The history of Paris dates back to approximately 259 BC, with the Parisii, a Celtic tribe settled on the banks of the Seine. In 52 BC, the fishing village was conquered by the Romans, founding a Gallo-Roman town called Lutetia.
The city changed its name to Paris during the fourth century AD. In 508 the first king of the Franks, Clovis I, made Paris the capital of his empire. In 987, the Capetian dynasty came to power until 1328.
During the eleventh century, Paris gradually became more prosperous thanks in part to its trade in silver and because it was a strategic route for pilgrims and traders. At the beginning of the twelfth century, the first university in France was founded thanks to the sporadic uprisings of students and professors. Louis IX appointed the chaplain, Robert de Sorbon, to establish the College, which was later named after him, the Sorbonne.
Paris was the most populated city in Europe in 1328, when it was struck by the Bubonic plague that killed thousands of Parisians. Following the Hundred Years’ War, Paris was devastated and Joan of Arc was unable to keep the British from taking Paris. In 1431, Henry VI of England was crowned King of France and the English did not leave until 1436.
The city kept on expending during the following centuries, although monarchs preferred to live in the Loire Valley. In 1528, King Francis I returned the royal residence to Paris and the city became the largest in Western Europe.
In 1648, the second Day of the Barricades took place when the Parisians opposed the King due to the deplorable level of poverty. This was the beginning of a long uprising called the Fronde parlementaire, a serie of civil wars that took place in France between 1648 and 1662. Fifteen years later, King Louis XVI moved the royal residence to Versailles.
As a consequence of the Fronde, poverty spread throughout Paris. During this period, there was an explosion of the Enlightenment philosophical movement, whose principles are based on reason, equality and freedom.
Philosophers and authors such as Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot and Montesquieu fostered the Enlightenment, creating a need for a socio-economic equality that led to the revolution and the decline of the divine right monarchy.
On the 14 July 1789, the Parisians stormed the Bastille, the grand symbol of the royal authority and on the 3 September 1791, the first written Constitution was created and approved by King Louis XVI. The King and his ministers made up the executive branch and the Monarch was allowed a suspensive veto of the laws approved by the National Assembly.<br />
On 10 August, 1792, the Parisians attacked the Tuileries Palace and the National Assembly and suspended the King’s constitutional rights. The new parliament abolished the monarchy and proclaimed the Republic. As a consequence, on 17 August 1795, a new constitution was approved giving the executive power to a Directory.
On 9 November 1799, the army was unable to crush the coup d’état led by Napoleon Bonaparte, which overthrew the Directory and swiftly replaced it with he Consulate, Napoleon being First Consul.
Napoleon enlarged the Place du Carrousel, built two Arcs de Triomphe, a column, several markets, the Paris bourse and a few slaughter houses.
The Napoleonic Wars – and with it the Empire of Napoleon – ended on 20 November 1815, after Napoleon had been defeated at the Battle of Waterloo, and the second Treaty of Paris of 1815 was signed.
Once Napoleon had been defeated, France experienced great political uncertainty until Napoleon’s nephew organized a coup d’état in 1851 and became Emperor Napoleon III. During the following seventeen years, Napoleon III promoted the city’s urban development.
During this period and with the aid of Baron Haussmann as the prefect of Paris, the city changed its urban structure, rebuilding the center, knocking down its fortification and expanding the metropolitan area.
On the 28 January 1871, Paris was conquered by the Prussian troops and a few years later, the Third Republic was proclaimed. With the new government, an era of economic growth began for the city, promoting in 1889 the construction of the famous Eiffel Tower, a worldwide symbol of Paris.
See some 19th century prints of Paris >>
From the twentieth century on, Paris suffered important changes with the reconstruction of different neighborhoods, many damaged during World War I and World War II.
Daumier, H.- Allons donc, chers confrères .... vous avez tort de vous disputer hors de l'audience..... ce lieu ci doit être la salle des pas perdus pour les plaideurs..... mais jamais les avocats ne doivent y perdre des paroles......De la Mare, N. deCinquieme plan de la ville de Paris. Son accroissement, et sa Quatrieme Clôture commandée sous Charles V l'an 1367 et finie sous Charles VI l'an 1383.Huitieme plan de Paris divisé en ses vingts quartiers. Par N. de Fer, Geographe de sa Majesté Catolique, et de Monseigneur le Dauphin.