades were in the same places, often, where the revolutionary barricades had been in 1789 or in 1848 or 1871.
Haussmann presents Emperor Napoleon III the documents for the annexation of the Paris suburbs, by Adolphe Yvon, 1865 / Carnavalet Museum
These guys, that’s Napoleon, the guy with the pen. That’s Haussmann, who was born in Paris but had Alsacian parents. He’s in the middle. Louis Napoleon flops a map down and says, “Build big boulevards through this teeming city,” “teeming” used for the third time. He does that for three reasons. One, two, three. One, to bring more air into Paris, more boulevards with sewers underneath them. Boulevards mean better transportation, more light. Secondly, he does this to increase the flow of capital. It’s not a coincidence that department stores are built on these boulevards. Some of the ones are still there. The shopkeepers not near department store got wiped out. They were really mad. Very extreme rightwing voting at the end of the nineteenth century. The ones near the department stores do very well. Third, and he says it in Haussmann’s memoirs, Louis Napoleon wants these built so you can’t have barricades. He builds these boulevards around and through the traditional revolutionary areas. The result is lots of people pack up and they leave.
You still have people farming in Vaugirard and these places, Grenelle. All that will stop. By 1870 this is all sort of packed with people. The people living in Belleville, which is on a hill, were people many of whom were forced out of the central quarters by high rents. They are the ones perched dangerously, from the point of view of the center, on the periphery.
Ironically, as the middle classes move further and further west, they lost their contact with ordinary people. A lot of the stuff they’re reading is based upon — they don’t really see those people up there. Maybe they walk down the hill, they can’t afford to take the horse-drawn carriages, the omnibuses, to be servants in their houses. These spatial things are very interesting. You find them in other cities, too. Here, they take the map and they say, “Let’s build boulevards.” You don’t have to know anything about Paris to know that there wasn’t any north-south — north is up there; south is down toward me — thoroughfare, and they built Boulevard Saint Michel, Boulevard Strasbourg, Boulevard Saint Denis that goes up to the station of the east with the station of the north, right to the left. Étoile, up here, the boulevards help create the kind of star notion. Étoile means star. It looks like a star around the Arc de Triomphe and the big grand crossing that I’ll show you in a minute that gives you the west-east access, as well as some other ones, too.
They do a lot of building. They knock down a whole hill. This is now where the Palace of Trocadéro is, lots of work employing lots of people, so the housing workers like them. In 1855, let’s look at — you’re walking through the Gallery of Machines at one of these world fairs. Because Victoria had one in 1851, Louis Napoleon’s got to have one, too. He has two. He has one in 1855 and another one in 1866 or 1867. You’re walking along here. You can look at paintings. Above all, you can look at machines. You can look at things you can buy. That’s the principle of these expositions. Paris is on stage. That’s the principle of a department store. You can walk through a department store and you can buy forty-nine different kinds of shawls, ranging from very cheap ones to very expensive ones. It’s the same principle.
The boulevards are really an extension of, as my friend Phillip Nord once argued and so have a lot of other people, these department stores themselves. They become sort of a staging area for what became known as the Belle Epoque. It wasn’t so belle for people who didn’t have any money, because those were hard economic times. These department stores still exist. The BHV, the Bazaar de l’Hotel de Ville still exists in Paris. Bon Marché. There’s a terrific book on Bon Marché by Michael Miller. It’s still there. Zola called them “the cathedrals of modernity.” Already in the 1850s they had singing groups singing Christmas carols at Christmas. People would come. They couldn’t afford to buy anything and just be part of the spectacle.
Paris became a spectacle in itself. The boulevards were part of this. These aren’t very good prints, but he was so important he became-to haussmann something was to bulldoze it. Maybe to “Merriman” something would be to drink a good bottle of Côtes du Rhône. Maybe one day that will be mine. Maybe I’ll get a French verb. I’m just kidding. But anyway, haussmannisation is to bulldoze something. This is called the haussmannisation of a neighborhood. Here, these people are getting the equivalent of about ten dollars, forced out of their houses. They’ve got their dog. They’ve got everything they own there. Look at the mattress. A mattress is the last thing you ever pawned. There’s the mattress. They’re leaving.
The Rue de Rivoli, shown here in 1855, was the first boulevard built by Haussmann, and it served as the model for the others. / Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
This is called Haussmann Part II. Here you’ve got your Haussmannian vista. You’ve got the big boulevards with all these not then so fancy balcony railings. The real fancy ones come later in the Third Republic. This is really St. Augustine. It’s a hideous church. Some people really like it. My dear friend Bob Herbert thinks it’s not bad, the art historian. This is haussmannisation of a corridor, part two, of a neighborhood. Next, please. You’ve got people building. That’s the Tour Saint-Jacques, which is still there. A lot of these are little teeny people who are from the center part of France or the builders. Everybody’s aware of this building.
Here you can say, “How are we going to get from Point 1, which is down by the Seine, the Rue de Rivoli, which has been expanded? How do you get to this new opera they’re building?” First you tip off your friends so they make a lot of money on the deal, knowing what to sell and what to buy. Then you take a ruler. You didn’t have to be an architectural genius. You draw a straight line. That’s what I mean by “imperialism of the straight line.”
South façade of the Opéra Garnier in Paris, France. / Photo by Peter Rivera, Wikimedia Commons
You’re getting to the opera. There you can see it rising up, Garnier’s opera. It rises up out of the smoke, out of the cloud of destruction. I’m getting carried away. Next, please. There it’s being built. There it is. You are here looking at what now is the largest concentration of pickpockets in the western world, because there’s an American Express right near there. You see all these Americans. They’ve got their big wallets. They say, “Where’s the American Express, dear?” It’s right over here. Voop! Their wallets are out of there before they hit the top step of the Métro. That baby’s gone. Anyway, that’s the Place Vendôme down there. Next, please. There it is in 1900. Here again, imperialism in a straight line. There you’ve got — maybe I’ll do a thing on blowing up this building here. Sometime we’ll come back to this maybe. Anyway, there you go.
Gare de Paris-Est, Paris / Photo by Gilbert Bochenek, Wikimedia Commons
There’s the Gare de l’Est. When I see that station it’s so sad. That’s where all the people drinking champagne went in 1914 shouting, “À Berlin.” Just as in Hauptbahnhof, in Berlin they were shouting “Nach Paris.” Of course, they don’t come back. So many Jews were deported from here, if they were sent from the Galle du Nord to Drancy, if they were on the direct line to Auschwitz or the other death camps, they went through this station. Next. Arrested by French police, 1942-1943. He builds Les Halles, the big market. My friend Vincent Scully, who teaches in here afterward, he would do a better job on this, but I do remember the first time I was ever in Paris. I don’t know how old I was. Younger than I once was and than I am now, or younger than I’ll be, or whatever the line is. I met somebody on a bus in Germany. She was a sculpturess and she kindly invited me to stay in her apartment. It was all on the up and up. It was no problem. She took me down in the middle of the night to see this place, and to see the restaurants where you’d see the wealthy people eating, and the butchers with their smocks covered with Beaujolais and also with animal blood. It was really cool. Then they tore this down. They tore it down to build a whole bunch of unsuccessful places and the filthy destruction of a monument.
Paris with the Effect of Rain by Camille Pissarro, 1898 / Louvre Museum, Paris
Here is a very famous painting by Caillebotte that shows the anonymity. It’s called Paris with the Effect of Rain. It’s right here on this place, which is where two boulevards come together. That’s part of the thing, too. You’ve got your basic middle class people. They were carrying umbrellas. They are disconnected. They would never say hello to each other, and they’re crossing this intersection that becomes part of the heartbeat of urban life, or something dramatic like that.
Renoir didn’t like these boulevards. He said they’re lined up like troops at a review. That’s the most appropriate image of the centralization of state power. Speaking of state power, what happens in the Paris Commune in 1871 is that ordinary people in Paris take arms, as you know. They build barricades across these places. Then the troops of the provisional government from Versailles, appropriately enough, come in and they use these same boulevards, the extension of the Rue de Rivoli, the Rue St. Antoine, to go and gun down ordinary people, 25,000 of them. Welcome to the twentieth century in 1871, when you were guilty for whom you were. “À Paris tout le monde était coupable.” “In Paris everybody was guilty,” said a prosecuting attorney.
Social Geography of the European City: The Center Versus the Periphery
In the northwestern part of Paris people were moving into slightly better buildings. In the northeast, more rural looking ones just on the outside, the laundry of combat. We know this is after 1900, because there’s a reference to the metro. The metro didn’t open until 1900. So, this is probably about 1912, actually there. People on the periphery coming in to pawn their mattresses. Again, why are all the factories on the outside, all the ordinary people? Because life was cheaper out there. That’s why beyond Montparnasse are all these café areas that are still in Paris, now, but were once out there, because it was cheaper to be out there.
At the end of her sad, short, drunken life, Gervaise in L’Assommoir goes out to hook on the periphery, on the boulevard. She gets poorer and poorer. Zola was so well aware of the spatial concomitants of all of this. This is what it was like passing through the barrier. It’s outside that the red belt exists. It’s outside of all. Vienna is a classic example. In the 1930s you’ve got the army blasting, firing cannons against the working-class housing perched on the outside of town. “Sires,” said one of the ministers to Louis Philippe, “those usines, those factories that you are allowing to be built around Paris, on the outskirts will be the cord that strangles us one day.” It’s on the outskirts in these industrial suburbs that had once been producing cherries for the urban market and fruit, but now were their factories. It’s there that the Communist party did so well in the 1920s and 1930s, and even beyond. They provided social services. They defended people. They were called the mal lotis, people that had inappropriate places to live.
So that, again, was what I meant by center versus periphery and the sense of not belonging to the center, of not belonging to the center. You see the same thing with people living inside of American cities, of not belonging to prosperity. It can contribute to a formation of a counter-society, of kind of a sense of not belonging that creates a sense of belonging. As we are rejected, we too can become powerful. The spatial aspects of this are terribly important. Look at the riots in the suburbs in 2005. We don’t have time to talk about that, but that’s a fascinating thing. Different people who are marginalized by the center, large populations of North Africans, and of West Africans, and people from the Caribbean. It’s the same phenomenon, the center and periphery is there.
You went westward for pleasure, not eastward. You went further and further so the middle classes, particularly in the western part of Paris, plant their flag defiantly in Normandy, in Deauville, and in Angoville and all of these places there. It’s there that the impressionists paint the Parisian upper classes, who when you go to Deauville you still see all the 75 license plates and the 78s from the Paris region. It’s still the place.
There’s a social geography of leisure, too, that develops in Paris, as in these other cities. It happens so remarkably in what was not only the bourgeois century, not only the rebellious century, but above all, the urban century where the way in which people lived in very important ways was transformed.