Essay by Boiskers November 2014

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The following report compiles secondary and primary material to investigate and evaluate the functions and impact of Haussmann's boulevards in the latter half of 19th century Paris, the Second Empire, assessing the prolificacy and extent of its influence on the urban social, political and demographic dynamics of the period.

How Haussmann's boulevard changed Paris

Paris, today commonly known as La Ville-Lumière prior to the "creative destruction" of Haussmann's grands travaux (1853 to 1870), was increasingly, (until the second half of the 19th century), a city of darkness and squalor; an industrial engine set upon the lasting imprint of an obsolete medieval frame. From its genesis in the 3rd century BCE Paris had developed organically, town, markets and tanneries sprouting haphazardly over centuries, unimpeded by any underlying logic or urban design. By the industrial boom of the 19th century Paris was a dense network of small "streets [that] were inadequate for the traffic" winding between clusters of "old houses [that] were ill-suited to the sanitary requirements of the industrial city." This capillary-like system "where misery, pestilence and sickness work in concert, where sunlight and air rarely penetrate", in addition to being home of many, staged the iconic scenes of the French revolution.

Symbolically ingrained within their narrow winding passages was the culture of popular revolt, of barricades. However to many Parisians modern amenities usurped the vestiges of history and increasingly these historic streets of Paris were perceived as "dirty, crowded, and unhealthy" and there was a general call for, in the fashion of London and its open spaces, wider streets to host cafes and shops, accommodating a new gentrified Paris, they were the new venues of bourgeois leisure. Upon this scene Napoleon III and his appointed Prefect of the Seine Baron Georges Haussmann heralding...