Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Paris Commune


After two days immersed in 21st century consumerism, I returned to the 19th century and life in Paris. I am embarrassed to realize how little I know of French history. I mean there were all those kings and queens, a Napoleon or two, The Reign of Terror, A Tale of Two Cities, Les Miserables...

Mr. McCullough, in The Greater Journey, has done a thorough job of introducing the reader to the French capital and the goings on of its people and their part in history. So I was happy to have nothing on my To Do list today but read, eat, and nap.

I am at the point in the book where there has been quite a bit of fighting: the siege by the Prussians and the devastation of the city by the Communards. Difficult to imagine the thunder of cannons and the killing of French citizens by French citizens.

The four-month siege of Paris by the Prussians in 1870-71 during the Franco-Prussian War was especially frightening. Food ran out so horses, dogs, cats and even the wild animals in the zoo became dinner for many. Trees along the boulevards and in the Bois were felled for firewood. And in the final days of the siege, the sounds of the cannonballs hitting the city was maddening.

And as if that defeat was not enough, even though the Prussians did not occupy Paris, for two months a group of insurgents controlled the city. In the final week of the short-lived government, the Paris Commune, some 18,000 Parisians were killed by soldiers.

It was not pretty, but then revolutions and wars never are.

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