PARIS: History of the City

Paris, the cosmopolitan capital of France, is one of the largest cities in Europe with population exceeding 10 million residents. Located in the north of the country on the river Seine, Paris has the reputation of being the most beautiful and romantic of all cities, brimming with historic associations and remaining vastly influential in the realms of culture, art, fashion, food and design. Dubbed the City of Lights, it is the most popular tourist destination in the world.

The name "Paris" is derived from that of some of its early inhabitants, the Celtic tribe known as the Parisii. The city was called Lutetia (more fully, Lutetia Parisiorum, "Lutetia of the Parisii"), during the Roman era of the 1st to the 4th century AD, but during the reign of Julian the Apostate (360–3), the city was renamed Paris. It is believed that the name of the Parisii tribe comes from the Celtic Gallic word parisio, meaning "the working people" or "the craftsmen"

The history of Paris, France, spans over 10,000 years, during which time the city grew from a small Mesolithic settlement to the largest city and capital of France. It further developed into a center of art, medicine, science, fashion, tourism, high culture and high finance, becoming one of the world's major global cities.

Paris started life as the Celto-Roman settlement of Lutetia on the Ile de la Cité, the island in the Seine currently occupied by the Cathédral de Nôtre Dame. It takes its present name from the name of the dominant Gallo-Celtic tribe in the region, the Parisii. At least that's what the Romans called them, when they showed up in 52 BCE and established their city Lutetia on the left bank of the Seine, in what is now called the "Latin Quarter" in the 5th arrondissement.

The Romans held out in this area for as long as anywhere else in the Western Empire, but by 508 they were gone, replaced by Clovis of the Franks, who is considered by the French to be their first king. Clovis' descendants, aka the Carolingians, held on for nearly 500 years though Viking raids and other calamities forced a move by most of the population back to the islands which had been the center of the Celtic village. The Capetian Duke of Paris was voted to succeed the last of the Carolingians as king of France, insuring the city of its premier position in the medieval world. Over the next several centuries Paris expanded onto the right bank into what was called le Marais (the marsh). Quite a few buildings from this time can be seen in the 4th arrondissement.

The medieval period also witnessed the founding of the Sorbonne. As the "University of Paris", it became one of the most important centers for learning in Europe, if not the whole world, for several hundred years. Most of the institutions that constitute the University are found in the 5th, and 13th arrondissements.
The Capetian and later the Bourbon kings of France made their mark on Paris with such buildings as the Louvre and the Palais Royal, both in the 1st, but the Paris which most visitors know and love was built long after they were gone in the 19th century. This was when Baron von Hausmann reconstructed adding the long straight avenues, and demolishing many of the medieval houses which had been left until that time.

During the latter half of the 18th century, Paris became the intellectual and cultural capital of the Western world. Its many "philosophers" made it the main centre of the Enlightenment with its salons becoming the center of the new thinking of the "Age of Reason." This was positively encouraged by the state, with Louis's mistress Madame de Pompadour supporting the city's intellectuals and prompting the king to construct striking new monuments. In 1686, François Procope established the first café in Paris, the Café Procope. By the 1720s there were around 400 cafés in the city. The Café Procope in particular became a centre of Enlightenment, welcoming such celebrities as Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot and D’Alembert.[11] Robert Darnton in particular has studied Parisian café conversation in great detail, showing how the cafés became "nerve centers" for bruits publics, public noise or rumor. These bruits were trusted more than the newspapers available at the time.

Under Louis XVI, Paris reached new heights of prestige as a center of the arts, sciences and philosophy. The French Academy of Sciences was founded in 1666 in Paris. It was closely tied to the French state, acting as an extension of a government seriously lacking in scientists. It helped promote and organize new disciplines, and it trained new scientists. It also contributed to the enhancement of scientists’ social status, considered them to be the "most useful of all citizens". Academies demonstrate the rising interest in science along with its increasing secularization, as evidenced by the small number of clerics who were members.
New wonders arrived during la Belle Époque, as the Parisian golden age of the late 19th century is known. Gustave Eiffel's famous tower, the first metro lines, most of the parks, and the streetlights, which are partly believed to have given the city its epithet "the city of light" all come from this period. The epithet actually comes from Ville Lumière, a reference not only to the then revolutionary electrical lighting system implemented in the streets of Paris, but also to the prominence and aura of Enlightenment the city gained in that era.

The twentieth century was hard on Paris, but thankfully not as hard as it could have been. Hitler's order to burn the city was thankfully ignored by the German General von Choltitz who was quite possibly convinced by a Swedish diplomat that it would be better to surrender and be remembered as the savior of Paris, than to be remembered as its destroyer. Following the war the city recovered slowly at first, and then more quickly in the 1970s and 1980s when Paris began to experience some of the problems faced by big cities everywhere: pollution, housing shortages, and occasionally failed experiments in urban renewal.

PARIS: Population Evolution

During 1970-1980s, Paris experienced considerable growth as a multi-cultural city, with new immigrants from all corners of the world, especially la francophonie, including most of northern and western Africa as well as Vietnam and Laos.

These immigrants brought their foods and music both of which are of prime interest for many travelers. Today, there are more nationalities represented in Paris than even in New York City. Immigration and multi-culturalism continues! The 21st century has seen a marked increase in the arrival of people from Latin America, especially Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil. In the late 1990s it was hard to find good Mexican food in Paris, however, today there are dozens of possibilities from lowly taquerias in the outer arrondissements to nice sit-down restaurants on the boulevards. The chili pepper has arrived.
The 21st century has also seen vast improvements in the general livability of Paris, with the Mayor's office concentrating on reducing pollution and improving facilities for soft forms of transportation including a huge network of cycle paths, larger pedestrian districts and newer faster metro lines. Visitors who normally arrive car-less are the beneficiaries of these policies as much as the Parisians themselves are.

PARIS: Climate and Weather

Being located in Western Europe, Paris has a maritime climate with cool winters and warm summers. The moderating effect of the Atlantic Ocean helps to temper temperature extremes in much of western Europe, including France. Even in January, the coldest month, temperatures nearly always exceed the freezing point with an average high of 6°C (43°F). Snow is not common in Paris, although it will fall a few times a year. Most of Paris' precipitation comes in the form of light rain year-round. Summers in Paris are warm and pleasant, with an average high of 23°C (75°F) during the mid-summer months. Spring and fall are normally cool and wet.
With the weather being so pleasant in the summer, it's a great time to visit.

PARIS: Economy

The Paris Region is France's premier centre of economic activity, and with a 2011 GDP of €607 billion (US$845 billion), it is not only the wealthiest area of France, but has one of the highest GDPs in the world, after Tokyo, New York, Los Angeles, Seoul and London making it an engine of the global economy. Were it a country, it would rank as the seventeenth-largest economy in the world, larger than the Turkish and Dutch economies and almost as large as Indonesia's. While its population accounted for 18.8 percent of the total population of metropolitan France in 2011, its GDP accounted for 31.0 per cent of metropolitan France's GDP. Wealth is heavily concentrated in the western suburbs of Paris, notably Neuilly-sur-Seine, one of the wealthiest areas of France. This mirrors a sharp political divide, with political conservatism being much more common towards the western edge, whilst the political spectrum lies more to the left in the east.

The Parisian economy has been gradually shifting towards high-value-added service industries and high-tech manufacturing. However, in the 2009 European Green City Index, Paris was still listed as the second most "green" large city in Europe, after Berlin. The Paris region's most intense economic activity through the central Hauts-de-Seine département and suburban La Défense business district places Paris' economic centre to the west of the city, in a triangle between the Opéra Garnier, La Défense and the Val de Seine. While the Paris economy is largely dominated by services, it remains an important manufacturing powerhouse of Europe, especially in industrial sectors such as automobiles, aeronautics, and electronics. The Paris Region hosts the headquarters of 30 of the Fortune Global 500 companies

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