#Acquisitions – Paris Reborn

Stephane Kirkland, Paris Reborn: Napoleon III, Baron Haussmann, and the Quest to Build a Modern City (New York: Picador, 2014). While my own research is focussed on transport in Brisbane, that work is cited within two key sub-fields – transport and urban history. As I am currently getting to grips with the historiography of both these fields of history, I thought I would dip into the history of what must surely be one of the most widely written about cities, Paris. Indeed, David P. Jordan, who published a biography of Baron Haussmann in 1995, reflected that the reason for the large ‘scholarly and confessional literature’ on Paris probably has something to do with that fact that the city is ‘inexhaustibly inspiring.’[1] I have always had an interest in the French Second Empire of Napoleon III and so I thought I would do some reading on the redevelopment of Paris during this period. The core of Kirkland’s account is to place Napoleon III centre stage rather than Haussmann. As Kirkland noted in his prologue (p. 2), ‘[t]o begin and end the story with Baron Haussmann is to fall into a historiographical trap, and to miss what makes this story so compelling.’ Whether Kirkland achieves this aim remains to be seen.

[1] David P. Jordan, ‘Paris: Haussmann and After,’ Journal of Urban History, 41:3 (2015), p. 541. For Jordan’s work on Haussmann, see: Transforming Paris: The Life and Labors of Baron Haussmann (New York: Free Press, 1995).

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