During revolutions in 1789, 1830 and 1848 dissatisfied working-class Parisians barricaded the narrow streets and overthrew various regimes. When Napoleon III proclaimed the Second Empire (1851-1870), he brought in Georges Haussmann to make the French capital stable and “modern.” Haussmann bulldozed through crowded slums, evicted the problematic residents and built wide boulevards, which introduced sunlight and fresh air to the dark and dirty city (and would hopefully render them barricade-less). Furthermore, he oversaw the construction of luxury apartments, cavernous train stations and imposing municipal buildings.
“Modernity” also meant changing how people used the city. The new wide boulevards allowed residents to enjoy sidewalk cafés and department stores. The city’s new parks provided respite from the hustle and bustle of one of Europe’s largest business centers. In one such example, Haussmann transformed the central Ile de la Cité from a working-class neighborhood to a space for government, business and monuments (i.e. Notre Dame Cathedral).
Below are images of the city bulldozing through central Paris, the new intersection of the Rue de Rivoli and the Boulevard de Sébastopol and the transformation of the Ile de la Cité. (click on images to see full sized)