In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Paris

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Urban Studies Paris
Andrew Newman
  • LAST REVIEWED: 17 April 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 October 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780190922481-0013


Paris is the capital city of France and center of the Île-de-France region, Europe’s second-largest urban agglomeration. Paris is a globally important hub for finance, education, culture, and the arts, and by some measures it is the world’s most visited international tourist destination. The city’s importance for the field of urban studies is due primarily to (a) its present significance as a global city, and, to a greater extent, (b) its historical importance as a place where a particular version of modernity emerged that, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, would heavily influence the design and cultural landscapes of cities around the world. For this reason, the urban history of Paris exerts a broad influence in the fields of planning, geography, and architectural history, as well as in public health, the history of science and technology, art history, and literature. Indeed, research on Paris stands out among other cities for the degree to which scholars in the humanities have sought to engage with urban issues. This is due to the fact that a large proportion of the artistic and cultural output associated with Paris ruminates about the nature of urban life itself. This bibliography has been written for a broad Anglophone readership; it therefore privileges scholarship in English. English translations of important French works have been supplied wherever possible. However, in an effort to balance accessibility with rigor, some French-language scholarship is included as well. In several cases, English-language publications by prominent French scholars have been supplied that may not be the best representation of these scholars’ work, but such citations will nevertheless serve to introduce these important figures to an Anglophone audience. Readers should be warned that the small number of French-language citations included here are far from comprehensive, and are primarily intended to round out the bibliography for those Anglophone scholars who read French. The bibliography is organized under the three broad headings: Historicizing Modernity, Linking Past and Present, and Contemporary Paris. The logic for this structure is based on that notion that distinguishing between urban history and contemporary urban studies will be convenient for many readers. However, some of the best work on Paris combines past and present, and a great deal of contemporary work is most engaging when placed in dialogue with the city’s history, and vice versa.

General Historical Overviews

Given its popular appeal, Paris is the subject of numerous historical overviews aimed at a general readership. Jones 2006 and Higonnet 2002 engage scholarly debates while providing a broad review of the city’s history. Sutcliffe 1996 provides an excellent introduction to the city from an architectural perspective. In French, Lavedan 1993 provides a history of the city on a grand scale. Hazan 2011 is a social and cultural overview originally written for a French audience, now available in English.

  • Hazan, Eric. The Invention of Paris: A History in Footsteps. New York: Verso Books, 2011.

    Originally published in French in 2002, this translation of Hazan’s widely read work is aimed for a general readership. It is a lively, engaging text that focuses on the city’s popular uprisings as well its cultural history.

  • Higonnet, Patrice. Paris: Capital of the World. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002.

    This intellectual history of Paris “gives an account of its myths, a history not of factual events but the way in which the city has been dreamed” (p. 1). For Higonnet, the most important myth is the notion of the modern self, which he traces back to the 18th century.

  • Jones, Colin. Paris: The Biography of a City. New York: Penguin, 2006.

    Colin Jones’s self-described “impossible history” of Paris summarizes the city from the Roman era to the 2000s. General though it may be, it is a visually rich, well-organized book with a useful bibliographic introduction, and it provides an accessible, well-organized introduction to the city’s deep history.

  • Lavedan, Pierre. Histoire de l’urbanisme à Paris. Nouvelles Historie de Paris. 2d ed. Paris: Association Pour la Publication d’une Histoire de Paris, 1993.

    Pierre Levedan’s sweeping account of urban transformations is part of a multivolume, multiauthored series, the Nouvelle Historie de Paris, each of which presents a comprehensive overview of a different period or theme in the city’s history. The 1993 edition contains a 500-citation bibliography.

  • Sutcliffe, Anthony. Paris: An Architectural History. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1996.

    As the title suggests, Sutcliffe’s history is primarily architectural, but the book’s broad scope also makes it helpful as general introduction to the city. In tracing the evolution of a particularly Parisian townscape, Sutcliffe begins at the very end of the medieval period, and locates the first traces of modernity with the building regulations of Henri IV.

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