Haussmann's Paris

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In the middle of Napoleon III's reign, the transformation of Paris began. He commissioned Baron Georges-Eugene Haussmann to renovate the city between 1852 and 1870. Baron Haussmann received a lot of criticism for his redesign of Paris and it unfortunately led to his downfall in 1870. However should one see Haussmann as the saviour or destroyer of Paris?

Georges-Eugene Haussmann was born in Paris on the 27th of March 1809. He studied Law at the College Henri IV located in the Latin Quarter on the Left Bank. In 1831 he entered the French civil service and became Prefect of the Seine on the 29th of June 1853. He was hand chosen to carry out the social plans of Napoleon III, who wished to improve Paris after a trip to London inspired him. This "led to a substantial rebuilding of large areas of the city between 1850 and 1870" (Smith 70). Because of this Haussmann lived a life of prestige, never before seen by a prefect of the Seine. During his post he saw the Emperor almost every day. He remained Prefect until his removal seventeen years later, after his excessive spending put Napoleon III under political scrutiny. "Haussmann's great contribution to the transformation of Paris was the resolute accomplishment of the Emperor's plans" (Pinkney 44). This however was not entirely the case, as he greatly elaborated Napoleon's plans, and "made numerous and important additions to them" (Pinkney 44). He did this by adding new streets, lots of green spaces and public buildings.

Haussmann separated the city by making it into a geometric grid, with the majority of his "Grands Boulevards" running east to west and north to south. This plan brought a new symmetry to Paris, which it desperately needed. The narrow, winding streets that Paris was kn...

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...public parks and sewage and water systems.

On the 5th of January 1870 Haussmann was let go from his post as Prefect, after his antics and excessive spending poorly reflected on Napoleon III. He died in Paris on the 11th of January 1891. Did he destroy Paris? Or save it? The criticism differs; he certainly made life difficult for the Parisians in the 19th century, but greatly improved the beautiful city of Paris into how it is known today. He also inspired the transformation of cities all over the world, with the "City Beautiful Movement" in the United States and cities such as Moscow adapting Haussmann's ideas to suit the city. He transformed Paris from a dirty and unhealthy city, into a beautiful place, which would be enjoyed by everyone for many years to come. He did a great service to the people of Paris, though they might not have agreed in the 19th Century.
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