Paris, France History

By | January 21, 2022

Antiquity: under the sign of the Gauls

Although the site of Paris has been occupied by man since 5000 BC. n. and., the history of the city really begins to be written in 250 a. n. and.. At that time, the Gallic tribe of the Parisii decided to settle on the current Ile de la Cité, a strategic point of passage to the north of the country and the tin trade.

Aware of the strategic challenge of the site, the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar sent his troops to crush the Gauls and took over the place.

In the year 52 a. n. and. the battle of Lutecia occurs. Afterwards, the city is rebuilt by the invaders on the Ile de la Cité and, on the left bank, along the northern slope of the Santa Genoveva mountain.

The Romans renamed the town Lutetia. The ancient amphitheater and the Cluný baths were built in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. The thermal baths are fed by an aqueduct that runs through the Bièvre, a river that later runs under the city. The monument is the reflection of a typically Roman way of life. In the year 280, the city is destroyed by barbarian invasions. Since the fourth century, Lutetia has been renamed Paris. In the year 451, an event in turn marked the memories in a lasting way: the nun Saint Genevieve managed to deflect the greed of Attila, king of the Huns. She will become the patroness of Paris.

The Middle Ages: in the center of the kingdom of France

In 508, Clovis, king of the Franks, made Paris the capital of his kingdom. In the 8th century, the center of the Carolingian empire shifts to the northeast. But the city acquires a new dimension with Hugo Capeto. This Count of Paris was elected King of France in 987 and founded a new dynasty, the Capetians. Later, Louis VI the Fat builds a fortification, the Châtelet, around the restored Grand-Pont (the current Pont au change). In 1163 the construction of the Notre-Dame Cathedral begins (which was completed in 1345).

Later, Felipe Augusto, a great urban planner, left his mark by surrounding Paris with walls and building the fortress of the Louvre. Under his reign Paris was consecrated as the capital. In the 13th century, Paris was the most populous city (approximately 200,000 residents) and the richest in the West.

At this time, the city is administered by a single man, the provost of the king. In 1268 the powerful corporation of boatmen adopted its motto, Fluctuat nec mergitur (the ship is beaten by the waves but does not sink), which later became that of Paris. In the fourteenth century, the municipality had a royal authority. But it will be regularly thwarted by royal power in the following centuries. In the 15th century, Paris is occupied by the English for sixteen years.

The modern era: birth of the royal squares

In the middle of the 16th century, under the reign of Francis I, the capital was embellished with Renaissance buildings, such as the new Louvre and the City Hall. At this time, several monuments emerged, such as the Natural History Museum and the Luxembourg Palace. Starting with King Henry IV, the city must honor its sovereign and exalt his power. Thus, the royal squares emerge: Place Dauphine for Henry IV, Place de la Concorde for Louis XV, Place des Vosges for Louis XIII, etc. In 1648, the Fronde began, the rebellion of the people, which lasted until 1653. In 1680, Louis XIV left the Louvre Palace, until then the mansion of the kings of France, to settle in Versailles, west of Paris. There he will die after 72 years of reign.

The Bastille: symbol of the Revolution

Main article: French Revolution.

The 14 of July of 1789, Parisians revolted by the pressure of the king over the new assembly formed by the Third Estate, storm the Bastille fortress, I symbol of absolutism. This event inaugurates the French Revolution and the decline of the “divine right monarchy” in France. On July 17, Louis XVI adopted the tricolor national flag with the colors of Paris (blue and red) and that of the king (white) at the City Hall. Jean-Sylvain Baillo is the first mayor. He is elected on July 15, 1789. The Republic was proclaimed for the first time in 1792. In 1793, King Louis XVI and the Queen Marie Antoinette are executed in the Place de la Concorde. Later, Napoleon Bonaparte’s coup ended the Revolution.

Urban development and repression of the Paris Commune

Napoleon was consecrated emperor at Notre-Dame in 1804. Paris owes him the Canal du Ourcq, the construction of the quays, the excavation of the sewers, the numbering of the houses, and so on. Barricades are erected in the capital: it is the July Revolution, which overthrows Carlos X in 1830.

Six years later, under Louis Philippe, the work on the triumphal arch of l’Étoile was completed. The 1848 revolution culminates in the proclamation of the Second Republic. In 1852, the Second Empire saw how the capital was transformed under the leadership of the prefect Haussmann.

It doubles the width of the roads, generalizes the sidewalks, etc. It also has 2,000 hectares of forest prepared and 90,000 trees planted along the roads. It also develops a sewerage network of about 500 km.

According to, the five stations were completed in 1847. Between 1855 and 1880, the sale price of the buildings increased by 136%. In 1870 the Third Republic was proclaimed in the town hall. The Prussians invade Paris. The Commune is crushed during the bloody week. Balance: more than 30,000 victims, a third of the city has burned and the town hall has been destroyed. Paris, under siege, loses its capital status for a time.

In 1873, the first Orientalist congress. In 1889, the Eiffel Tower was inaugurated during a universal exhibition. In 1910, Paris was flooded in a century-long flood from the River Seine.

Paris and the two world wars

During the First World War (1914-1918), Paris is saved from the German offensive by winning the Battle of the Marne (1914). On the other hand, the city did not escape the German occupation from 1940 to 1944. The collaborationist state led by Marshal Petain, settled in the city of Vichý.

In London, Free France is organized around General de Gaulle. In 1942, 12,000 Jews are arrested and gathered at the Winter Velodrome to be deported. Paris is liberated on August 25, 1944. The next day, General de Charles de Gaulle parades down the Champs-Elysées. The city has been saved: the German commander Dietrich von Choltitz, in charge of the defense of Paris, has disobeyed Hitler’s order to demolish the monuments of the capital.

From the Montparnasse tower to the return of the tram

In the 1960s, building towers were erected in the city. In May 1968, the student revolution takes place around the Sorbonne University (in District 5). At the beginning of the 1970s, the peripheral boulevard, the Montparnasse Tower and the Congress Palace were completed.

In 1977, Jacques Chirac was elected mayor of Paris: he was the first since 1871. Many monuments continue to flourish: the Bastille Opera, the Arch of Defense, the Stade de France, and so on.

In 2001, the new municipality, led by Bertrand Delanoë, takes over the city. In 1992, 35 years after the closing of the last tram line in the city, which went to Versailles, this means of transport returned to the French capital.

Paris, France History