Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
History of Paris
The area of modern Paris has been inhabited since at least the fourth millennium BC, although little is known about these early inhabitants. The first known permanent settlement on the site was founded about 250 BC by a Celtic tribe called the Parisii, who established a fishing village on the Seine island that was later to become the Ile de la Cité. This was known as Lutetia, a name first recorded by Julius Caesar in his Gallic Wars.
Lutetia was a prosperous place and occupied a very strategic position on the river, controlling shipping in both directions. It came under Roman control after the revolt of 52 BC when Vercingetorix led a Celtic uprising against the Romans under Caesar. The town sided with the rebels and was said to have contributed 8,000 men to Vercingetorix's army. It was garrisoned by Vercingetorix's lieutenant Camulogenus, whose army camped on the Mons Lutetius (where the Panthéon is now situated). The Romans crushed the rebels at nearby Melun and took control of Lutetia.
Under Roman rule, the town was thoroughly Romanised and grew considerably. It was, however, not the capital of its province, Lugdunensis Senona - that role was played by Agedincum (modern Sens, Yonne). It was Christianised in the 3rd century when St Denis became the city's first bishop. The process was not entirely peaceful - in about 250 St Denis and two companions were arrested and decapitated on the hill of Mons Mercurius, thereafter known as Mons Martis (Martyrs' Hill, now Montmartre).
Lutetia was renamed Paris in 212, after the local tribe, but the rest of the 3rd and 4th century was wracked by war and civil unrest. The city came under attack from barbarian invaders, prompting the construction of a defensive city wall. In 357 the Emperor Constantine's nephew Julian arrived in Paris to become the city's new governor. Although his uncle was famously the emperor who declared Christianity the official religion of the Empire, Julian "the Apostate" strove to roll back its advance. He became emperor in 361 but died in battle only two years later.
Roman rule in northern Gaul effectively collapsed in the 5th century. In 451 the region was invaded by Attila the Hun, prompting fears that Paris would be attacked. According to legend, the city was saved by the piety of Sainte Geneviève and her followers, whose prayers for relief were answered when Attila's march turned away from Paris to the south. Ste Geneviève remains Paris' patron saint to this day.
Early Medieval Paris
The city's escape from Attila proved a short-lived reprieve, as it was attacked and overrun in 464 by Childeric I (Childeric the Frank). His son Clovis I made the city his capital in 506 and was buried there on his death in 511, alongside St. Geneviéve.
By this time, Paris was a typically crowded early medieval city with timber buildings alongside surviving Roman remains. According to the chronicler Geoffrey of Tours, it suffered a disastrous fire in 585. The city grew beyond the boundaries of the Ile, with suburbs being established on both banks of the river.
The Merovingian kings died out in 751, to be replaced by the Carolingians. Pépin was proclaimed king of the Franks in 751, to be succeeded by Charlemagne, who moved the capital of his Holy Roman Empire from Paris to Aachen. The city was neglected by the Empire and suffered grievously from Viking raiders who repeatedly sailed upriver to attack it. On March 28, 845 Paris was sacked by Viking raiders, probably under Ragnar Lodbrok, who collected a huge ransom in exchange for leaving. The weakness of the late Carolingian kings led to the gradual rise in power of the Counts of Paris.
In 885 the city was faced with a massive Viking invasion force, said to have numbered 700 ships and 30,000 men. Its inhabitants sought the assistance of Robert the Strong, Count of Anjou, and his son Odo, Count of Paris. Odo led the defence of the city in opposition to a ten-month Viking siege in 885 and became co-ruler of the Empire with Charles the Simple. His son Hugh Capet was elected King of France (or Francia - literally the land of the Franks) in 987. He made Paris his capital and founded a long-lasting dynasty, the Capetians.
Paris and Medieval France
The French Crown initially controlled little more than Paris and the surrounding region, the Ile de France, but over the centuries steadily expanded its territory and power. Paris itself developed an increasing degree of importance as a royal capital, a centre of learning and an ecclesiastical centre.
As early as the 12th century, the distinctive character of the city's districts was emerging. The Ile de la Cité, on which the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris was built in 1163, was the centre of government and religious life; the Left Bank was the centre of learning, focusing on the various Church-run schools established there; and the Right Bank was the centre of commerce and finance. A league of merchants, the so-called Hanse Parisienne, was established and quickly became a powerful force in the city's affairs.
Under the rule of Philippe Auguste, who became king in 1180, a number of major building works were carried out in Paris. He built a new city wall and began the construction of the Louvre Palace, as well as paving streets and establishing a covered market at Les Halles (where it would remain until 1969).
His grandson Louis IX, renowned for his extreme piety (and later canonised as St Louis) established the city as a major centre of pilgrimage in the 13th century with the construction of the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris, the Basilica of St Denis and the Sainte-Chapelle on the Ile de la Cité. The latter was one of the finest medieval Gothic religious buildings ever constructed and was built to house Louis' most precious possession - the (alleged) Crown of Thorns, purchased from the bankrupt Byzantine Empire at an extortionate price.
The Capetian line died out in 1328, leaving no male heir. Edward II of England claimed the French throne by virtue of his descent (via his mother) from Philip IV of France. This was rejected by the French barons, who supported the rival claim of Philippe of Valois (Philip VI of France). The Hundred Years' War thus began, followed swiftly by the arrival of the Black Death.
Paris' history in the 14th century was thus punctuated by outbreaks of plague, political violence and popular uprisings. In January 1357, Étienne Marcel, the Provost of Paris, led a merchants' revolt in a bid to curb the power of the monarchy and obtain privileges for the city and the Estates General, which had met for the first time in Paris in 1347. After initial concessions by the Crown, the city was retaken by royalist forces in 1358 and Marcel and his followers were killed.
In the aftermath of the revolt, Charles V of France took steps to guard against a recurrence; a new city wall was constructed to guard against exterior enemies while the grim fortress of the Bastille was built to control the city's restless population. Another revolt, this time over excessive taxation, broke out in 1382 under Charles VI of France but was quickly and violently suppressed. The city was subsequently punished by having its earlier privileges withdrawn.
Civil war broke out in France after the assassination of Louis of Valois, Duke of Orléans by the Burgundian John the Fearless. In the ensuing chaos, the English captured Paris in 1420. In 1422, Henry V of England died at the Chateau de Vincennes, just outside the city. Charles VII of France tried but failed to retake the city in 1429, despite the assistance of Joan of Arc (who was wounded in the attempt). The following year, Henry VI of England was crowned King of France at Notre-Dame. French persistence paid off in 1437 when Charles finally managed to retake the city after several failed sieges.
With the recapture of the city, the Valois monarchs and French nobility sought to impose their authority on the city through the construction of various grandiose ecclesiastical and secular monuments, including churches and mansions. Over the following century the city's population more than tripled. Francois I had probably the greatest impact of any Valois monarch, transforming the Louvre and establishing a glittering court including such notables as Leonardo da Vinci and Benvenuto Cellini.
Paris was, however, not spared from the religious violence affecting the rest of the country as Protestantism gained ground in defiance of an increasingly harsh Catholic backlash. Paris was a predominantly Catholic city - so much so that Ignatius Loyola founded the Society of Jesus there in 1534 - but also had a growing Protestant population. The rival religious factions pursued an increasingly bloodthirsty feud, with religiously-inspired assassinations and burnings at the stake.
Matters came to a head on 23 August 1572 with the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre, when Catholic mobs killed an estimated 3,000 Protestants on the instructions of King Charles VIII. His successor, King Henry III, attempted to find a peaceful solution but the city's population turned against him and forced him to flee in May 1588. The following year, he was assassinated by a fanatical Dominican monk, bringing the Valois line to a premature end.
Early modern Paris
Henri III had nominated Henri of Navarre, a Protestant, as his heir. The new king, Henri IV, converted to Catholicism in 1594 with the declaration that "Paris is well worth a mass," thus convincing the Parisians to accept him as their king. He undertook a number of major public works in the city but faced constant danger from religious fanatics on both sides, particularly after granting religious tolerance to Protestants under the Edict of Nantes. After surviving at least 23 assassination attempts, he fell victim to a Catholic fanatic on 14 May 1610.
Louis XIII became king at the age of only eight, with political power exercised by his mother Marie de Médicis in the role of regent. Although Louis took over when he reached the age of majority, at 15, the real power was exercised by the brilliant but ruthless Cardinal Richelieu, who greatly expanded royal power. Louis' reign saw major changes to the face of Paris; his mother commissioned the Palais du Luxembourg, while Cardinal Richelieu built the Palais Royal and rebuilt the Sorbonne. He also commissioned a number of major Baroque churches as a statement of the Catholic Counter-Reformation.
Louis died in 1643, leaving the throne to his five-year-old heir Louis XIV. The new king and his family were forced to flee the city in 1648 by a rebellion, known as the Fronde, against royal authoritarianism and excessive taxes. Rebel rule proved considerably worse, however, and the king returned to a hero's welcome in 1653.
Royalist France achieved its greatest heights under Louis XIV, the "Sun King." His minister of finance Jean-Baptiste Colbert undertook lavish building projects in Paris in an effort to make it a "new Rome" fit for the Sun King. The king himself, however, detested Paris, preferring instead to rule France from his vast chateau at Versailles. The city had by this time grown far beyond its medieval boundaries, with some 500,000 inhabitants and 25,000 houses by the mid-17th century.
His great-grandson Louis XV became king at the age of only five, with Philip of Orleans serving as regent. The Court returned to Paris, with the new king installed in the Palais-Royal. Philip quickly gained a reputation for corruption and debauchery. His involvement in the financial scandal of the South Sea Bubble in 1720 greatly discredited him, freeing Louis XV to move the court back to Versailles.
During the latter half of the 18th century, Paris became the intellectual and cultural capital of the Western world. It became a centre of the Enlightenment with its salons becoming the centre of the new thinking of the "Age of Reason." This was positively encouraged by the state, with Louis' mistress Madame de Pompadour supporting the city's intellectuals and prompting the king to construct striking new monuments.
Under Louis XVI, Paris reached new heights of prestige as a centre of the arts, sciences and philosophy. It was in Paris that the Montgolfier brothers made their historic balloon ascents in 1783. However, the French state was by now virtually bankrupt, its finances drained by the Seven Years' War and the French intervention in the American War of Independence. A new wall was built around Paris in 1785, this time to create a customs barrier for taxation purposes. Not surprisingly, this was a very unpopular innovation. The disastrous harvest of 1788 brought matters to a head, with widespread hunger across France and food riots in Paris.
The French Revolution
The French Revolution effectively began in Paris, which the king had garrisoned with foreign troops to quell any unrest. On 13 July 1789 a hitherto unknown lawyer named Camille Desmoulins sparked the revolt when he jumped on a café table in the Palais-Royal and denounced Louis XVI's dismissal of his minister, Jacques Necker, who was widely seen as the only honest man in the government. Desmoulins ended his speech with the call "Aux armes!" ("To arms!").
The following day, 14 July the mob seized the arsenal at the Invalides, acquiring thousands of guns, and stormed the Bastille. A brief battle ensued in which 87 revolutionaries were killed before the fortress surrendered. This event marked the first real manifestation of the Revolution, and is still marked in France as Bastille Day.
Paris became the scene of revolutionary ferment, with political clubs taking over buildings for their headquarters. The uprising had, however, badly disrupted food supplies and in October an angry crowd marched to Versailles to protest - whereupon legend holds that Marie Antoinette, told the people had no bread, haughtily dismissed them with her famous remark, "Let them eat cake." (In fact, it is a near-certainty that she never said this - the remark had been part of urban legends for over a hundred years, and seems to have been tacked on to Marie Antionette by a populace that had decided to blame her for the country's malaise. She actually cared a great deal about the poor.) The furious crowd began attacking the palace and were only placated when Louis himself appeared and agreed to return to Paris with his family. The royal family were reduced to virtual prisoners in the Tuileries. They tried to escape on 20 June 1791 but were caught and returned to Paris as captives.
With other European powers mobilising to crush the Revolution, which they saw as threatening their own monarchies, the political climate in Paris worsened as rumours of foreign plots and invasions took hold. Louis and those who supported an agreement with the monarchy were accused by the radical Jacobins of being the stooges of foreign powers, and on 10 August 1792 a mob demanded that the National Assembly depose the king. When the demand was refused, the mob attacked the Tuilleries and seized the royal family. Power now passed to the radical Commune de Paris, led by Georges Danton, Marat and Robespierre.
The following month, more than 2,000 people were massacred in Paris as revolutionary mobs hunted down and killed anyone seen as an opponent of the new order. The monarchy was formally abolished on 22 September 1792, "Day I of Year I of the French Republic." An invading Prussian army heading for Paris was defeated shortly afterwards, clearing the way for the bloodiest phase of the Revolution. A guillotine was erected in what is now the Place de la Concorde and was used on 21 January 1793 to execute Louis XVI. Marie Antoinette followed in October 1793.
The revolutionaries became steadily more extreme, turning on the "enemy within." This included not just royalists but those accused of simply being not sufficiently revolutionary, including Danton and Camille Desmoulins. Over 1,300 people were executed in just six weeks in 1794. In the end, the extremists' bloodthirstiness destroyed their own moral standing; a group of moderates seized control in July 1794, sending Robespierre and his allies to the guillotine in a last spasm of bloodletting.
The new rulers organised themselves into a five-man Directoire but had only a shaky grip on power. In 1795 they were saved from a royalist revolt by a young army officer named Napoleon Bonaparte, who dispersed a hostile Parisian mob by the simple expedient of firing into it with cannons at point-blank range. The grateful Directoire sent Napoleon to Italy to aid the defence against the various foreign armies threatening France. He was spectacularly successful and in 1798 was given command of an expedition to Egypt, which he nearly conquered. He returned with great prestige, which he used to ruthless effect in November 1799 to seize power. The following year, Napoleon was declared first consul.
Paris in the 19th century
Under Napoleon's rule, Paris became the capital of an empire and military superpower. He crowned himself Emperor in a ceremony held in Notre-Dame on 18 May 1804. Like his royal predecessors, he saw Paris as a "new Rome" and set about building public monuments befitting the capital of an empire. Some of these were conscious copies of great Roman buildings, such as the Église de la Madeleine.
Napoleon's military campaigns against the British, Austrians and Russians initially met with great success but hubris, overconfidence and poor planning caused the annihilation of his army in 1813 in the depths of a Russian winter. Russian and Austrian armies invaded France in 1814 and on 31 March 1814, Paris fell to the Russians - the first time in 400 years that the city had been conquered by a foreign power.
19th century revolutions
Napoleon's brief return from exile in 1815 saw him pass through Paris, en route to destiny at Waterloo on 18 June. His replacements, the restored Bourbon monarchs Louis XVIII (1814, 1815-1824) and Charles X (1824-1830), managed between them to provoke yet another revolution in Paris, confirming the saying that the Bourbons could "learn nothing and forget nothing."
The powers of the monarchy were in theory confined by a Charter of Liberties but in practice both Louis and Charles ran an authoritarian regime reliant on Church support. On 25 July 1830 Charles issued the repressive Ordinances of St-Cloud, abolishing the freedom of the press, dissolving the Chamber of Deputies and restricting voting rights to the landed gentry only. A general uprising in Paris followed with three days of fighting between loyalists and rebels, including whole regiments of the Paris garrison. The king was forced to abdicate, being replaced by the more acceptable Louis-Philippe.
The arrival in Paris of the Industrial Revolution prompted the city's breakneck growth, with migrant workers arriving from the countryside on newly-constructed railway lines. By now its population was over 900,000 people, making it one of the largest cities in Europe and far surpassing any other city in France (the next largest, Lyon and Marseille, had only about 115,000 each). The city's status was reflected in the construction of grandiose new monuments, such as the Arc de Triomphe and the Eglise du Dome in which Napoleon's body was interred. Much of the population, however, lived in appalling conditions in diseased slums; a cholera outbreak in 1831 killed over 19,000 people.
The discontented Parisian population was ripe for an uprising, and on 22 February 1848 it duly came when troops fired on demonstrators. Louis Philippe abdicated and was replaced by a Second Republic. Nationwide elections returned a conservative government which opposed any reforms. The Parisian workers rose again only to be massacred by General Cavaignac, with some 5,000 people being killed in the fighting and subsequent reprisals. Fresh elections were held at the end of 1848.
The victor was, to the surprise of many, Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte - the nephew of the late Emperor. He won by an overwhelming majority (receiving 75% of the votes cast) but was not content with being a mere president. On 2 December 1851 he seized power in a coup, declared himself the Emperor Napoleon III and settled in the Tuileries Palace.
It was under Napoleon's rule that Paris in its modern form was created. In 1853 he appointed Baron Haussmann as Prefect, charged with modernising the city. This Haussmann did to a drastic extent, demolishing much of the old city and replacing it with a network of wide, straight boulevards and radiating circuses. The Bois de Boulogne and the Bois de Vincennes were both transformed into large public parks. Although Haussmann was forced to resign in 1869 after financial irregularities, his scheme is largely responsible for the present-day look and layout of Paris.
The Siege of Paris and the Commune
Napoleon's rule came to an abrupt end when he declared war on Prussia in 1870, only to be defeated and captured at Sedan. He abdicated on 4 September, with a Third Republic proclaimed that same day in Paris. On 19 September the Prussian army arrived at Paris and besieged the city. Major city landmarks were pressed into military service, with the Louvre being turned into an arms factory, the Gare d'Orleans (now the Gare d'Austerlitz) into a balloon workshop and the Gare de Lyon into a cannon foundry.
Paris held out for four months, by which time starvation had taken hold and the population had been reduced to eating rats. The city finally surrendered on 28 January 1871 with punitive terms being inflicted on the defeated French. They were, in fact, unacceptably punitive in the eyes of many Parisians, who saw the peace treaty signed by the government of Adolphe Thiers as a betrayal.
A revolt broke out on 18 March when government forces were driven out of Montmartre. The government regrouped at Versailles, while on 26 March the Commune of Paris - effectively a miniature socialist republic - was proclaimed in the city. Fierce fighting broke out a few days later as government troops retook the city district by district. It only ended on 29 March, by which time an estimated 4,000-5,000 people on both sides had been killed. In the aftermath, another 10,000 Communards were shot, 40,000 were arrested and 5,000 were deported.
The Belle Epoque
Although the Third Republic was widely disliked for its political instability and corruption, it did manage to deliver a golden age - a belle epoque - for Paris. The city acquired many distinctive new monuments and public buildings, foremost among them the Eiffel Tower, constructed for the World Exhibition of 1889. It was renowned as a centre for the arts, with the Impressionists taking their inspiration from its new vistas. At the same time, Paris acquired a less savoury reputation as the "sin capital of Europe", with hundreds of brothels, revues and risqué cabarets such as the famous Moulin Rouge. The city also acquired its metro system, opened in 1900.
Paris at War
Paris' party continued virtually until the eve of the outbreak of the First World War on 2 August 1914. Like other French cities, Paris initially welcomed the war as an opportunity to gain revenge for the defeat of 1870. Within a month, however, the city was full of refugees and the Germans were just 15 miles from the city. The government was evacuated to Bordeaux in the expectation that Paris would again fall to German forces.
The city was saved, however, by a desperate French effort to reinforce their lines and by a German failure to press home the attack. In the most famous incident of the "miracle on the Marne", as it became known, thousands of Parisian taxis were commandeered to carry soldiers to the front lines. The Germans were pushed back to the Oise some 75 miles away from the city.
The lines stayed mostly static for the next four years, with Paris experiencing the occasional bombardment from enemy aircraft and the giant "Big Bertha" long-distance artillery guns. The city's hedonistic life survived for a while before being subdued by the bloodshed on the front and the impact of rationing and a devastating flu epidemic in 1916. The war was finally ended by the Armistice of 11 November 1918, signed at Compiegne to the northeast of Paris.
The city emerged into an energetic but restless interwar period, enlivened by the arrival of glamorous émigrés such as Josephine Baker. It was a troubled political period, however, especially when the Great Depression hit Paris. Extreme right- and left-wing parties flourished, and on 5 February 1934 a mob of Fascist and other far-rightists attempted to storm the National Assembly in a botched coup attempt. In the ensuing violence, fifteen people were killed and another 1,500 wounded. In response, the Socialists and Communists united to form a Popular Front, which took power in 1936 but fell only a year later.
France's political divisions were a major factor in its ill-preparedness for the outbreak of the Second World War on 3 September 1939. Some of the Catholic Right were openly hostile to parliamentary democracy, Socialism and Communism, and welcomed the possibility of a fascist regime, even imposed by foreign forces. When Hitler invaded France on 14 May 1940 it took the German army only a month to reach Paris, invading through neutral Belgium around the Maginot Line, where the French defenses were massed. Paris fell with virtually no resistance on 14 June. Much of the city's population fled, with 1.6 million of its 3.5 million people leaving between May and June 1940. The government agreed an armistice with the invaders and moved south to Vichy, while Paris remained - along with two thirds of France - under German occupation. Hitler himself arrived on 23 June to inspect his latest conquest and, in a famous piece of film footage, seem to dance a triumphant jig below the Eiffel Tower (this effective piece of Allied propaganda was created by film maker John Grierson, who looped a few frames of Hitler stomping his foot once in delight, making the dictator appear to dance).
The next four years saw an increasingly brutal occupation regime imposed on the city. On the surface, things continued much as before - the "City of Light" was an extremely popular assignment for German forces and a favourite destination for those with time off. Some Parisians welcomed the occupation forces and accepted their presence and their business. Most simply kept their heads down, enduring the rationing and in some cases exploiting the profitable opportunities that it brought. Some actively resisted, but faced the constant threat of torture and death at the hands of the Gestapo and the pro-Vichy Milice (militia).
The persecution of Jews in Paris began within 48 hours of the city's fall, when they were required to register with police. On 14 May 1941 the Vichy police began deporting Parisian Jews, rounding them up at the Velodrome d'Hiver. A concentration camp was established in the Parisian suburb of Drancy to serve as a waystation en route to Auschwitz. Some 70,000 people passed through the camp. Contrary to later assertions by postwar French governments, the camp was run by the French authorities on behalf of the Nazis until July 1943, and the roundups were orchestrated by the Vichy French police. This was only acknowledged by the French government in 1995 and memorialised only as recently as 2001.
In June 1944, Allied forces (including the Free French under General Charles de Gaulle) invaded Normandy. Two months later they broke through German lines and advanced rapidly across France. An uprising broke out in Paris on 19 August, led by the Resistance and the city's Police. As running battles were fought in the streets of Paris, Hitler ordered the city's commandant, von Choltitz, to destroy the capital. Von Choltitz, however, stalled. When General Leclerc's 2nd Armoured Division arrived on the outskirts of the city, von Choltitz ordered his forces to retreat, leaving the city open and largely intact with only stragglers from the garrison and dead-end resisters from the Vichy regime left to offer resistance. De Gaulle and Leclerc entered the city to a jubilant reception, establishing a temporary military government that lasted until 1946.
After the restoration of civilian rule and the proclamation of the Fourth Republic in 1946, Paris made a rapid recovery from the war, aided by its lack of much physical damage. Like the rest of France, however, it was caught up in the bloody but unsuccessful wars against nationalist guerrillas in French Indochina and Algeria in the 1950s and 1960s. During the Algerian war of independence, independentists detonated bombs in Paris. Tensions were high, and led to the largest abuse in the city's postwar history, when the Paris police, told wrong news about policemen having been murdered by independentists, massacred an estimated 300 pro-independence demonstrators on 17 August 1961; remarkably, the event, though known in some circles, was largely ignored until the 1990s. (See Paris massacre of 1961 )
Algeria gained its independence in 1962 and over 700,000 French colonists and pro-French Algerians migrated to the mother country, many to Paris. In response, the government built huge new residential suburbs - the now-notorious banlieues of Paris - which rapidly gained a reputation for soulless architecture, deprivation, racial tension and crime.
The combination of social unrest and a somewhat authoritarian, though democratic, government under de Gaulle proved explosive and in early May 1968 an uprising duly broke out, led by Parisian students and factory workers. The evenements (events) fizzled out amidst violence between police and demonstrators, but had a significant long-term effect, eventually forcing the retirement of de Gaulle and the overdue social liberalisation of the country. Many of the leaders of the May 1968 demonstrations went on to play significant roles in local and national politics.
Under de Gaulle's successors, Georges Pompidou and Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, Paris underwent major physical development. The radical Centre Pompidou was built along with the ultra-modern complex at La Villette (originally an abattoir, now a science museum). Less positively and very controversially, the ancient market at Les Halles was demolished and replaced with a notoriously ugly underground shopping mall, and the 209m Tour Montparnasse skyscraper was built leading to fears that Paris would become overrun with American-style skyscrapers (a move strongly resisted ever since).
The election of François Mitterrand in 1981 saw further major changes to the city's appearance and politics. The socialist Mitterrand frequently clashed with the powerful and abrasive Jacques Chirac, mayor of the city since 1977. Mitterrand undertook a number of grandiose grands projets to stamp his mark on the city. The Louvre was redeveloped and acquired its spectacular glass pyramid, while a futuristic new district was constructed just outside the city limits at La Defense. The Opéra Bastille and Bibliotheque Nationale de France François Mitterrand proved less successful, experiencing big cost overruns and a series of technical problems.
Chirac also suffered problems, although he was lucky that the worst of these did not emerge until after his election as President in May 1995. He was soon embroiled in a number of corruption scandals, many dating from his period as mayor when - allegedly - corrupt "favours" for relatives and party supporters were granted. Influent members of Chirac's party, such as Alain Juppé, were convicted of such felonies. Chirac successfully asserted presidential immunity from prosecution, but some sort of legal action seems inevitable when his shield of immunity evaporates on leaving office.
In March 2001, Paris voted for a left-wing mayor for the first time since 1871. Bertrand Delanoë made history not only as the first left-wing mayor for 130 years, but for the fact that he is the first openly gay man to hold such a high public position in France. His election was widely seen as a rejection by the electorate of the corruption of the Chirac era. His manifesto promised to tackle the city administration's corruption and inefficiency, as well as reducing crime and improving education - all while keeping taxation stable.
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