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A Bar at the Folies-Bergère

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A Brief History of Paris 1852 - 1885

On 2nd December 1852, the 47th anniversary of his uncle's coronation as Emperor of the French, Louis Napoleon crowned himself Napoleon III, and the Second Empire succeeded the short-lived Second Republic. It was a period marked in Paris by massive reconstruction, the burgeoning of the bourgeoisie and stupendous moral hypocrisy. While Manet was attacked for the immorality of 'Olympia' and 'Dejeuner sur l'herbe', the buying and selling of sexual favour flourished in the markets of the dance halls and circuses, including the Folies-Bergere. At the same time authoritarian rule was made tolerable by sensational economic growth.

Haussmann's redesign of Paris began in 1853 and was more or less completed within three years. 'The Boulevard', wide and deep and café-rich, came into its own. From 1860 a degree of political liberalization accompanied colonial expansion, until, with shocking abruptness, the Second Empire came to a catastrophic end with the Prussian invasion of France and the siege and fall of Paris.

The Franco-Prussian War, a defeat for France engineered by Bismark, was followed by the Paris Commune of 1871, during which the city was taken over by an undisciplined mob of left-leaning revolutionaries. The Commune was brought to an end in May of that year. In one terrible week up to 25,000 Parisians died.

Napoleon III had been captured at the battle of Sedan; now a Third Republic was declared. Adolphe Thiers became its first President on 31 August 1871. He was succeeded by the rather strict MacMahon in 1873. The laws defining the organisation and operating procedures of government were passed in 1875; but it was only with the elections of October 1877, which resulted in a republican majority in the Chamber of Deputies, that the new regime was fully recognised. There was significant institutional and social progress during this period, as well as improvements in the sphere of civil liberties. In 1874 the first Impressionist show had been held. The new Paris, post Haussmann, post-Siege, post-Commune began to bloom. The centre of Bohemian life moved across the river, from Montparnasse to Montmartre. Paris was ready to become the cultural capital of the world.


Haussmann
The Boulevard

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General View of Paris, 1871

Carbote Freres (Science and Society Picture Library)

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Memorial to Aeronauts in the Siege of Paris

Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi (Place des Ternes, Paris)

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Au Bon Marche Department Store

Louis Charles Boileau, (Rue de Sevres, Paris, France)

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