cover image HAUSSMANN: His Life and Times, and the Making of Modern Paris

HAUSSMANN: His Life and Times, and the Making of Modern Paris

Michel Carmona, Carmona Michel, , trans. from the French by Patrick Camiller. . Ivan R. Dee, $35 (536pp) ISBN 978-1-56663-427-4

The notorious city planner for Napoléon III, and prefect of the Seine region, Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann turned Paris from a still medieval urban area to a triumphant imperial city—Haussmann makes New York's Robert Moses look timid by comparison. Haussmann believed in cutting across straight lines for wide boulevards, no matter what was standing in the way. He drove tens of thousands of poor residents out of the city's center and destroyed many ancient sites. Yet Paris did not follow obediently according to Haussmann's plans, and press campaigns, Carmona shows, finally made the public reject his work. In four main sections, Carmona, a professor of urban studies at the Université Paris IV–Sorbonne (who has written untranslated biographies of historical figures like Queen Marie de Médicis and Cardinal Richelieu), provides a reliable survey in academic prose of the rich source material available about Haussmann. In a utilitarian rather than elegant translation, this new book can get lost in some fairly tedious detail, but it hits all the necessary marks and then some, showing, for instance, that for all his imperial obsessions, even Napoleon III was not enamored of the giant radiating grands boulevards that make Paris so terrifying for pedestrians today. (June)

Forecast:This book's judiciously chosen bibliography (of titles mostly in French) is sure to aid further research, although it omits the main English-language study currently in print, David Jordan's Transforming Paris: The Life and Labors of Baron Haussmann (Free Press), an informative political bio. Further English-language studies of Haussmann date back 30 years to David H. Pinckney's Napoleon III and the Rebuilding of Paris and Anthony Sutcliffe's The Autumn of Central Paris.