Once described as "that metropolis of dress and debauchery" by the Scottish poet David Mallet, Paris has always had a reputation for a peculiar joie de vivre, from art to architecture, cookery to couture, captivating minds and imaginations across the Continent and beyond. In Paris: A Short History, historian Jeremy Black examines the unique cultural circumstances that made Paris the vibrant capital it is today.
Black explores how Paris has been shaped throughout time, starting in the first century BCE, when the city was founded by the Parisii. From a small Gallic capital conquered by the Romans, Paris transformed into a flourishing medieval city full of spectacular palaces and cathedrals, including Sainte-Chapelle and Notre-Dame de Paris. During the illustrious reigns of Louis XIV and XV, Paris became one of the most beautiful and cosmopolitan capitals in the world, before the Revolution tore French society apart, changing the city forever. The Belle Époque brought new ideas and architecture to the city, including the iconic Eiffel Tower, before the destruction of World War I and II launched a massive regeneration project. Black completes his history by exploring present-day Paris and its role as the seat of a leading power on the world stage, and its future as the host of the 2024 Olympic Games.
Paris: A Short History deftly demonstrates that the history of Paris is about more than just a city: it is the history of a culture, a society, and a state that has impacted the rest of the world through centuries of changing fortunes.
As a Parisian—whose family lived there for more than a century—and as an historian, I can only be impressed by how Jeremy Black managed to grasp the Spirit of Paris, not only in its glorious past, but also in the recent years, with [its] complex challenges.
— Frédéric Saffroy, Historian and Lawyer, University of Lille
Jeremy Black is emeritus professor of history at the University of Exeter and the author or editor of over seventy books, including France: A Short History and Great Battles of All Time.