Paris, City of Dreams traces the transformation of the City of Light during Napoleon III’s Second Empire into the beloved city of today. Together, Napoleon III and his right-hand man, Georges Haussmann, completely rebuilt Paris in less than two decades—a breathtaking achievement made possible not only by the emperor’s vision and Haussmann’s determination but by the regime’s unrelenting authoritarianism, augmented by the booming economy that Napoleon fostered.
Acclaimed historian Mary McAuliffe vividly recaptures the Paris of Napoleon III, Claude Monet, and Victor Hugo as Georges Haussmann tore down and rebuilt Paris into the beautiful City of Light we know today.
McAuliffe follows the lives of artists such as Edouard Manet, Berthe Morisot, and Claude Monet, as well as writers such as Emile Zola, Gustave Flaubert, and the poet Charles Baudelaire, while from exile, Victor Hugo continued to fire literary broadsides at the emperor he detested.
McAuliffe brings to life a pivotal era encompassing not only the physical restructuring of Paris but also the innovative forms of banking and money-lending that financed industrialization as well as the city’s transformation. This in turn created new wealth and lavish excess, even while producing extreme poverty. More deeply, change was occurring in the way people looked at and understood the world around them, given the new ease of transportation and communication, the popularization of photography, and the emergence of what would soon be known as Impressionism in art and Naturalism and Realism in literature—artistic yearnings that would flower in the Belle Epoque.
Napoleon III, whose reign abruptly ended after he led France into a devastating war against Germany, has been forgotten. But the Paris that he created has endured, brought to vivid life through McAuliffe’s rich illustrations and evocative narrative.
Mary McAuliffe holds a PhD in history from the University of Maryland, has taught at several universities, and has lectured at the Smithsonian Institution, the Barnes Foundation, and the Frick Pittsburgh. She has traveled extensively in France, and for many years she was a regular contributor to Paris Notes. Her books include Clash of Crowns, Dawn of the Belle Epoque, Twilight of the Belle Epoque, When Paris Sizzled, and Paris on the Brink. She lives in New York City with her husband.