Paris : biography of a city

by Colin Jones

Paperback, 2006




London ; New York : Penguin, 2006.


"In this new history, Colin Jones gives a sense of the city of Paris as it was lived in, experienced and imagined over the two thousand years of its history. With an eye for the revealing, startling and occasionally horrible detail, he takes the reader from Roman Paris to the present day, re-creating the highs and lows of the history of the city and its inhabitants. All the great Parises are here: the formidable medieval centre of learning; the ferocious cockpit of the Hundred Years War and the Wars of Religion; the heart of European culture, Enlightenment and fashion; the epicentre of Revolution, Terror and Napoleonic ambition; the dazzling, fevered nineteenth-century city of Balzac, Manet, Baudelaire and Zola; the imperial capital stricken by two world wars and Nazi occupation; the prosperous contemporary capital, reeling beneath the weight of its historical past; and the city's future at the heart of Europe." "It will be enjoyed not only by lovers of history but by habitual Paris obsessives, by first-time visitors, and even by those who know the city only by distant repute."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member mtilleman07
This is one of the better-written histories I have ever read. Hundreds of pages flew by as I read. Jones includes 1-or-2 page sidebars about the most interesting stories about personalities, places, and incidents throughout the book, as well as great pictures. I did, however, find the maps to be almost useless, which is a shame since the geography of the city plays a major role in the narrative. The book will go better if you have either knowledge of Paris's layout or a good modern map.… (more)
LibraryThing member missizicks
Having read the description and a number if positive 5 star reviews of this book, I chose it to develop my understanding of Paris as a city before a recent trip. I was expecting a mix of geographical history, economic history and social history, with more of a leaning towards the latter. I was disappointed. It is mainly geographical history, an overview of Paris's town planning over the millennia. For me it lacked the personal. There wasn't enough time given to how changes in the physicality of the city affected the people who lived there. People seem incidental to the streets and buildings they interact with. The dry tone of the book sent me to sleep on more than one occasion. I read the Kindle version, and the structure of side panels didn't work at all well. I can imagine that, with a physical book, flipping between the main narrative and the incidental asides would be easier. In the Kindle version, they interrupt the flow of the narrative - mainly because they're plonked into the text and are more interesting, so that when the main narrative resumes, there is a moment of disorientation. I wish the whole book had been more on the model of the side panels. Having said that, the author has carried out extensive research, knows his subject and seems passionate about the geographical history of the city. If that's what you're looking for, this is undoubtedly a good choice. If, like me, you're after more social history, you'll probably wind up wishing you'd bought Alistair Horne's book.… (more)



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