17 FEBRUARY 2018

Michael Adcock is the History master at Melbourne Grammar School, a passionate Francophile and as an aside leads tours to Paris and France. In a well-documented talk with excellent pictorial support, Michael led the audience initially through the pre-reconstruction era with all its by-then-antiquated infrastructure, Napoleon lll’s appointment of Haussmann, the planning, and finally the execution of that plan. Interwoven throughout all this was the recording of these changes through the work of the emerging impressionist painters, early photographers and political caricaturists.

The social impact to the benefit of the bourgeoisie and the detriment of the working class was detailed, as well as the improvement in living standards. Supplying fresh water by aqueducts, the creation of a vast sewerage system and the construction of the five great railway stations, opening up access to and from the outlying countryside, serve today’s Paris well. Overriding all this were memories of the barricading of the streets in the revolt by the working classes in 1848 that ended the reign of Louis-Phillippe and led to Napoleon lll’s election and ultimate assumption of complete power as Emperor. The creation of the elegant avenues that today are admired for their beauty in fact supported his perceived need to defend the Paris of the future by enabling the rapid movement of troops across the city along these avenues to any point of conflict.

In closing Michael also included discussion of those who saw this modernisation as the destruction of a beautiful medieval city to enhance the glory of the emperor.

The audience of over 60 members, friends and others were united in their appreciation of Michael’s knowledge of this favourite city.

Mark Denniston, Course Co-ordination Team


Notes to the Saturday Seminar “Civilising the City”

“A Guide to the Complexities of French History” by Michael Adcock

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