Paris in the Age of Absolutism: An Essay

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9780271025315: Paris in the Age of Absolutism: An Essay

By the eighteenth century Paris was one of the great wonders of Europe, renowned for its magnificent royal monuments and as a center for science, literature, and the arts. More so than any other European city, Paris reflected the spirit of an age—an age that reached its zenith with the reign of France's Sun King, Louis XIV. No book better captures that spirit than Orest Ranum's Paris in the Age of Absolutism, first published in 1968 and now reissued in a revised and expanded edition.

Ranum's tour of Paris begins in the late 1500s with a French capital city exhausted by the violence of the Wars of Religion and proceeds through the long century that ends with the death of Louis XIV in 1715. Henry IV (1589-1610), head of the Bourbon branch of the royal family, laid the foundations of modern Paris, but it was during the mature years of his grandson, Louis XIV, and during the service of his visionary minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, that a New Rome was created. By 1715 the city was far different from what it had been in 1590. There were now large geometrical public squares with statues of the King at their focal point. There were arches of triumph, hospital-prisons, a new and gigantic wing on the Louvre, handsome stone bridges, streetlights, and massive stone quays along the Seine.

Ranum ranges widely through the streets and quarters of Paris, attentive to the achievements of town planners, architects, and engineers as well as to city politics, social currents, and the spirit of religious reform. Behind it all lay the rule-creating authoritarianism of the absolute state, which, ironically, unleashed Parisians' creative impulses in everything from literature, painting, and music to architecture, mathematics, and physics.

Paris in the Age of Absolutism is one of those rare books that combines elegant prose with stunning erudition, making it both captivating for general readers and challenging to scholars. This new edition has been thoroughly revised and expanded to take into account the wealth of scholarship that has appeared since 1968. Of particular note are a new introduction and a new chapter on women writers. A larger format accentuates a full selection of illustrations, many of them new to this edition.

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About the Author:

Orest Ranum is Professor of History Emeritus at The Johns Hopkins University. His most recent book is The Fronde: A French Revolution (1993).

Review:

“This is a welcome new edition of a classic work. Orest Ranum vividly depicts Paris's transformation from a somber medieval city devastated by war to the grand New Rome of Louis XIV. Impressionistic and intense, this book captures well the evolving moods of Paris's citizenry and the values imposed by its dominant elite.”

—Barbara Diefendorf, Boston University



“Cities do not grow beautiful by chance. None have. A fact forcibly brought home in [this] brilliant book. . . . Here we see how Paris grew, not only in people, in commerce, in riches, but also how it became a symbol, an expression of the aspiration of Louis XIV and his minister, Colbert, who wished to emulate Augustan Rome. *From the original edition”

—J. H. Plumb, Saturday Review



“The seventeenth century comes alive... Ranum has done much to explain the place of Paris in the development of absolutism, the evolution of society during the Ancién Regime, the importance of the corporations, and the gradual alienation between Paris and the crown. * From the original edition”

The Historian



“Since its original publication in 1968, no book has matched Orest Ranum's captivating and wide-ranging account of Paris in the 17th century, when she emerges as a great capital city. Combining fine-grained insights with a vivid portrait of urban life, this book explains the importance of Paris in French history and confirms Ranum's standing as the finest historian of seventeenth-century France writing in the English language today.”

—Hilary Ballon, Columbia University



“It was, and still is, an intricate blend of architectural, economic, social, political, and intellectual history, coming together to produce a powerful impression upon the reader.”

—Paul Sonnino, History



“When travelers take a walk around twenty-first century Paris, they should take Orest Ranum’s Paris in the Age of Absolutism with them.”

—Michael R. Lynn, Sixteenth Century Journal



“This book, designated by Ranum as “an essay” offers a deeply interesting look at a fascinating city without necessarily trying to cover everything.”

—Michael R. Lynn, Sixteenth Century Journal



“He takes the reader on a wondrous journey; Ranum clearly knows Paris well, and has walked its streets often.”

—Michael R. Lynn, Sixteenth Century Journal



“The new edition of Paris in the Age of Absolutism, beautifully produced by Pennsylvania State University Press and sumptuously illustrated, is very welcome. The first edition was an innovative political history, elegantly written, and displaying great sensitivity to the role of urban planning, architecture, and the culture of the French and Parisian elite. It retains all of these qualities, even after so long, and is still a pleasure to read. It is fascinating to observe just how far ahead Ranum’s original work was, in certain respects, of much that was being written in the late 1960s. While he eschews what he sees as the jargonistic language of ‘political culture’ and ‘representations’, he nevertheless uses the concepts. And his global vision of seventeenth-century Parisian politics as a struggle between a religious idiom and a ‘heroic’, chivalric noble culture, with the absolute monarchy skillfully using elements of both in order to transcend both, remains a challenging and valuable one for both students and scholars.”

—David Garrioch, H-France



“But this classic—and now sumptuously produced—book is still a wonderful read, and it is good to have it available again in this mildly updated format.”

—Colin Jones, European History Quarterly

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