Heinrich Heine on cholera in Paris

German poet Heinrich Heine was in Paris when cholera broke out in 1832 and wrote an evocative description of its impact on the city. See:

Photos of the old and new Paris

Two websites offer some wonderful comparisons of 19th-century photographs of Paris with contemporary views.

This site at USC has rephotographed locations originally shot by legendary Paris photographer Charles Marville between 1859 and 1877. Some of Marville's photos are before Haussmann's reconstruction of Paris; others are after.

This site was compiled by the French newspaper Le Figaro, so the captions are in French, but they are not too complicated to figure out if you look for the place names. They give you a good feeling for the way the city changed during the Second Empire.

Discussion questions for Zola, The Ladies' Paradise

We will be discussing Zola's novel, The Ladies' Paradise on Thursday, March 10. Here are the questions you should be ready to discuss:

1) What is the underlying economic and commercial climate of the novel? How is Paris changing?

2) What innovations does Mouret introduce in his department store in order to get customers to buy? How are they similar to retailing practices today?

3) What are the working and living conditions of the department store employees?

4) What impact does the store have on the neighborhood, especially small shopkeepers?

5) What role do bourgeois (middle- and upper-middle class) women play in the new consumer culture?

6) What is the overall impact of the department store on the city of Paris?

Reading for "Rebuilding Paris"

This week, I'd like you to read the two-page "prose poem" by Charles Baudelaire called "The Eyes of the Poor" as well as a composed compilation of English-language guidebooks to Second Empire Paris by historian Rupert Christiansen called "Paris Partout!" in Paris Babylon. (Both readings are on electronic reserve.)

When you read them, think about how these two sources present the new Paris. What is the new city like? Who has benefited from the rebuilding of Paris? Who has not?

Chopin & Sand: An Affair to Remember

The films A Song to Remember (1945, USA) and Impromptu (1989, USA) are beautiful accounts of the relationship between the French author Aurore Dudevant aka George Sand and Polish composer Friedrich Chopin. Although fictionalized, they are based on real events and are both great introductions to one of the most famous love affairs of the Romantic period in Paris.

Get to know Honoré Daumier

  Wagon de troisième class, Third-class coach, 1863

Honoré Daumier (February 26, 1808 – February 10, 1879) was a French printmaker, caricaturist, painter, and sculptor, whose many works offer commentary on social and political life in France in the 19th century.
A prolific draftsman who produced over 4000 lithographs, he was perhaps best known for his caricatures of political figures and satires on the behavior of his countrymen, although posthumously the value of his painting has also been recognized.
Text from Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia

photograph of Daumier by the great photographer Nadar

 Extensive online galleries of Daumier's work can be found at the following: 


Romantic Paris

For those of you interested in more information about Paris (and France) during the time Victor Hugo writes about in Les Misérables, that is, after 1815 and before 1848, there is a great website that was created by students at Mt. Holyoke College:


I especially like the section on mapping the city, but there's lots of good information on Parisian daily life as well as the countercultural artistic movement(s) known as Bohemia.

Napoleon: Short TV Bio

Biography Channel's excellent 40 minute film on his life and times

Napoleon's Paris

Brush up on your knowledge of Napoleon and his short-lived empire:

The Guillotine in Music

The following works of classical music use the guillotine as a dramatic theme.

As mentioned in class, the fourth movement of Hector Berlioz' 1830 Symphonie Fantastique is called The March to the Scaffold. A poet dreams that he is being led to the guillotine. The symphony is programmatic (each movement has a narrative story or scene attached to it). Program music was very popular in the  nineteenth century as the novel became the most important literary form in Europe and both music and fine-art made attempts to mirror this.

The 1957 opera The Dialogues of the Carmelites by Francis Poulenc is based on the true story of a group of nuns executed by guillotine during the Reign of Terror. The final scene is one of the most moving in all of modern opera.

Placido Domingo is considered one of the greatest singers who has ever lived. Below is a clip of him singing a song called "Memories of Danton" written by his son the composer Placido Domingo Jr.  I am not certain if the lyrics are a poet's invention or taken from the actual writings of Georges Danton.

Finally John Corigliano's  The Ghosts of Versailles is a spectacular fantasy opera commissioned for the 100th anniversary of the Metropolitan Opera in NYC. It tells the story of the ghosts of Marie Antoinette and the playwright Beaumarchais who are tormented by memories of the Revolution. In this scene the phantom of the queen relives her last days. Creepy and beautiful!!

Jacques-Louis David: The Ultimate Survivor

I refer to neoclassical painter Jacques-Louis David as the "ultimate survivor" because he worked within the circles of power before, during and after the Revolution. One of his most famous paintings is of the inventor and aristocrat Antoine Lavoisier- a great chemist and the discoverer of oxygen. Lavoisier would lose his head during the terror.

David was a supporter of the Revolution and of Marat whose death he made famous in the following painting. Notice how Marat is painted in the style of the dead Christ or a martyred saint. In no time at all Marat would be so celebrated as a symbol of the Revolution that thinking of him in sacred terms would become almost normal.
After the Revolution David became the official painter to Napoleon Bonaparte. Two of his most famous paintings of the emperor are Napoleon Crossing the Alps (he is shown on a white stallion, but in reality it was a mule) and The Coronation of Napoleon and Josephine (the painting is filled with the actual portraits of important members of Napoleon's government and his family members). The Louvre Museum in Paris has the single largest collection of David's paintings although his enormous portrait of Lavoisier and his wife is in the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

The following is a very nice slide show of some of David's paintings. This is a good introduction to his vast output of mythological and historical paintings and his portraits.


The Terror of the Guillotine

If you are interested in seeing the images from the slide-show for the guillotine lecture go HERE.

As we discussed in class, the deaths of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette have fascinated artists and film-makers for a long while. How are these deaths portrayed and what does that tell us about HOW, WHY and WHAT we choose to remember about the past? How much of our knowledge of history is actually based on these artistic interpretations? I would argue that for most people cinema IS a primary way of learning "history".
The death of Marie from The Affair of the Necklace (2001, USA).

Danton (1983, Poland, dir: Andrzej Wajda) is a powerful historical film that uses the conflict between Robespierre and Danton to comment on the government of Communist Poland. Robespierre is portrayed as a fanatical leader whose devotion to the pure principles of the Revolution blinds him to the fact that real people (and not just "The People") actually matter. Danton is portrayed as a passionate, lusty human being who understands that Revolutions are made by and for actual people. The rift between the two men grows and grows until they become mortal enemies. Below is a clip from the last half of the film. Watch out for the scene in which Robespierre poses in a toga and with a palm frond (classical symbols of a wise leader) in the studio of Jacques Louis David. If you're interested in learning more about WHY this film was so controversial at the time read this fascinating essay by historian Robert Darnton.

class slide shows

The class slide shows are now on my website:

French Revolution mysteries

If you like reading historical mysteries, there is a series set in Paris before and during the French Revolution by Susanne Alleyn: The Cavalier of the Apocalypse, Palace of Justice, Game of Patience, A Treasury of Regrets. They are quite accurate historically and give a good sense of the atmosphere of the city at that time, especially during the Terror and after. The main character/detective works unofficially for the police. The author has a website: http://susannealleyn.com/ with more details on the books, and I found them at my local library.

The French Revolution: Free Online Lectures

For those of you who are interested in learning more about the French Revolution there are several excellent lectures from various universities available for download or streaming. I have been really amazed at all of the high quality lectures on history and other disciplines springing up across the web.  

Take a look at the website Academic Earth for an extensive listing of online courses.

"The French Revolution" part 1 from UC Berkeley

"The French Revolution" part 2 from UC Berkeley
The second half of the lecture isn't on Youtube but can be downloaded
from UC Berkeley's website HERE

Prof. Lynn Hunt's lectures on "The French Revolution" from UCLA.
Hunt is one of the most distinguished scholars of French History in the U.S.

Prof. John Merriman's lectures on "Robespierre and the Terror" from Yale.
This video has been split into five parts for posting to Youtube.
You can also download the entire lecture online HERE

The Court of the Sun King

Louis XIV was also known as "The Sun King" and is reported to have said: "I am the State." As related in class, he moved the royal residence from Paris to the ever growing spectacular palace of Versailles. Here Louis gathered the French nobles around him to both add to his glory and to keep an eye on them. The splendors of Versailles were both physical and ritualistic. The days and nights were full of elaborate ceremonies and entertainments.

As one of our classmates has reminded us, Louis was crazy about dancing. Indeed, modern ballet has evolved from the court ballets given at Versailles in which the King and his nobles actually participated. There is an entire film about this called "The King Dances" (La Roi Danse). Check out this fabulous scene as Louis covered in gold-paint and sun-halo is raised into the air during a dance rehearsal. His mother (Anne of Austria) watches in amazement. Nice legs indeed!

 In this entry I've made links to a few books and a few films about "The Sun King" The films include a full documentary on Louis and Versailles and a clip from "Vatel"- a film about the man who created the court entertainments including gigantic ice-sculptures, fireworks and mechanical wonders.



An excellent TV documentary on Louis XIV, his life and times. This is in several parts all of which have been posted to Youtube.

A scene from the film "Vatel" (2000) in which Louis XIV enters the garden of the Prince de Conde and is surrounded by an amazing array of mechanical stage props that spring to life. Vatel is the story of the fall of the Prince de Conde and the rise Versailles.

Blood Wedding or When the In-Laws Draw Their Swords... RUN!

The St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre (August 24, 1572)  is one of the most terrible days in the history of France. The murderous events following the marriage of the Catholic princess Marguerite (Margot) and the Protestant ruler Henry of Navarre, still haunt the city of Paris and live on in the realms of art, literature and film. Here are a few examples of images created during the period and in the centuries following.  The historian Jacques August de Thou (1553-1617) who was an eye-witness to the events had this to say.

The Massacre as painted by François Dubois, a Huguenot painter who settled in Switzerland.  To the left rear, Catherine de' Medici is shown emerging from the Louvre to inspect a heap of bodies.

This is a much later depiction of Catherine de Medici coming out to see the carnage. Painted by Édouard Debat-Ponsan in 1880, this Romantic work has the feeling of  a stage-play.

Queen Margot (France,1994) is a film based on the novel of the same name by Alexandre Dumas, Sr. (1802-1870) most famous for having written "The Three Musketeers". Although many of the details were invented by Dumas, the novel and film do a good job of portraying the events leading up to the massacre.

 This is the lavish wedding scene in which Margot is shoved by her brother King Charles IX when she refuses to say "I do" to the Protestant Henry. This bit of brotherly bullying is probably imaginary, however it does illustrate the fact that noblewomen had very little say in matters of marriage. Royal marriages were contracts made between great powers. In this case the wedding is an attempt at a peace contract which failed miserably.

The great massacre following the wedding:


Below is an excellent lecture by Barbara Diefendorf, a professor of history in the College of Arts and Sciences at Boston University. She discusses the causes and implications of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre and the myth-making power of history.

1739 map of Paris

A great resource to complement our reading of Mercier's Panorama of Paris is the Turgot map of Paris, published in 1739. This website (from the Kyoto University library!) allows you to look at the entire map or highlight specific locations.


You can see drawings of actual buildings on the map!

Some reading suggestions for research projects

The research projects you are doing on places in Paris require that you use at least two printed sources. In some cases, these will be easy to find. In others, you might need some help (please come ask me!). Here are some general resources on Paris that might have some information on your topic.

Colin Jones, Paris: Biography of a City
Feature boxes on the Arènes de Lutèce, the Philip Augustus Wall, Robert de Sorbon (university founder), the Parvis of Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Pont Neuf, the Café Procope, the catacombs, the mur des fédérés (at Père Lachaise cemetery), the Eiffel Tower, Sacré-Coeur of Montmartre, the Marais, and the Métro in the film "Zazie in the Métro."

Pierre Nora, ed., Realms of Memory, vol. 3
Chapters on the Louvre, the Pantheon, and the Eiffel Tower.

Eric Hazan, The Invention of Paris: A History in Footsteps
Organized by neighborhood. Material on Palais-Royal, Les Halles, Marais, Latin Quarter, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Champs-Elysées, Montmartre, Belleville.

Hilary Ballon, The Paris of Henri IV
Chapters on the Louvre, the Place des Vosges, and Pont Neuf.

Anthony Sutcliffe, Paris: An Architectural History
Not so much on specific monuments, but great on building styles.

Norma Evenson, Paris: A Century of Change, 1878-1978
Material on the metro.

Charles Rearick, Pleasures of the Belle Epoque
Chapter on worlds' fairs useful context for the Grand and Petit Palais.

If you start with the Wikipedia entry, as I suspect many of you will, be sure to look at the bibliography or further reading section.

If you cannot find the book in our library, then use Link+ to have it transfered from another library within 3-5 days:

And if you need help from a librarian, contact Kendra van Cleave, who is the history librarian, really knowledgeable, and super-nice: kendrav@sfsu.edu.

Underground Paris

The February issue of National Geographic has a great feature on underground Paris, from the catacombs to the sewers to the traces of older settlements. Check it out at:

Medieval Paris in Film

From our reading of Victor Hugo we learned that nineteenth century French authors idealized Medieval Paris, longing for a more simple, pure and picturesque time. In the twentieth century, Medieval Paris has often been the setting for films, including several versions of Hugo's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame". There are two early film versions of the novel that do a great job of recreating the sights of Medieval Paris, especially the enormous architetcure of Notre Dame and the teeming crowds of the period.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (United States, 1923)
This is the first film version starring the famous pioneer of special effects make-up "man of a thousand faces" Lon Chaney.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (United States, 1939)
This is the second film version (and in my opinion the BEST) starring the great English actor Charles Laughton (who had won an Oscar for playing King Henry VIII in 1934) and Irish/American actress Maureen O'Hara.

Roman Paris

Are you looking for traces of Roman Paris?
Try this website maintained by the French Ministry of Culture:

In Paris, Roman artifacts can be found at the Cluny Museum (http://www.musee-moyenage.fr/ang/index.html) and at the Crypte archéologique du parvis Notre-Dame, the archeological crypt of the Cathedral of Notre Dame.