An old road that was first built around 1650 it was named after a shop sign. Amokrane Ould Aoudia, a lawyer for the FLN, was assassinated at his home at No. 1 on May 21 1959 by the French Secret Service. The operation was called ‘Omo’ and the secret service decided to pretend it was carried out by a fictitious ‘Red Hand‘ organisation.
Around the locations of No. 36 and No. 39 (at what was the old No. 10 Rue Neuve St Marc) was the print shop of Le National. This new paper housed the meeting on July 26 1830 of the 44 journalists, including Pierre Leroux who drafted a protest letter against the Four Ordinances issued by Charles X. It was the seizure of the four papers who printed the letter the next day that sparked the July revolution of July 27 to July 30.
A small square close to the present huge open space first appeared in the 17th century soon after the 14th century Charles V wall and its Temple gate were knocked down. It became known as the Château-d’Eau square after 1811 when Napoléon Bonaparte inaugurated a huge fountain surrounded by lions there to celebrate his opening of a much-needed aqueduct bringing fresh water to Paris from the North.
The square witnessed a left demonstration on June 13 1849 against the prince-president Louis Napoleon’s decision to declare war on the Rome Republic. Ledru-Rollin and another 30 deputies marched from the Square, hoping unsuccessfully to secure widespread popular support – something they failed to get because of mistrust over Ledru-Rollin’s involvement in the 1848 June Days insurrection.
Haussmann’s aim to subdue the most working class and militant north-eastern area of Paris created the huge public square we recognise today.
Planning to make troop movements through Paris easier, in 1857 Haussmann approved the knocking down and building through of what are today the Boulevard Voltaire (at the time the Prince-Eugène Boulevard) and the Avenue de la République.
From 1865 the square began to take its present dimensions becoming a rectangular square 280m long by 120m wide. In 1867 a second much bigger fountain with 8 bronze lions around it spitting water was planned for the square (it is now in the Place Félix-Éboué) and the first fountain was moved to supply water to the cattle waiting to be slaughtered at the new livestock market at La Villette. Built between 1860 and 1867 the giant La Villette meat market replaced five other big Parisian slaughter house centres (at Montmartre, Menilmontant Roule, Grenelle and Villejuif).
On May 30 1878 some 6,000 demonstrators staged an illegal demonstration in the square demanding the freedom of all France’s political prisoners. This was one of the first steps in winning the amnesty for the imprisoned, deported and exiled Communards in 1879.
In 1879 the square was given its present name. A competition was also held for a grand monument dedicated to the Republic to be erected in the square. This was won by the Morice borthers. On July 14 1880 a plaster model was inaugurated in the square and the bronze version was inaugurated three years later.
A minority on the competition jury so strongly defended the proposal made by the newly-returned Communard, Jules Dalou, that in 1880 his model was chosen to be put in the Place de la Nation.
Some of Paris’ most important demonstrations have taken place in the Square. On February 9 1934 the Communist Party organised a demonstration starting at the Gare du Nord and marching to the Square.
Three days after the attack on the National Assembly by the fascists, calling for the outlawing of the right-wing leagues and for a government of workers and peasants. It was banned by the government and attacked by the police. The most significant thing about the demonstration was that many socialist workers also responded to the events of February 6 1934 by joining the communist demonstration. This was the real beginning of the Popular Front.
On July 14 1935 the North African Star movement held up the Algerian flag for the first time during the Bastille Day demonstration in the Square.
On May Day 2002 hundreds of thousands filled the Square to protest against Jean-Marie Le Pen of the fascist National Front getting through to the second round of that year’s presidential election.
The Square was also full two days after the machine gun attacks of November 13 2015 as Parisians showed their determination not to give in to terrorism.
One week later a solidarity demonstration with undocumented migrants and against the State of Emergency took place from the Place de la Bastille to the Place de la Republique.
Two weeks after France’s biggest terrorist attack since the German occupation, the March for the Climate to take place demanding stronger action from the COP21 international conference was also banned under the November 20 State of Emergency. This did not prevent more than ten thousand demonstrators taking to the street.
By the early afternoon on November 22 2015 the 3-5,000 demonstrators still at the Square protesting the infringement of their freedom were tear-gassed and attacked with sound grenades by the police, who made 341 arrests and kept 317 of the protestors overnight.
Still under the State of Emergency, massive trade union demonstrations against the socialist President Hollande’s liberalising labour law measures began. Disillusion with the so-called ‘Socialist’ government sparked anger and a new social movement. After a massive day of demonstrations on March 31 2016, a number of leftists decided to meet in the Place de la République, and not to disperse, but to stay on and sleep there.
The Nuit Debout movement was born. The photograph at the top of this article was taken in April. Every evening at 6 pm people – mainly young people – would meet at the Square, often voting on different issues, and some would sleep there. In June, after the labour law reform had been passed by the government, the meetings got smaller and smaller and fizzled out.
In the 2020s the Square remains the focal point for demonstrations linked to the real demands for freedom, equality and humanity.
One website that keeps Parisians informed on what demonstrations are taking place now in the Place de la Republique and other places in Paris is Demosphere.
Originally called ‘the Southern Cemetery’ it was opened in 1824 as one of four that made up a new network of burial places outside the original walled city centre: Passy (west), Montmartre (north) and Père-Lachaise (east).
It was developed on the private burial plot of the ‘Brothers of Charity’ religious order (now called St-Jean-de-Dieu Hospital Order) and on three local farms. Soon it stimulated a local monument statutory industry, among whom was Antoine Bourdelle, Jules Dalou‘s studio neighbour. Dalou was himself buried here, having famously sculpted the Père-Lachaise tombs of Victor Noir and Auguste Blanqui.
Around 35,000 people are now buried there, and with them memories of those who struggled for a better world.
Among these is a broken column, commemorating the four sergeants of La Rochelle, Jean-François Bories, Charles Goubin, Jean Pommier and Charles Raoulx guillotined on September 21 1822 in the Place de Grève outside the Hotel de Ville for being members of the Carbonari and plotting to overthrow Louis XVIII.
Denis Dussoubs has a commemorative tomb in the cemetery. He was shot while trying to persuade troops to remain faithful to the Second Republic and to stop Louis-Napoleon’s coup d’État that had taken place two days earlier on December 2 1851. His brother, Gaston, a deputy was unwell, and asked him to go to speak to the troops in his place.
Pierre Leroux, the first to use the word ‘Socialism’ was buried there shortly after the declaration of the Paris Commune in April 1871.
Alfred Dreyfus, against whom such an anti-Semetic injustice was done in the 1894 that France became politically divided in ways that shaped its 20th century history.
The cemetery also includes two monuments: one to those killed in the Franco-German war (1870-1871) sieges of Paris and Strasbourg; the other to the Communards killed there during the bloody week of May 21-28 1871 and afterwards.
During the retreat from the cemetery Jean Allemane prevented Joseph Piazza from being shot by his own men, by locking him up in the 5th arrondissement’s town hall next to the Pantheon. Sadly, the Communards forgot to release him and he was killed by the Versaillais. The executions and quick burials in the cemetery finally ended only on June 19 1871.
From the 13th century the road was called ‘mont Orgueilleux‘ (Pride Hill). Until the late 20th century the street was associated with bringing fish, and particularly oysters, into Paris.
Pierre-Jean de Béranger was born in No. 50 in 1780. Years later he was a regular guest at literary events at the restaurant at No. 78 (then number 59) called ‘Au Rocher de Cancale’.
In 1839 the insurrectionaries of Blanqui and Barbes‘ Society of the Season‘s uprising built a barricade across the street between Nos 52 and 43, at an angle with the Rue Tiquetonne.. Blanqui’s headquarters was in the café at No. 57, on the corner with No. 1 Rue Mandar.
On December 4 1851 a barricade across the road at No. 72 was thrown up by opponents of Louis-Napoleon’s coup d’Etat, and many protestors were killed when it was taken by the army.
Twenty years later, nearly at the same place, at No. 73, another barricade witnessed strong resistance to the advance of the Versaillais troops on May 24 1871.
The existing Bourbon Palace that has been used as the Chamber of Deputies or National Assembly ever since 1815 was originally built between 1722 and 1728. It was then enlarged considerably between 1771 and 1789 under the neo-classical architect Marie-Joseph Peyre (who also designed the Odeon Theatre) before being nationalised in 1792 after its then princely owner had fled France.
Under the Directory the Council of Five Hundred began to meet in the Palais Bourbon. from January 21 1798. By then it had been modified to include a hemicycle theatre. Napoleon’s powerless Corps Legislatif also met there in a building that was now adorned by a new corinthian facade facing the Seine and on the opposite bank at the end of the Rue Royale, Napoleon’s Temple to the Glory of the Great Army (now the Church of the Madeleine).
At what is now the back, or south-facing side of the Palais Bourbon is the Square (Place du Palais Bourbon). In 1883 and 1884 Félix Fénéon published poetry by Paul Verlaine and the Illuminations by Arthur Rimbaud from No. 8 in the Libre revue.
Many of those in LeftinParis were deputies in the National Assembly at one point or other in their lives: Jean Zay, Leon Blum, Ledru-Rollin,
Virtually the entire revolutionary left of the 1840s used to visit No. 4. This was where the Slav exiles lived and where Bakunin used to meet Proudhon,Leroux and many others. Bakunin was finally expelled from France in 1847.
After receiving threats to his life, in 1937 Jean Zay moved to the road that was so close to the heavily guarded Chamber of Deputies.
Called after the ‘small fort’ originally built next to the St Antoine gate into Paris and then turned into a stone fort in 1370, the Bastille soon became a six tower fortress with thick walls and a moat. By 1553 it was an eight-tower fortress with a copper-bottomed moat. In the 17th century it was turned into the prison that was eventually taken by Paris’ newly-formed militia and local people on July 14 1789.
Demolition began almost immediately. Voltaire’s coffin was symbolically brought there on its way to the Pantheon on July 11 1791.
In 1792 it was decided to turn it into a huge square, the Place Antoine. The Marseillais volunteer national guardsmen arrived there singing the song that became the national anthem on July 30 1792.
From June 9 to June 14 1794 the guillotine was installed in the ruins of the fort. But after killing 73 people in less than three days the local shopkeepers complained so much (about the smell and those who had come to watch) that it was moved to what is now called the Place de la Nation, and was then the Square of the Overthrown Crown.
After the 1830 Revolution the new King Louis-Philippe decided to erect a column in the middle of the square to honour the 615 victims of the ‘Trois Glorieuses‘ Revolution – the Three Glory Days. It was inaugurated in 1840.
On April 13 1834 barricades went up in the square as local workers rioted in support of the silk workers’ insurrection in Lyon.
On February 24 1848 Louis-Philippe’s throne was taken from the Tuileries Palace and ceremoniously burnt at the foot of the July column. Three days later the 196 dead in the February Revolution were buried in the crypt beneath the column, and the Second Republic was officially proclaimed there.
On June 24 1848, when the new right-wing government announced the dissolution of the National Workshops, the Bastille square was entirely circled by barricades, and a red flag placed in the hands of Dumont’s 1836 allegorical statue le Génie de la Liberté flew briefly from the top of the July Column to accompany the flame of freedom and the broken chains of despotism.
A red flag flew again on top of the column on February 24 1871, when 14 battalions of the National Guard marched by in a commemoration of the 1848 revolution. The government’s attempt to replace the flag by the Tricolour on February 26 and March 9 1871 both failed.
During the 1871 Paris Commune three local sections of the International Workingmen’s Association used to meet in the Cour Damoye at No. 12.
The Communards fought hard to defend the symbol of revolutionary liberty, but were eventually overrun by the Versaillais. During the bloody week of May 1871 nearly all were killed in the fighting or shot afterwards.
The Place de la Bastille became the symbol of left and republican resistance.
The first Parisian demonstration of Communards after the suppression of the Commune took place at the Bastille square on May 9 1880.
In 1935 two major demonstrations took place there. On International Women’s Day 1935, feminists led by Louise Weiss and Cecile Brunschvicg symbolically burnt chains of male dominance in the square.
On July 14 1935 a demonstration that brought together both Socialists and Communists marched from the Bastille to Vincennes. This was called under the name of ‘People Together’ (Rassemblement populaire) that became the Popular Front that won the 1936 parliamentary elections.
Since 1991 the Marche de les Fiertes have usually begun or ended at the Place de la Bastille. In the 21st century they have usually attracted at least half a million people. There were certainly about that number when Marian and I watched for hours as the marchers went by.
Named in 1846 after the priest Charles-Michel de L’Épée (1712-1789) who founded the Deaf and Dumb Institute (Institution des sourds-muets ).
No. 12 is where the command headquarters of the French resistance against the Luxembourg Palace and gardens was based in August 1944 under the leadership of Colonel Fabien, the alias of Pierre Georges. A very rare plaque naming a Communist is on the right of the entrance.
On 21 August 1941 Georges, an International Brigade fighter in Spain from 1936 to 1939, then using the alias Frédo, was the first Young Communist to kill a German soldier during the occupation of Paris.
The attack was mounted at the Barbès–Rochechouart metro station after Hitler invaded Russia on June 22 1941 by a PCF member.
The present square includes the chapel of the Saint-Lazare prison. It started as a leper colony run by monks in the 17th century and then as a special prison for the well-to-do. 165 prisoners were executed here over the three days before Robespierre’s arrest on 27 July 1794 at the height of the terror. It became a women’s prison later that year. After being rebuilt in 1834 and closed in 1935 to become a hospital, it was also closed in its turn in 1998.
Saint-Lazare had dual roles: medical treatment and jail. After the 1802 law requiring prostitutes to have regular medical check-ups, the Saint-Lazare prison became one of the first prison hospitals in France, with many women undergoing treatment. They would not be released until they were given a ‘clear card’. Those who didn’t have a card at all could simply be locked up in the prison side of the establishment. This law continued in force until 1946, when all women’s detention centres in France were finally closed.
Saint-Lazare was rebuilt by the architect Louis-Pierre Baltard as a special women’s hospital in 1834 after the old Saint-Lazare church collapsed.
In 1838 the Paris police chief made the Sisters of Marie-Joseph responsible for guarding the prisoners.
In 1857 Saint-Lazare had about 1,300 prisoners in three
sections: those convicted or waiting trial; those undergoing treatment or
refusing it; and girls between 7 and 16 or 20 who were deemed to be vulnerable.
Records show some 11,000 women and girls passed through the Hospital/Prison in the single year, 1885. This was two years after Louise Michel was imprisoned there.
In 1935 the old prison was demolished but the special
hospital continued to treat women prostitutes until 1975, the international
year of women.
The only remaining bits of the prison are the Chapel in the Square and the old hospital’s wings, now associated with the Françoise Sagan media centre.
Named after a 16th century Italian painter in 1880, the old Montmartre street was originally called the rue Saint-André. Its biggest claim to fame, apart from hosting Monatte‘s oppositional publication, La Révolution prolétarienne, at No. 17 in 1925 is the recent discovery (in 1988) of one of the last wells found in Montmartre – at 17b.
Named either after a draper’s street sign showing a tree without leaves or from the hangman’s scaffold a the street’s northern end, on the corner with the Rue Saint-Honoré, in the 13th century it was the north-south road crossing the 10th century city walls.
Friedrich Engels lived at No. 15 (formerly No. 11) in 1844 when he came to visit Marx in Paris. The building is now a primary school, previously for girls.
After the First World War, the pioneers of Algerian national independence used to meet at No. 39, the ironmonger’s shop belonging to Hadj-Ali Abdelkader. In 1926 he was both a member of the Central Committee of the French Communist Party and first president of the North-African Star movement created that year.
The Brasserie du Commerce and its Auger Restaurant at No. 48 were a regular meeting place for left groups in the mid and late 1930s. The Young Socialists (Jeunesses socialistes), ‘Bolshevik-Leninists around ‘Truth‘, and the Communist-dominated Secours Rouge (Red Cross) that changed its name to Secours populaire (People’s Help) all used to meet there.
No 48 was also the place where Pivert’s new left revolutionary socialist party, the PSOP, decided to exclude the small numbers of Trotskyists including Lambert who had started to ‘enter’ it in 1939.
In 1808 the National Archives were placed in the Hôtel de Clisson at No. 58. It was built first in 1371 (its turreted gateway survives) and then acquired by the Duke of Guise who changed the name to the Hôtel de Soubise.
One of the barricades erected during the brief insurrection of May 12 1839 by the Seasons Club led by Blanqui and Barbes was based at No. 76, across the road at what was then the junction of 18 Rue du Grand Chantier with the Rue Pastourelle.
In 1885 this section of the Rue de l’abbé de L’Epée was given the name of the French mathematician and founder (1798-1857) of the positivist philosophical school
A flat in the imposing No. 3 belonged to the parents of Simone Weil, and this was where she met with Trotksy on 30 December 1933 and hid him for a few days during a clandestine visit to Paris. Trotsky took the decision that night to move to found the Fourth International.
A plaque on the wall states only that Simon Weil lived there from 1929 until 1940 and that she was a philosopher.
Under its earlier name of the Grande rue d’Auteil, No. 24 was the private house of Mme Helvétius , whose salon from 1772 to 1800 was visited by Diderot, Turgot, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine as well as by Napoléon Bonaparte.
The Auteuil hamlet was close to the vast forest of Rouvray of which today the only remains are the Bois de Boulogne.
Under the Second Empire the house at 59 rue d’Auteuil was owned by the Emperor’s cousin, Pierre Bonaparte, and was where he shot and killed the unarmed young journalist Victor Noir on January 10 1870. Pierre Bonaparte was quickly found not guilty after a trial heard from several conjured up witnesses, while Noir was buried in Neuilly – and only removed as a Republican symbol to Paris’ Père-Lachaise in 1891.
Tens of thousands of outraged republicans, including Louise Michel dressed as a man and carrying a knife, marched in his funeral cortege.
Nothing remains of the superb original building, which was burnt to the ground by the Communards in May 1871. There is now only a huge apartment block at the spot.
However, somewhat ironically, the chemist shop at No. 27, just down the street, where Noir finally died at 2 pm in the afternoon, is now called ‘Body Minute’.
Living further up the street in 1848, at Nos. 63-73, was Louis-Philippe’s vehemently anti-Republican prime minister, François Guizot,.
Louise Michel lived on the Boulevard just outside Paris proper for a few months in 1856 in a flat opposite the Farmers-General wall. It was then a low rent, strongly working-class district. It is now one of the circle of broad boulevards created when that wall was demolished. To the North-West of Batignolles lies Levallois-Perret where Michel is buried.
The word Batignolles comes either from ‘bastillole’ meaning
little country house, or from ‘batagliona‘, the Latin for a battle. In medieval
France the rural commune of Batignolles-Monceau belonged to the Benedictine
nuns of Montmartre. It was used by the Bourbons for hunting.
Batignolles lay just to the North, outside the Farmers-General Wall around Paris built between 1784 and 1791 by the corporation of hugely wealthy tax farmers (paid by Louis XVI to collect taxes on goods entering Paris), 28 of whom were guillotined in 1793.
The 24km long wall with 64 toll barriers had boulevards on the outside. The Boulevard des Batignolles was one of these boulevards.
Today the line of the wall is roughly followed by the Metro lines 2 and 6.
Anger at Paris being ‘put in jail’ by the wall was a big factor in making the Bourbon rule highly unpopular. The tolls were abolished on 1 May 1791, although restored by the Directorate in 1798.
In 1860 the Batignolles district was incorporated into Paris by the Paris Prefect, Baron Haussmann, and the remaining sections of the wall destroyed, leaving just a handful of the classical designed custom houses.
A working-class area with low rents through the second half of the 19th century, Paul Verlaine (1844-1896) lived here as a child. Édouard Manet lived at No. 34 from 1864 to 1866. Émile Zola (1840-1902) supported him when Manet’s paintings were rejected for the 1866 Salon.
One of Paris’ very old boulevards, first called the boulevard Saint-Antoine and renamed boulevard Beaumarchais in 1831, after the important Enlightenment musician and poet. Two of its buildings (Nos. 23 and 28) are classified as historic monuments.
No. 10 isn’t. For good reasons. It’s now an ugly modern building. But from 1855 it was the entrance to a major cafe and music hall. The old entrances to the space behind the facade on the street are still there at Nos. 12 and 8.
Initially opened as a dance hall called le Grand Concert de l’Époque, it became a theatre in 1905 and then a cafe-concert hall, Chansonia, in 1908. In 1925 another name change to Concert Pacra lasted until 1962, when for its last decade it became the Théâtre du Marais and then Music-Hall du Marais and finally a cinema.
Among those who appeared at the Concert Pacra were Charles Aznavour, Edith Piaf and the anarchist Georges Brassens.
In May 1968, while all the other shows in Paris stopped with the strike on the metro and the street battles in Paris, a concert of folk music took place there in support of the French Global Campaign against Famine.
In 1830 Louis-Philippe was presented the crown of France by the timid reformers who had been pushed into presiding over the downfall of Charles X. But they were not able to suppress the republican pressure to get rid of the monarchical system of privileges and power that was particularly strong in urban areas.
In Lyon on 9 April 1834 a demonstration protesting against new authoritarian laws inhibiting press freedom that was organised by the Society for the Rights of Man and by the Executive Committee of the local workers friendly societies led to mass rioting that appeared to be building up to an insurrection.
Barricades started to appear in Paris on 13 April 1834 and Louis Philippe’s government decided on savage repression. After an infantry captain was wounded by a shot from a window near a barricade in the Rue Transnonain every person found in the house from which the soldiers thought the shot had been fired was killed (12) or wounded (24) (with the victims including old men and women as well as children).
The ‘butchery of Rue Transnonain’ was captured,
famously, by Honoré Daumier in a print that could not be censored and became an
instant success as well as a tribute to Daumier’s art and politics.
Renamed in 1864 under Napoleon III in honour of the song-writer Pierre-Jean de Béranger whose songs under the Bourbons had often praised the achievements of Napoleon 1, Béranger himself had lived and then died in a top floor flat at No. 5 when the road was called the Rue de Vendôme.
The name Vendôme used from about 1694 was because Philippe de Vendôme was the head of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem that ran the nearby huge Templar Knights estate and tower.
Ironically, the 1964 renaming took place in the same year that one of the main figures with Henri Tolain behind the ‘Manifesto of 60 Working Men, Joseph Perrachon, was living at No. 3. The Manifesto was describe by Marx as ‘The first Class charter by a French working class movement on the way to becoming adult‘. Perrachon was one of those who then founded the International Workingmen’s Association.
Fierce fighting took place in the road on May 24 1871, when a barricade from Nos. 25 to 26 was finally taken by some Versaillais troops approaching it from the Boulevard du Temple.
A bustling square on the 1791-1860 northern boundary of Paris at the old tax gate into Paris to the south of the Montmartre hill. Its barricade in May 1871 involved fighter from the Women’s Union. Today it is home to Le Moulin Rouge that opened in 1889 and dozens of tacky strip bars and sex shops.
The Place Blanche (White Square) was named after a café called the ‘White Cross’. It got its name from the showers of white flour and gypsum whose mills and quarries often covered those working on and near the Montmartre hill.
The tax collectors’ building in the Farmers-General Wall at the Place Blanche was burnt down here on 11 July 1789 in a protest by quarry workers against the taxes on the carts they had to pay to enter neighbouring inner Paris. It was one of the many sparks that ignited in Paris three days later on July 14 1789.
The tax wall was first abolished by the Constituent Assembly in 1791 and in November 1793 32 of its wealthy tax collectors were arrested and 28 guillotined. After the tax wall’s reintroduction by the Directorate in 1798, it and its gates survived until 1860, when Montmartre was incorporated into Paris.
The halfmoon-shaped square was laid out in 1803 as La Place de la Barrière Blanche, and only
became La Place Blanche in 1864.
The women fighters had already retreated from the Batignolles barricade, and after the Versaillais took this barricade they were then forced to retreat again to the next barricade at the Place Pigalle.
Paris is still changing, and sometimes by accident. Having a meal with Nicole (my father’s partner for over 25 years) in November 2017, we chatted about the big fire that had started near the Saint Germain church.
It turned out to be the cremation of the last mortal remains
of the famous La Hune bookshop. This had been set up by former resistance
fighters in 1949 and had been a centre of Parisian intellectual life for thirty
years. It had closed two years earlier after relocating to the corner of the
Place Saint-German and Rue Bonaparte in 2012.
Hazan (WTP) remembers it as one of the key left intellectual
meetings places of the 1950s and as a street dominated by ‘realist’ art
galleries in the 1960s. When we walked past it the day after the fire and smelt
the sad pungent aroma of burnt books and wood, it looked as if the fashion shop
with which it shared its premises had mysteriously been largely spared.
Across Rue Bonaparte was where Jean-Paul Sartre used to live in number 42 (third window below the balcony). He moved there to be with his mother after the death of her second husband in 1948, The editorial team of his philosophical journal, Temps modernes, used to meet in the flat. Simone de Beauvoir, with whom he lived there for a while, Raymond Aron and Maurice Merleau-Ponty were among the many Left Bank intellectuals who made up its editorial board.
Number 42 was the address where Sartre’s political support for Algerian independence was rewarded on January 7 1962 with the signature plastic bomb used by the OAS – the Organisation armée secrete – whose music I had first heard out with my father on the Champs Elysée celebrating New Years’ Eve just a week earlier. The traffic jam of cars blocking the street appeared nearly all to be honking ‘Algerie Française’ – da da da, daa, daa. A week later we were walking home when we heard the huge bang when the Rue Bonaparte bomb went off – targeted along with another 16 other addresses that night.
There were no injuries, but Sartre promptly moved
out to the much more public Boulevard Raspail.
Further down the Rue Bonaparte, at the crossroad with Rue Jacob, another story did not end quite so happily. In 1871 the Commune defenders built a barricade between numbers 21 and 28 in Rue Bonaparte and from 29 to 32 in Rue Jacob. There, on May 24 1871 Francisco Salvador-Daniel, the musicologist son of a Jewish refugee from Spain, who had been defending the barricade was captured, and taken back to the barricade and shot by the Versaillais soldiers. He had taught the violin in Algeria and translated and adapted Arabic songs from North Africa for European musical instruments.
This is a wide Parisian street built in 1631 on the line of the obsolete 16th century city wall. It was one of what are called the ‘Grands Boulevards’ on the right-bank of the city. Its even numbers are in the 10th arrondissement and its odd numbers in the 2nd.
Named after the local ‘Our Lady Good News’ church (Notre-Dame-de-Bonne-Nouvelle) It is well used to demonstrations. On June 9 1820 Louis XIII’s cavalry charged demonstrators on the Boulevard chanting ‘Long Live the Charter’, killing several of those demanding that the King keep his 1814 promises of acting as a constitutional monarch.
The next time it was King Louis-Philippe’s troops who forcibly cleared the boulevard of republican demonstrators on 15 June 1831.
A major barricade across the boulevard at No. 38 saw the monarchist Odilion Barrot booed by the republican crowd on February 24 1848 when he argued for a regency under Louis-Philippe’s wife to take over from the King. The 2,000 troops sent to demolish the barricade ended up fraternising with the crowd.
On June 23 1848 three of the first barricades in the workers’ insurrection challenging the end of the National Workshops were erected in the short stretch of the boulevard between the Porte St-Denis and the Rue de Mazagran. The flags on the barricades carried the slogan, ‘Bread or Death‘.
Many political meetings used to take place during the 1848 Revolution at No. 20, in the concert hall Bonne-Nouvelle. The Women’s Club attended by Désirée Gay and Pauline Roland met there regularly.
On June 13 1849 Ledru-Rollin and Raspail were arrested after organising a demonstration against the government’s decision to besiege the Roman Republic and restore the Pope to the Vatican. Marx, who had observed the demonstration on the Boulevard, was expelled immediately afterwards.
18 months later, 280 opponents of Louis-Napoleon’s coup d’etat of 4 December 1851 were massacred by canon fire at the junction of the Boulevard with the Rue St Denis.
On September 3 1870 it was the police who fired from the police station at No. 23 on demonstrators angry at the announcement of the defeat of Napoleon III at the battle of Sedan.
On Bastille Day, July 14 1941, after Hitler’s invasion of Russia, the Young Communists (Jeunesses communistes) organised a demonstration in the Boulevard that was attacked first by the Paris police and then by the German army.
The Théâtre du Gymnase, also at No. 38, was where Jean Cocteau’s wartime play, The Terrible Parents, was first performed and then banned in 1942.
On 23 August 1927 fighting broke out in the boulevard when the police attacked the demonstration called by the Communist Party against the executions that day in America of the framed Italian migrants Sacco and Vanzetti.
Another street battle between demonstrators and police took place on 16 December 1972, when a protest march against a police murder of a young Algerian man two weeks earlier was broken up, with its leaders, including Michel Foucault, being arrested.
Built in 1838 in the Montrouge commune and absorbed into Paris in 1863 it was named after Michel-Jacques Boulard, Josephine’s official Imperial tapestry-maker, who. He spend the last three years of his life in a hospice and left a huge amount of money to build the new St-Michel Hospice that opened in 1830.
No. 36 was opened on 17 April 1871 as a recruitment office for the National Guard during the Paris Commune.
Proudhon lived at No. 46 with his family for several years in the 1850s. Having been rebuilt or built in the late 19th century as a local boys school, this address is now an elementary school .
Proudhon, of course, would not have approved of the state deciding how to educate children. He believed this could lead to brainwashing. He argued instead that each family (father) should be responsible for the education of their children.
This was where on February 21 1848 the Republicans around the Reform paper took the decision to resort to armed resistance to the King’s decision to ban the Paris banquet in their national campaign to extend the franchise. Among those meeting were the Worker Albert, Ledru-Rollin, Etienne Arago and Marc Caussidière.
The office became the headquarters of the February Revolution, and was where on February 24 1848 Ledru-Rollin, Blanc, l’ouvrier Albert, Flocon, Arago and Cavaignac drew up the left’s list for membership of the provisional government.
A century later, No 32 was the home from 1954 to 1958 of the Catholic priest, Henri Grouès (called l’abbé Pierre), who had been in the resistance and then a deputy, and was the founder of the Emmaüs charity.
Called after a grandson of Louis XIV, the Duke of Bourgogne (1682-1712), the road was opened in 1707. Running south from today’s National Assembly, the Palais Bourbon, on January 18 1798 it was renamed the Rue du Conseil des Cinq-Cents after the Council of Five Hundred had begun to meet in the Palais Bourbon.
On February 6 1934 there was a police cordon stretching across the road at Nos 7 and 8 to the rue St Dominique protecting the National Assembly from the extreme right demonstrators.
The music teacher and composer Adolphe Reichel (1816-1896) lived at No. 4 in the mid-1840s when Bakunin stayed with him. Bakunin was expelled from France in 1847, but Proudhon and Pierre Leroux visited him there often.
During the Occupation a Resistance group based at No. 28 (pictured) organised escape routes to Spain both for allied soldiers and later for the roughly 200,000 men over 20 avoiding the Obligatory Work Duty (Service du travail obligatoire) introduced by the Laval government on February 16 1943.
Named after the Swiss-origin Abraham Breguet who first conceived of the wrist-watch and established a watch-making business in Paris, the street was opened in 1866.
With Paul Hauet (1866-1945), a retired colonel, Germaine Tillion reactivated the National Association of Soldiers from the Colonies and set up office in the corner building at No. 2 in July 1940. There were around 69,000 prisoners of war originating in the French colonies at the time.
Officially they were simply sending parcels, letters or copies of the Koran to the prisoners, but in reality they worked organising a network initially to provide papers and clothers for escaping prisoners of war heading for the free zone in the South, and then in collecting information on German army movements.
By the autumn of 1940 Tillion and Hauet had made contact with the resistance group at the Musée de l’Homme. Tillion was finally the only survivor of that network.
Hauet, was finally arrested in January 1944 and deported to the Neuengamme concentration camp near Hamburg, where he died in January 1945.
The road was named ‘Brittany’ after a never completed project of Henry IV to build a great square into which several streets would run, each with the name of a different province. After two streets were merged in 1851 the road is nearly half a kilometre in length. The even-numbered side of the road was demolished in 1920 to widen the road to its present width.
No. 14 was where the first issue of the centre-left newspaper Libération was prepared and published on April 18 1973.
The oldest covered market in Paris at No. 39, the Market of the Red Children (Le marché des Enfants Rouges), was established in 1628 near an orphanage whose children were dressed in red, the colour of charity). During the ‘Bloody week’ at the end of the Paris Commune in May 1871 the market was fortified and defended.
On January 2 1910 Lenin attended a revolutionary ‘goguette‘ – a kind of drinking + sing-song / poetry-and-literature dinner with roughly 20 people – organised by La Muse Rouge in a room on the first floor of No. 49. We don’t know if he was accompanied by Krupskaya or Inessa.
The venue (shown in the photograph taken in the 1910s) was the Third arrondissement’s communal building. At the time there were hundreds of these goguette events being organised regularly in Paris. The Muse Rouge theatre group was expelled by the PCF in 1925.
By 1921 the building included the office of the Paris Federation of the SFIO (Socialists) and this was where Breton and Aragon came to apply to join the new French Section of the Communist International, less than a week after the majority of socialists had voted at the Tours Congress to affiliate to the Third International.
In 1922 the cooperative workers’ restaurant and café La Famille Nouvelle based at No. 49 was visited by many leftists including Ho Chi Minh. Many left events took place, including monthly dinners of the Revolutionary Esperantists, who were entertained by the Socialist Federation’s choir.
On September 1 1939 Palmiro Togliatti was arrested by the French police and taken to the Police Station at No. 62. They didn’t find out his true identity and he was jailed only for holding false papers and finally released in February 1940.
In the bloody week of May 1871 a barricade across the road at No. 71 defended by the 86th National Guard battalion mounted strong resistance to the Versaillais troops. This was also the address where Sylvain Maréchal, who drafted the Equality Manifesto of April 1796 is supposed to have lived.
Built in an area designated under Charles X as the ‘European district’ in 1826, the road’s name was intended to celebrate the close relations between France and Belgium after the 1820 Treaty of Kortrijk with the Kingdom of the Netherlands that defined Belgium’s borders.
Its only real historical signficance is that having done extremely well as a writer, Émile Zola, occupied the whole of the ground and first floors of No. 21 bis.
On two of the walls of the house were portraits of Zola and his wife given to them by Édouard Manet, and on others paintings by his childhood friend, Paul Cézanne. There is now a plaque to Zola next to the main entrance.
The short street is one of the oldest on the left bank. It was given the name Bûcherie because of its proximity to the Port aux Bûches. This was where wood was unloaded and it was full of the wood merchants busy building Paris. But later in the Middle Ages the name changed to meaning ‘butchers’ as the street became the place where rotten carcasses of meat were salted and boiled to be fed to people living in Paris’ poorest district.