Dawn of the Belle Epoque: The Paris of Monet, Zola, Bernhardt, Eiffel, Debussy, Clemenceau, and Their Friends

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
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A humiliating military defeat by Bismarck's Germany, a brutal siege, and a bloody uprising—Paris in 1871 was a shambles, and the question loomed, "Could this extraordinary city even survive?"

With the addition of an evocative new preface, Mary McAuliffe takes the reader back to these perilous years following the abrupt collapse of the Second Empire and France's uncertain venture into the Third Republic. By 1900, Paris had recovered and the Belle Epoque was in full flower, but the decades between were difficult, marked by struggles between republicans and monarchists, the Republic and the Church, and an ongoing economic malaise, darkened by a rising tide of virulent anti-Semitism.

Yet these same years also witnessed an extraordinary blossoming in art, literature, poetry, and music, with the Parisian cultural scene dramatically upended by revolutionaries such as Monet, Zola, Rodin, and Debussy, even while Gustave Eiffel was challenging architectural tradition with his iconic tower.

Through the eyes of these pioneers and others, including Sarah Bernhardt, Georges Clemenceau, Marie Curie, and César Ritz, we witness their struggles with the forces of tradition during the final years of a century hurtling towards its close. Through rich illustrations and vivid narrative, McAuliffe brings this vibrant and seminal era to life.
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About the author

Mary McAuliffe received a Ph.D. in history from the University of Maryland and has taught at several universities and lectured at the Smithsonian Institution. For many years she was a regular contributor to Paris Notes. She has traveled extensively in France and is the author of Paris Discovered: Explorations in the City of Light. She lives in New York City with her husband. Click here to visit her photo blog on Facebook for insights on French history and culture.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
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Published on
May 16, 2011
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Pages
400
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ISBN
9781442209299
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Europe / France
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Read Aloud
Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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When Paris Sizzled vividly portrays the City of Light during the fabulous 1920s, les Années folles, when Parisians emerged from the horrors of war to find that a new world greeted them—one that reverberated with the hard metallic clang of the assembly line, the roar of automobiles, and the beat of jazz. Mary McAuliffe traces a decade that saw seismic change on almost every front, from art and architecture to music, literature, fashion, entertainment, transportation, and, most notably, behavior.
The epicenter of all this creativity, as well as of the era’s good times, was Montparnasse, where impoverished artists and writers found colleagues and cafés, and tourists discovered the Paris of their dreams. Major figures on the Paris scene—such as Gertrude Stein, Jean Cocteau, Picasso, Stravinsky, Diaghilev, and Proust—continued to hold sway, while others now came to prominence—including Ernest Hemingway, Coco Chanel, Cole Porter, and Josephine Baker, as well as André Citroën, Le Corbusier, Man Ray, Sylvia Beach, James Joyce, and the irrepressible Kiki of Montparnasse.
Paris of the 1920s unquestionably sizzled. Yet rather than being a decade of unmitigated bliss, les Années folles also saw an undercurrent of despair as well as the rise of ruthless organizations of the extreme right, aimed at annihilating whatever threatened tradition and order—a struggle that would escalate in the years ahead. Through rich illustrations and evocative narrative, Mary McAuliffe brings this vibrant era to life.
Conflict between England and France was a fact of life for centuries, but few realize that its origins date from the time of the Vikings, when a Norse chieftain named Rollo established himself and his progeny in Normandy. In this compelling and entertaining history, Mary McAuliffe takes the reader back to those dark and turbulent times when Rollo’s descendants, the dukes of Normandy, asserted their dominance over the weak French monarchy—a dominance that became especially threatening after Duke William conquered England in 1066, giving him a royal crown.

Despite this crown, William the Conqueror and his royal successors remained dukes of Normandy, with feudal obligations to their overlord, the king of France. This naturally fostered an ongoing hostility between the French and English crowns that, as McAuliffe convincingly shows, became ever more explosive as the strength and territorial holdings of the English monarchs grew. Conflict erupted regularly over the years, and Eleanor of Aquitaine’s desertion of one camp for the other only added fuel to the long-simmering feud.

McAuliffe takes the reader back to this dramatic era, providing the fascinating background and context for this “clash of crowns.” She offers colorful insights into Richard Lionheart and Eleanor of Aquitaine as well as lesser-known French and English monarchs, especially Philip II of France. Philip proved a determined opponent of Richard Lionheart, and their cutthroat rivalry not only created fatal divisions within the Third Crusade but also culminated in an incendiary faceoff at Richard’s newly built Château-Gaillard, the seemingly impregnable gateway to empire. The outcome would shape the course of English and French history throughout the centuries that followed.
When Paris Sizzled vividly portrays the City of Light during the fabulous 1920s, les Années folles, when Parisians emerged from the horrors of war to find that a new world greeted them—one that reverberated with the hard metallic clang of the assembly line, the roar of automobiles, and the beat of jazz. Mary McAuliffe traces a decade that saw seismic change on almost every front, from art and architecture to music, literature, fashion, entertainment, transportation, and, most notably, behavior.
The epicenter of all this creativity, as well as of the era’s good times, was Montparnasse, where impoverished artists and writers found colleagues and cafés, and tourists discovered the Paris of their dreams. Major figures on the Paris scene—such as Gertrude Stein, Jean Cocteau, Picasso, Stravinsky, Diaghilev, and Proust—continued to hold sway, while others now came to prominence—including Ernest Hemingway, Coco Chanel, Cole Porter, and Josephine Baker, as well as André Citroën, Le Corbusier, Man Ray, Sylvia Beach, James Joyce, and the irrepressible Kiki of Montparnasse.
Paris of the 1920s unquestionably sizzled. Yet rather than being a decade of unmitigated bliss, les Années folles also saw an undercurrent of despair as well as the rise of ruthless organizations of the extreme right, aimed at annihilating whatever threatened tradition and order—a struggle that would escalate in the years ahead. Through rich illustrations and evocative narrative, Mary McAuliffe brings this vibrant era to life.
Conflict between England and France was a fact of life for centuries, but few realize that its origins date from the time of the Vikings, when a Norse chieftain named Rollo established himself and his progeny in Normandy. In this compelling and entertaining history, Mary McAuliffe takes the reader back to those dark and turbulent times when Rollo’s descendants, the dukes of Normandy, asserted their dominance over the weak French monarchy—a dominance that became especially threatening after Duke William conquered England in 1066, giving him a royal crown.

Despite this crown, William the Conqueror and his royal successors remained dukes of Normandy, with feudal obligations to their overlord, the king of France. This naturally fostered an ongoing hostility between the French and English crowns that, as McAuliffe convincingly shows, became ever more explosive as the strength and territorial holdings of the English monarchs grew. Conflict erupted regularly over the years, and Eleanor of Aquitaine’s desertion of one camp for the other only added fuel to the long-simmering feud.

McAuliffe takes the reader back to this dramatic era, providing the fascinating background and context for this “clash of crowns.” She offers colorful insights into Richard Lionheart and Eleanor of Aquitaine as well as lesser-known French and English monarchs, especially Philip II of France. Philip proved a determined opponent of Richard Lionheart, and their cutthroat rivalry not only created fatal divisions within the Third Crusade but also culminated in an incendiary faceoff at Richard’s newly built Château-Gaillard, the seemingly impregnable gateway to empire. The outcome would shape the course of English and French history throughout the centuries that followed.
Paris on the Brink vividly portrays the City of Light during the tumultuous 1930s, from the Wall Street Crash of 1929 to war and German Occupation. This was a dangerous and turbulent decade, during which workers flexed their economic muscle and their opponents struck back with increasing violence. As the divide between haves and have-nots widened, so did the political split between left and right, with animosities exploding into brutal clashes, intensified by the paramilitary leagues of the extreme right. Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini escalated the increasingly hazardous international environment, while the civil war in Spain added to the instability of the times.
Yet throughout the decade, Paris remained at the center of cultural creativity. Major figures on the Paris scene, such as Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, André Gide, Marie Curie, Picasso, Stravinsky, and Coco Chanel, continued to hold sway, in addition to Josephine Baker, Sylvia Beach, James Joyce, Man Ray, and Le Corbusier. Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre could now be seen at their favorite cafés, while Jean Renoir, Salvador Dalí, and Elsa Schiaparelli came to prominence, along with France’s first Socialist prime minister, Léon Blum.
Despite the decade’s creativity and glamour, it remained a difficult and dangerous time, and Parisians responded with growing nativism and anti-Semitism, while relying on their Maginot Line to protect them from external harm. Through rich illustrations and evocative narrative, Mary McAuliffe brings this extraordinary era to life.
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