Paris Babylon by Rupert Christiansen
'Nothing but a brothel and a gambling hell' roared Thomas Carlyle at the thought of Paris, a city known in the nineteenth century as 'the new Babylon', and notorious for its obsession with sex and money. Ruled by the ailing despot Napoleon III and his ruthless wife Eugenie, Paris in 1869 was racked with scandal, anxiety and political tension. Europe's most glittering and confident capital, spectacularly rebuilt by Baron Haussmann, was on the verge of a catastrophic nemesis - the Franco-Prussian War and the fall of the Second Empire, followed by a four-month siege and the establishment of the Commune, a brave socialist experiment which soon ended in massive bloodshed and destruction. Paris Babylon charts and explains this astonishing course of events, as well as painting a richly detailed picture of Parisian life, from its palaces, theatres, hotels and department stores to its prisons, hospitals and back-street dives. Drawing on a broad range of sources and a rich cast of characters, Rupert Christiansen evokes one of the most dramatic episodes of modern history - one which still has powerful resonance today.