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Paris: The Biography of a Cityby Colin Jones
Synopses & Reviews
Paris has been the center of French culture and politics, the great stage of kings, poets, and revolutionaries, the inspiration of artists, and the prize of armies since the Middle Ages. More distinguished than London, more central to world events than Rome, Paris has long been the world's capital of art, beauty, and ideas. British historian Colin Jones unfolds the entire history of Paris in a single splendid volume that is simultaneously exuberant and erudite.
Fluent in cultural as well as political history and keenly attuned to the ongoing drama of the city's evolution, Jones brings to life the people, ideas, social movements, and architectural upheavals that have made and remade Paris. Beginning with the late-Stone Age settlement, on the banks of a muddy river, Jones's brisk, authoritative narrative moves through every epoch — from the Roman town loved by the Emperor Julian to the early Christian capital of Clovis and Clotilda, from the plague-infested alleys of the Middle Ages to the brilliant salons of the Enlightenment, and from the bloody epicenter of the revolution to the brilliant backdrop of Impressionism.
Caesar and Colette, Saint Louis and Gertrude Stein, Napoleon and Jacques Chirac take their places, along with hundreds of others, in this dazzling history of the world's most glorious city.
"Jones, a historian at Britain's University of Warwick, has written a remarkable account of the most celebrated city in the world that blends history, literary sensibility and experience in an understated, affectionate but not sentimental voice. Moving from prehistoric tribal habitation through Roman times, medieval uncertainty and splendor, early modern religious wars, Enlightenment, revolution, and two world wars, Jones examines how rulers, economy, religion and violence have shaped the city. With a concrete sense of place, he evokes the layering of history revealed in the monuments and less visible remnants of the past. While one might deplore the loss of an earlier Paris in wartime ravages and the triumphs and failures of city planning (especially under the infamous Haussmann), one begins to sense that the extent to which the city has been built, embellished, demolished and rebuilt contributes to its vibrancy. Boxed inserts in each chapter that elaborate on locations and themes at first seem awkwardly placed, but their worth in tying together time and place quickly becomes clear: now-hidden rivers and city walls, a barely recognizable Roman amphitheater, the evolution of restaurants and numerous other sites and topics emerge. The poetry of place established in the early chapters is occasionally overwhelmed by the intensive detail of later time periods, but anyone who loves Paris will find connections and revelations here, a Paris of the mind that resonates through the centuries. B&w illus. (On sale Apr. 25)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Imperfect but, still, entertaining and informative." Kirkus Reviews
"As comprehensive in detail and scope as a one-volume history of an ages-old city can comfortably be, but written with a decidedly scholarly tone, this 'biography' will find its audience among history aficionados and ardent travelers unafraid to make a significant commitment to reading time and concentration." Booklist
A British historian unfolds the entire history of Paris in a single splendid volume that is simultaneously exuberant and erudite. Fluent in cultural as well as political history, Jones brings to life the people, ideas, social movements, and architectural upheavals that have made and remade Paris.
From the Roman Emperor Julian, who waxed rhapsodic about Parisian wine and figs, to Henry Miller, who relished its seductive bohemia, Paris has been a perennial source of fascination for 2,000 years. In this definitive and illuminating history, Colin Jones walks us through the city that was a plague-infested charnel house during the Middle Ages, the bloody epicenter of the French Revolution, the muse of nineteenth-century Impressionist painters, and much more. Jones’s masterful narrative is enhanced by numerous photographs and feature boxes—on the Bastille or Josephine Baker, for instance—that complete a colorful and comprehensive portrait of a place that has endured Vikings, Black Death, and the Nazis to emerge as the heart of a resurgent Europe. This is a thrilling companion for history buffs and backpack, or armchair, travelers alike.
About the Author
Colin Jones, a professor of history at Warwick University, has written widely on the social, economic, religious, political, medical, and cultural history of France. He is the author of The Cambridge Illustrated History of France and The Great Nation: France from Louis XV to Napoleon, also published by Penguin.
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