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Ideals: A City Divided

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The City of Paris was divided in many, many ways. The city itself was divided into 20 different Faubourgs and later into Arrondissments (districts) for the purpose of taxation and policing, but there were social divisions as well that were just as concrete. These divisions were influenced by the differing ideals between social groups. Understanding these divisions is important to both the political and social history of Paris as seen in maps, and more importantly in understanding the "bourgeoisification" of Paris.

Paris was generally divided between east and west, not on either bank of the Seine as some might think This division had mainly to do with Political orientation, but a lot of it had to so with social factors as well-- the two often go hand in hand.

Political Division of Paris:

Generally speaking the West Paris was conservative and East Paris was liberal. This is reflected in the location of many monuments in Paris: For instance the the Place de al Bastille and Pantheon , both centers of Revolutionary pride, are in the East; while the Arc de Triumph and the Hotel des Invalides, both military monuments, are in the west. The political center of Paris meanwhile was claimed by no side.

Paris During the Days of Germinal, April 1795: from Chronicle of the French Revolution; London, Chronicle Communications Ltd., 1989 -- page 473
The Distribution of Barricades in Paris, 1848 from Harvey, David; Consciousness and the Urban Experience; Baltimore, MD; Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985

These differing ideals often reflected themselves in times of turmoil. The map above, to the left, shows how Paris divided itself during the Days of Germinal, in April 1795, and the map above to the right shows the distribution of Barricades during the June insurrection of 1848. The "days of Germinal" happened when the Convention (the governing body of France at the time) removed price limits on food and other goods and rioters stormed the streets in response to the giant increase in prices. As one can see on the map , the rioters tended to prefer the east, where as the supporters of the Conventions actions lived in the west. This makes sense in that the east was largely populated by the poorer, lower classes who would have been more affected by a sharp increase in prices, and the majority of whom were supporters of the revolution. Meanwhile, the west was, in general, populated by the wealthy,more fashionable upper classes -- including the upper rungs of the bourgeoisie, the wealthy shop owners, who would have been more sympathetic and even supportive of the conventions actions. This same division applies to the Map on the right, of the June Insurrection of 1848. These division would become even more distinct as Haussmannization further divided the people, material culture blossomed and the poor seemed to get poorer and the rich richer.

Social Division of Paris:


Map of Paris in 1853, modified to show the socially fashionable area around the Champs Elysees and the scholarly Latin Quarter. Original Map Courtesy of Yale University Map Collection and Frederick W. Musto, Curator

Intricately twined with the political factionalism of Paris is its social side. As in its politics, Paris was socially divided by east and west, but also a bit by the banks of the Seine as well. The northwest quadrant of Paris (marked in yellow on the map to the right) was the center of fashionable society, especially during the time of Victor Hugo when Paris's new material culture was flourishing. Among its landmarks are the Champs Elysees, the Tuileries Palace Gardens, the Louvre, the National Opera as well as numerous shops and cafes. Meanwhile counter to this, in the Southeast quadrant of Paris was the Latin Quarter. Named not for any ethnic connection, but rather after the language. Up until the Revolution, when the Church lost control of many of their institutions, Latin had remained the language of Learning. As you might guess, the Latin quarter was the home of Paris' universities, its scholars, its artists, and most importantly its bohemians.

How Divisions play into Victor Hugo's Les Miserables

Courfeyrac was no longer the imperturbable in habitant of the Latin Quarter; he had gone to live in the Rue de la Verrerie "for political reasons". This quarter was one in which the revolution was fond of installing itself in those days. (Hugo, 743)

As illustrated in the quote above, political and social divisions are clearly visible in Hugo's Les Mis. Because of his political orientation, Courfeyrac felt inclined to move to a different district. These divisions are also visible in the character of Marius. Marius grew up in the house of his royalist uncle in the Faubourg Saint Germain (Hugo, 543), one of the richest and most conservative districts in the city; however when he decided to forsake his uncle and follow the path of bohemianism and Bonapartism/ Democratic Republicanism, he moved to the Gorbeau Tenement (Hugo, 590), a tiny run down apartment on the outskirts of the Latin Quarter. He spent his free time however in the Luxembourg Gardens where he studied and then later showed off and courted Cosette (Hugo 606). As one can see each of these actions and events had their own distinct location in Paris.


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