Smith in the City: vignettes of Paris in the 18th century

I will resume my “Smith in the City” series in the next day or two. In the meantime, check out the following description of “Paris in the 18th century” via Wikipedia (links in the original): “Paris in the 18th century was the second-largest city in Europe, after London, with a population of about 600,000 people. The century saw the construction of Place Vendôme, the Place de la Concorde, the Champs-Élysées, the church of Les Invalides, and the Panthéon, and the founding of the Louvre Museum.” In addition, the following vignettes on that Wikipedia page also caught my attention:

Les bouillons de Paris

In about 1765 a new kind of eating establishment, called a “Bouillon”, was opened on rue des Poulies, near the Louvre, by a man named Boulanger. It had separate tables, a menu, and specialized in soups made with a base of meat and eggs, which were said to be “restaurants” or ways of restoring oneself. Dozens of bouillons soon appeared on Paris streets.” See Alfred Fierro, Histoire et dictionnaire de Paris (1996), pp. 136-137.

Carriages for hire

“There was no public transportation in Paris in the 18th century; the only way for ordinary Parisians to move around the city was on foot, a difficult experience in the winding, crowded and narrow streets, especially in the rain or at night. The nobles and the wealthy traversed the city either on horseback or in chairs carried by servants. These chairs gradually were replaced by horse-drawn carriages, both private and for hire. By 1750, there were more than ten thousand carriages for hire in Paris, the first Paris taxis.” See Yvan Combeau, Histoire de Paris (2013), pp. 47-48.

Church bells

“In the 18th century, the time of day or night in Paris was largely announced by the church bells; in 1789 there were 66 churches, 92 chapels, 13 abbeys and 199 convents, all of which rang their bells for regular services and prayers; sometimes a little early, sometimes a little late. A clock had also been installed in a tower of the palace on the Île de la Cité by Charles V in about 1370, and it also sounded the hour. Wealthy and noble Parisians began to have pocket watches, and needed a way to accurately set the time, so sundials appeared around the city. The best known-sundial was in the courtyard of the Palais-Royal. In 1750, the Duke of Chartres had a cannon installed there which, following the sundial, was fired precisely at noon each day.” See Fierro (1996), p. 226.

A market in titles of nobility

Louis-Sébastien Mercier described the social hierarchy of Paris in the Le Tableau de Paris (1783): “There are in Paris eight distinct classes; the princes and great nobles (these are the least numerous); the nobles of the robe; the financiers; the traders and merchants; the artists; the craftsmen; the manual workers; the servants; and the bas peuple (lower class).” In reality, the nobility had greatly expanded under Louis XIV, who liberally awarded or sold titles to men who had served the royal government. By 1726, two-thirds of the members of the Estates-General, who largely lived in Paris, had acquired or were in the process of acquiring noble status, and wealthy merchants and financiers were often able to obtain noble status for their families by marrying daughters to members of the old nobility. See Daniel Roche, The People of Paris: An Essay in Popular Culture in the 18th Century (1987), p. 92.

Louis Sebastien Mercier - Tableau de Paris - 2 volumes - - Catawiki

About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
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