A Brief History of Paris, France

The city was founded towards the end of the third century B.C. on a isle in the middle of what is now Paris, by a Celtic Gaul tribe.

Eventually, Julius Caesar's army took over the city in 52 B.C. and the Roman influence lingered well into the fifth century A.D. when the Frankish king Clovis I once again united his kingdom, and made Paris its capital.

In 987 A.D. when Hugh Capet, Count of Paris, became the King of France, Paris' position as the hub of French government was secured.

Middle Ages

The Middle Ages were a time of both prosperity and discontent.

Work on Notre Dame Cathedral was started in the 12th century (and finished 200 years later).

The Sorbonne, that bastion of learning, welcomed its first visitors in 1253; and the Louvre Art Museum began life as a riverside fortress at the start of the 13th century.

The North side of the Seine River, around Marais, was drained and made habitable; today it is known as the Right Bank.

During this period, Scandinavian Vikings, also known as the Normans of England, had been persistently battering at the coastal regions of France, and by the 1200's, had their eye on Paris.

Hundred Years' War

The ongoing conflict eventually led to the Hundred Years' War between England and France, which resulted in English forces seizing the city of Paris in 1420. In 1429, partly because of contributions by Joan of Arc, the French rallied and expelled the English from most of France.

The spirited and independent French people were not laying down under Royal rule, simply taking what came along.

In 1355, under the leadership of radical Etienne Marcel, the people of Paris declared themselves to be an independent entity, not part of the rapidly growing patchwork of cities and regions of France.

The temperament pot of Paris simmered all during the Renaissance, when Paris once more experienced a burgeoning of trade, culture, and fine architecture.

However, late 16th century Paris was witness to another uprising, this time pitting Huguenot Protestants against Catholics.

For two centuries after these events, the city continued to prosper —sometimes despite the best efforts of kings such as Louis XIV.

Although he managed to reign for almost 72 years, Louis XIV almost beggared the country with his penchant for fighting, or sponsoring new buildings, like the Palace de Versailles. Detail from the Arc de Triomphe showing Napoleon

Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte swept to power on the heels of the French Revolution in the late 1700s, holding a good portion of Europe in his grasp, from his seat of power in Paris.

However, his zealous expansionism would be his downfall, and after his exile, the city of Paris, like the rest of the country, suffered the fluctuations of politics.

Napoleon III

In the mid 1800s, Napoleon's nephew pulled off a coup d'état and became Napoleon III.

During his 17-year rule, Paris flowered once more, and there were several aesthetic and functional additions to the city, including wide boulevards, sculptured parks, and (most importantly) a sewer system.

However, Napoleon III was also dethroned, and the people rose again, demanding the creation of a Republic.

With that metamorphosis of France as a whole, Paris went on to become a cultural centre, rich in the arts, and boasting a hotbed of intellectuals.

Modern-day Paris

Today, Paris is still one of the most cosmopolitan centres in Europe, hosting millions of tourists every year, who come for the arts, the wine, and, simply, the ambiance of the City of Lights.