Paris


Paris
   The capital and largest city of France, Paris is located on the Seine River, about 222 miles (370 kilometers) from its Atlantic outlet at Le Havre. Situated in a low-lying basin, Paris is mostly flat, although the elevation increases gradually from the river to the low hills at the city's edge. The highest natural point within the city proper is the Butte de Montmartre at 396 feet (129 m) above sea level. Having an estimated population of nearly 10 million, the metropolitan area of Paris contains almost 20 percent of the nation's inhabitants and, to an extraordinary degree, dominates the political, economic, and cultural life of France. in 2004, the population of Paris proper was over 2.1 million.
   Historically, France's governments have favored the city and made it the central point of national life, although attempts have been made to reduce this influence. Paris is also France's leading industrial center, with nearly one-quarter of the nation's manufacturing concentrated there. Consumer goods production has always ranked high, and high-technology industries are increasing. Preeminent in the arts and culture, Paris has many publishing companies and newspapers (le monde, le Figaro), luxury manufactures, and is the center of haute couture. Finance and banking are concentrated in Paris, and the city is now one of Europe's most important centers of international commerce and business. Situated in one of Europe's richest agricultural regions, which produces a number of crops, Paris is guaranteed a constant supply of food and is the economic center of the surrounding agrarian areas.
   Circular in shape and divided by the Seine, in which there are two islands (Île de la Cité, the original site of the city, and Île Saint-Louis), Paris has no topographical constraints and has grown through the centuries. However, it is densely populated. it has a low skyline (buildings' heights are controlled), with high rises only in the outlying new departments (e.g., La Défense). Paris enjoys mild winters owing to the temperate climate of the nation's west coast, and there is a lively outdoor urban life in its cafés, markets, and boulevards. its districts each have a distinct character (Left Bank, Latin Quarter, Right Bank, Champs-Elysées, Montmartre, Belleville, Ménilmontant) as the city has steadily grown since the 10th century. Neuilly to the west, has become an important suburb. The industrial Revolution caused a large population growth and, after World War II, there has been a substantial influx of immigrants from elsewhere in Europe, North Africa, and former colonial territories.
   Paris is the principal center of the nation's railway and highway system, and two international airports, orly and Charles de Gaulle, serve the city, as does a domestic one at Le Bourget. The Paris Métro, or subway, begun in 1900, has 16 main lines connecting the urban areas. The Seine, which is navigable, makes Paris a port, the fourth-largest in France, and connects it to the northern part of the country.
   The central area of the city grew early, and open and green spaces developed from areas protected by development, especially those that were royal preserves (Bois de Boulogne, Luxembourg Gardens, Parc Monceau, Bois de Vincennes). Paris's historical and monumental architecture reflects the city's historic and cultural position. These include the cathedral of Notre-Dame, on the Île de la Cité and the nearby Sainte-Chapelle, the louvre, the invalides, the place de la Concorde. in the mid-19th century, the city was redesigned by baron georges haussmann, with the place de l'Étoile (now place Charles de Gaulle) surrounding the arc de triomphe, the opéra, place de l'opéra, and the great boulevards— Champs-Elysées, rue de la Paix, rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré, boulevard des Italiens, and boulevard du Montparnasse—being constructed. In 1889, the Eiffel tower was built, and in 1910, the basilica of Sacre-Cœur was completed on the summit of Montmartre. other important buildings are the Panthéon, elysée palace (official residence of the president of the republic), Palais-Bourbon (seat of the National Assembly), Palais-Royal, palais de Chaillot, and palais de Justice. Recent impressive structures include the Grande Arche at La Défense at Nanterre, the Opéra de la Bastille, and the Centre Georges Pompidou. The old markets of Les Halles have been replaced by a multilevel mall.
   France's most prestigious educational institutions are located in Paris, the most prominent being the sorbonne (1257), Collège de France (1530), École polytechnique (1794), and others, and is the site of the Bibliothèque nationale and the Académie Française. Theaters include the théâtre de la Comédie-Française, Opéra de Paris Bastille, théâtre de l'Opéra, and the Odéon. Museums besides the Louvre include musée Rodin, musée de l'Art Moderne, and musée d'orsay.
   The history of Paris begins with its founding in the third century b.c.e. by the Parisii, a tribe who settled on the Île de la Cité. The Romans conquered in 52 b.c.e. but Paris was not a center of Roman Gaul. According to tradition, Christianity was introduced in the third century by Saint Denis, and in 451, the city was threatened by the Huns, but was saved, it was said, by the intercession of Saint Geneviève. in 486, the Frankish king Clovis made it his capital. The Capetian kings rebuilt the city, and during the 13th century the population may have reached 100,000. The 14th century was marked by the Hundred Years' War and the plague, but the second half of the 15th century brought peace and prosperity, and in the 16th, King francis i brought the Renaissance to Paris. A Catholic stronghold, the city was the site of the saint bartholomew'sday massacre in 1572, and only with the reign of henry IV did peace return. The Bourbon kings brought classicism to Paris (Invalides, place de la Concorde), illuminated it at night, and made many improvements. often a center of rebellion, Paris was at the center of the revolution of 1789, and during the reign of napoléon i, the city's domination over the rest of France increased. The site of the revolutions of 1830 and 1848, Paris, beginning in 1852, was vastly rebuilt. The franco-prussian war (1870-71) and the Paris commune uprising (1871) interrupted this process. The third republic brought prosperity (Paris Exposition, eiffel tower, 1889), and during the Belle Époque, the city became a center of modern culture and art. After World War I, Paris enlarged geographically (20 arrondissements) and continued as a center of international culture. Conquered by the Germans in June 1940, Paris was a center of the resistance. Liberated in 1944, it was fortunately little damaged by the war. in the postwar period, Paris has maintained its reputation as a locus of intellectual, cultural, and artistic life, as well as national (student unrest, May 1968) and international political developments.
   See also île-de-france.

France. A reference guide from Renaissance to the Present . 1884.

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