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Paris's complex and fascinating history has not only shaped the city and its people but has deeply impacted much of the world as well. From the nationalism spurred by Joan of Arc to the power of the people that we can still feel from the French Revolution, the city's history is as vibrant as the lights it's famous for.
Middle Ages and the Renaissance
The Middle Ages and the Renaissance continue to demonstrate their influence over our imaginations and many of Paris's attractions. Originally a feudal city-state after the fall of the Roman Empire, Paris was owned, occupied, and controlled by a variety of different kings, barbaric tribes, countries, and even the Black Death. It was a pinnacle spot for characters such as Joan of Arc and the English King Henry IV.
Despite all this, Paris was the religious capital of medieval Europe and boasted a variety of Cathedrals and universities.
The Renaissance, however, saw a centralization of power and a solidification of the monarchy in France. Influenced by the Italian Renaissance, Paris experienced an explosion of art and thinking. With this came the iconic architecture that we see today as well as a religious war between the Huguenots and the Catholics.
The Rise of the Sun King and the French Revolution
Perhaps one of France's most famous kings, Louis XIV was responsible for building many of Paris's famous buildings, but also a number of costly wars that drained the treasury and left many of the residents grumpy about being poor and hungry.
Louis' death led to the enlightenment of the French population and the demise of the French monarchy. Which then lead to several gruesome revolutions, several Napoleons and the rise and fall of monarchies like the Bourbons.
The 19th Century
In the 1800s Paris was reorganized into sections and became a large industrial city. While this reorganization beautified the city in many ways, it also made the division between rich and poor even bigger, causing even more uprisings from Paris's lower classes.
However, toward the end of the century, with authors, Impressionist artists, and the Eiffel Tower built for the World's Fair in 1889, Paris entered the next century as a world center for the arts.
Two World Wars and the Lost Generation
While the city remained relatively unscathed throughout both wars, Paris and its people had a deep impact on both wars and had several close encounters with destruction. During World War I, the fighting came as close as twelve miles to the city limits. The Treaty of Versailles, which ended the war, was also signed in Paris.
Between the wars was one of Paris's most famous periods. During this brief interlude, writers and artists flocked to the city creating some of today's most famous works. Known as the Lost Generation, they included notables like the artist Pablo Picasso and authors Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce.
During the Second World War, Paris was much more directly affected by the transcontinental strife. In 1941 German forces occupied Paris and a rift still felt today was created between the resistance and those who collaborated with the Germans. Paris was liberated in 1944 by General de Gaulle and his troops. After the war, de Gaulle played an integral role in the long and complicated task of rebuilding France.
Since the end of World War II, modern Paris has been shaped by a combination of socialist and authoritarian ideals. The conflicts that were spurned by these conflicting frames of mind led to many of the other events that Paris is known for. These events include the student protests of the 1960s, which rallied against the authoritarian government of de Gaulle and the Vietnam War, and the socialization of many industries in the 1980s. These and other events have caused the renovation of both the French government and the city itself to reflect a city that is shaped by its people.