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City of Light, City of Shadows

ebook / ISBN-13: 9780349128139

Price: £30

ON SALE: 14th May 2024

Genre: Humanities / History / Regional & National History / European History

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Paris in the Belle Époque is remembered as a golden age of cultural flourishing and political progress. The period between the revolutionary 1870s and the outbreak of war in 1914 saw the modern French capital take shape: by day Parisians could admire the rising Eiffel Tower and Sacré-Coeur Basilica, while at night they roamed the Bohemian world of the Moulin Rouge.

But as Mike Rapport reveals in this authoritative and beautifully written new history, City of Light, City of Shadows, beneath the elegant veneer Paris was at war with itself. For the Belle Époque was also an era of social and religious unrest, arguments over women’s emancipation and violent clashes over what it meant to be French.

Paris pulsated with pleasure, anxieties and tension stemming from the giddying speed of modernity: blazing electric lights illuminating the night, the first cars speeding down the boulevards, as well as the first Métro trains and aeroplane flights. At the same time reactionary forces reasserted themselves through the new mass media-mostly dramatically in the infamous Dreyfus affair, which exposed the dark heart of French antisemitism.

Told through the eyes of the greatest personalities of the age-novelist Émile Zola, feminist activist Marguerite Durand, Vietnamese diplomat Nguyễn Trọng Hợp and socialist politician Jean Jaurès-the book weaves together stories of splendour and suffering, delight and agony, offering a brilliant account of the shadows cast across the City of Light.


As Mike Rapport makes clear in his splendid new book, the Belle Epoque was... a time of instability, upheaval and bitter division, in Paris and throughout France.
Munro Price, Literary Review
Mike Rapport is a historian with the rare ability to engage his reader both on the level of local detail and of sweeping narrative. City of Light, City of Shadows had me spellbound
Lauren Elkin, author of Flâneuse and Art Monsters
A fascinating, multi-layered panorama of the evolution of the French capital at a key period in its history
Jonathan Fenby, author of The History of Modern France
An authoritative work... A strikingly rendered portrait of the era's fervent belief in progress
Kirkus Reviews
In this book which fizzes with all the energy of Belle Epoque Paris, Rapport conveys superbly the conflicts, tension and anxieties undelay the glittering spectacle of Parisian modernity. His narrative is brilliantly anchored in the spaces and places of the city. For lovers of Paris the book should become an indispensable accompaniment to any future visit to the city
Julian Jackson, author of A Certain Idea of France: The Life of Charles de Gaulle
Historian Michael Rapport's fascinating new book looks at the city of light in the so-called Belle Epoque through the eyes of everyone from realist novelist Emile Zola to feminist and actress Marguerite Durand, showing the glittering triumphs of the age as well as the dark scandals.
The Irish Times