ABOUT THIS BOOK
Paris is the most personal of cities. There is a Paris for the medievalist, and another for the modernist—a Paris for expatriates, philosophers, artists, romantics, and revolutionaries of every stripe. James H. S. McGregor brings these multiple perspectives into focus throughout this concise, unique history of the City of Light.
His panorama begins with an ancient Gallic fortress on the Seine, burned to the ground by its own defenders in a vain effort to starve out Caesar’s legions. After ninth-century raids by the Vikings ended, Parisians expanded the walls of their tiny sanctuary on the Ile de la Cité, turning the river’s right bank into a thriving commercial district and the Rive Gauche into a college town. Gothic spires expressed a taste for architectural novelty, matched only by the palaces and pleasure gardens of successive monarchs whose ingenuity made Paris the epitome of everything French. The fires of Revolution threatened all that had come before, but Baron Haussmann saw opportunity in the wreckage. No planned city in the world is more famous than his.
Paris from the Ground Up allows readers to trace the city’s evolution in its architecture and art—from the Roman arena to the Musée d’Orsay, from the Louvre’s defensive foundations to I. M. Pei’s transparent pyramids. Color maps, along with identifying illustrations, make the city accessible to visitors by foot, Metro, or riverboat.
[A] definitive portrait of Paris. Combining chronological history with a cultural exploration of all things architectural, artistic and practical, this volume is a popular record that could serve as a comprehensive textbook for City of Lights 101. Crafted with fluency and fluidity, McGregor can be overwhelming in his level of detail; great churches, museums and the artists responsible for them, from Gaul to DeGaulle, are all examined in extreme close-up. To his credit, McGregor acknowledges that the "human history of the place that became Paris is exceedingly long," and keeps it lively with public bath tours, the secrets of aqueducts and central heating, tales of martyrs from St. Denis to Joan of Arc, and unending cathedral construction (emphasizing Notre Dame); the Sorbonne, marketplace evolution and the great plague all play their part. The Louvre is explored meticulously in many permutations, as are the sewers and even the language. McGregor makes a convincing case that Paris, like Athens and Rome, is a city "that combined political power and cultural preeminence...the only conceivable place to succeed."
-- Publishers Weekly (starred review)
This new installment in McGregor's "From the Ground Up" series again offers the literary traveler an option to the brief historical sketches found in most travel books. Readers can use this as a well-researched but accessible history of Paris, tracing the story of the City of Light from its earliest residents, the Gauls and the Parisii, to the present day. Travelers will use chapters on churches, cathedrals, museums, and neighborhoods; those interested in the history of a particular area or landmark will find the index excellent. The many illustrations enhance the text, and the ten historical and contemporary maps help pinpoint attractions both ancient and modern. This series offers a unique blend of history and travel, and McGregor does an excellent job in both subject areas. Casual readers and students should consider this for its concise and readable presentation of the subject matter; travelers looking for more specialized guidebooks than the usual will definitely want to check this out.
-- Rita Simmons Library Journal
McGregor is adept at conveying the majesty of monumental Paris and charting the transformational sweep of time over the landscape...Paris from the Ground Up is not an analysis of city living, it's an analysis of a living city, nurtured on the waters of the Seine and perpetually in bloom, spreading the seeds of thought and culture out from its vibrant heart.
-- Michael Patrick Brady popmatters.com
James H. S. McGregor's excellent From the Ground Up series treats the city as a palimpsest, substituting space for time and allowing the reader to explore the history of a place while wandering its streets. Here he traces the story of Paris, describing the remnants of a long history that are, for the most part, buried deep beneath the city streets.
-- London Review of Books
In James H. S. McGregor's Paris from the Ground Up--which offers an informative history of the city's art and architecture--the Eiffel Tower necessarily [occupies] only four pages...But those four pages are invaluable...This insight is typical of McGregor, who has written three other books in the From the Ground Up series and who is at his best when elaborating on the technical aspects of Paris's buildings.
-- Caroline Weber New York Times Book Review
For writers, historians, artists, and anyone who appreciates a beautiful, vibrant city, Paris remains a mecca. McGregor has written three earlier "ground-up" books, on Rome, Venice, and Washington, D.C. Here he masterfully combines the genres of travel guide, urban history, and art history to provide a stimulating portrait of another of the world's great cultural attractions. McGregor traces the evolution of Paris from its pre-Roman origins as a Gallic settlement on the Seine, to its development as an outpost of Romano-Gallic culture, to its medieval flowering and maturing into the acknowledged cultural heart of continental Europe. To illustrate that evolution, he provides interesting vignettes on artistic and architectural landmarks, including Notre Dame, Sacré Coeur, and the Arc de Triomphe. Those who already know Paris will appreciate this informative tribute to the City of Light; for newcomers, this work will be educational.
-- Jay Freeman Booklist
An ode to the City of Light, this book traces the history of Paris through its art and architecture from its Roman era through contemporary times.
-- Judith H. Dobrzynski Real Clear Arts blog
In clean, sharp writing, [McGregor] uses the city's key landmarks--their conception, design, construction and function--to tell the story of Paris...The collection of full-color plates helps make this an enjoyable and informative publication.
-- Elizabeth Meryment Weekend Australian
Somewhere between armchair travel guide and a history text, Paris From the Ground Up presents a picture of Paris told from the point of view of its buildings, walls, and streets, resulting in a kind of architectural biography.
-- Rick Dakan PopMatters