Paris, France


Paris History

Paris has a deep-rooted cultural heritage that dates back two millennia, when the Roman village of Lutetia was founded on the Ile de la Cite.  In the oldern days, the central island housed government institutions, the left bank of the Seine housed a university, and the right bank became the center of trade and commerce.  Les Halles marketplace was the commercial hub of the city.  During the Hundred Years’ War, Paris lost its position as the French capital due to the English occupation, and Lyon claimed it. Paris was later reclaimed by Charles VII in 1437 and has been the capital ever since.

The storming of the Bastille in 1789 and the French Revolution ushered in a new era of French history.  The Industrial Revolution brought immigrant workers in from all over the continent and saw the development of railroads and factories. During the reign of Napoleon III, the city underwent a complete renovation and its narrow, medieval streets were replaced with the grand avenues of modern Paris (though it was not for altruistic reasons: the wide streets made crowd control much easier).

Paris has had its ups and downs since then. The city was besieged by Germany during the Franco-Prussian War.  The 1916 Flu Pandemic killed thousands. Paris was spared the horror of World War I, though German soldiers got as close as 25km outside the city. From June 1940 until August 1944 the city was occupied by Germany.  Paris is a resilient city, however. The Eiffel Tower was built for the World’s Fair and to honor the French Revolution centennial in 1889.  The Paris Metro was built in preparation for the 1900 World’s Fair.  Throughout the 20th century Paris has built up a reputation as the capital of high culture.  Expatriate artists that have taken their talents to Paris include Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Ernest Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Since World War II, the city has undergone a transformation into a modern metropolis. The suburbs expanded considerably thanks to the networks of highways and railways. La Defense on the former outskirts of the city has grown into the largest business district in Europe.  Paris remains a center for high culture, and high tech manufacturing.  The city has one of the highest per capita incomes in Europe, and plays an important role in the world’s economy.