The Birth of the Metropolis

Urban Spaces and Social Life in Medieval Paris


Author: Jörg Oberste
Between 1150 and 1350, Paris grew from a mid-sized episcopal see in Europe to the largest metropolis on the continent. The population rose during these two centuries from approximately 30,000 to over 250,000 inhabitants. The causes and consequences of this demographic explosion are thoroughly examined for the first time in this book by Jörg Oberste.

As it turns out, the management of urban space is key to understanding one of the most dynamic processes of urbanisation in pre-modern Europe: Who decides on the new construction of streets, squares, and houses? From whence does the multitude of new inhabitants come? What are the consequences of this massive wave of immigration on urban society, the economy, and the keeping of the peace? What kind of self-understanding evolves from the heterogeneous construct of the rapidly growing city, and what kind of external perceptions is late medieval Paris able to create? When does the myth of the “magical city on the Seine” (Heinrich Heine), perpetuated to the present day, come to be born? Oberste’s extensive investigation of the pertinent and wide-ranging medieval sources sheds new light on these and other questions related to the significant expansion of the City of Lights in the Middle Ages.

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Jörg Oberste, Professor of Medieval History (University of Regensburg), is director of the Research Group "Metropolität in der Vormoderne". His publications cover numerous fields: urban elites, religious orders, heresies, the history of France as well as European urbanism.
List of Figures

1 Foundations
 1 To Whom Does Paris Belong?
 2 Spaces, Urbanisation, and Metropolis Formation – Methodological Considerations
 3 Rich Sources

2 Parisian Spaces
 1 Past Spaces: Paris before the Merovingians
 2 Foundational Spaces: Early Medieval Sacral Topography and Landowners
 3 Dynamic Spaces – Venues of Metropolis Building
 4 Extra Muros: Suburban Spaces as Central Spaces of Metropolis Formation
 5 Preliminary Conclusions: Spaces and Agents of Urbanisation

3 The People of Saint-Martin-des-Champs: Social Practices and Urbanisation in a Parisian City Quarter
 1 Saint-Martin-des-Champs: A Foundation on the Fields
 2 The Monastery as Power Player: The Emergence of the “District Rule” of Saint-Martin-des-Champs in Paris
 3 The Conquest of Urban Space: Practices and Rules of Urbanisation
 4 The People of Saint-Martin: The Social Profile of a Parisian Quarter

4 Paris imaginaire, or: How Does a Metropolis Arise?

Scholars and students interested in the History of the Middle Ages, Urban History, History of Early Modern Europe, Metropolitan Studies, French History; also interested Intellectuals in Europe, UK and US (it’s Paris).