Key dates 1831-1847

Chronology from Le Maitron of key dates in French labour history

Author: Stéphane Sirot, additional material by Michel Cordillot, René Lemarquis and Claude Pennetier with Steve Jefferys (italicised)


January 15 Blanqui and other student leaders are arrested for organising violent demonstrations near the Sorbonne and judged by its Academic Council.

February 8 The clockmaker Charles Béranger‘s ‘A proletarian’s petition to the Chamber of Deputies’ was published by Le Globe, established by Pierre Leroux.

February 14-15 Anticlerical and anti-Bourbon riots take place in Paris after a Legitimist commemoration of the murder of the Duke de Berry at the Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois church opposite the Louvre. This was occupied by republican demonstrators who then marched on the Archbishop’s palace near Notre Dame, pillaging and wrecking it. These riots were followed later in provincial France.

March 2 Republican riots break on in Paris after the acquittal of prisoners charged with infringing restrictions on press freedom. Protesting workers march on the Palais Royal, the Louvre and on the Town Hall. The Russians eventually take Warsaw on September 8.

March 9 Republicans riot in Paris on hearing the false news that the Russians had seized Warsaw. The windows of the Russian Embassy were stoned and the crowd sang the Marseillaise.

March – June Demonstrations take place against the introduction of machines in factories in Nantes, Saint-Étienne, Bordeaux and Le Havre.

April 6-10 Trial of 19 republican members of the Friends of the People Society, including Godefroi Cavaignac, arrested during the December 1830 riots. They are all acquitted by the jury on April 15/16, giving rise to several working class demonstrations.

April 9-12 Riots of Lyon silk workers (canuts).

May 5 A Bonapartist demonstration takes place at the Place Vendome on the anniversary of Napoleon’s death.

June Serious rioting in the Saint-Denis district resulting from the tough economic situation. The repression was very severe with many victims.

June 1 The Philanthropic Society of Parisian Working Tailors is established.

June 14-16 Riots in Paris put down by the National Guard and regular soldiers. Particularly heated fighting takes place in the Faubourg Saint-Denis and Boulevard Bonne-Nouvelle.

July 14 Working class riots. Republican attempt is made to plant an Equality Tree in the Place de la Bastille, at the Pantheon, in the Place de Grève and in the Place de la Concorde. The more than 1,500 demonstrators are dispersed by police dressed in disguise as workers. The publication Au Peuple is seized.

September 7 1,500 textile workers organise a demonstration, followed by riots in Paris that don’t end until September 17.

October The Saint-Simonian manifesto is published with a big propaganda campaign in the provinces.

October 30 The first issue of the Factory Echo (L’Écho de la Fabrique) appears in Lyon.

November The Saint-Simonians split. The most faithful will follow Prosper Enfantin to Egypt. Others, like Abel Transon and Jules Lechevalier, publicly turn to Fourierism.

November 14 Philipon draws and then publishes a cartoon of King Louis-Philippe as a pear. He is charged with ‘insulting behaviour towards the king’ and sentenced to six months in prison and a 2,000 francs fine.

November 20-22 The Lyon silk workers revolt; the negotiations conducted by the prefect fail; an insurrection takes place. Hard repression led by Marshal Soult with 10,000 troops takes place and the revolt finally ends on December 3.

December 15 Daumier‘s cartoon of Louis-Philippe Gargantua is published in La Caricature.


January 10-12. Trial of “The Fifteen” leaders of the SAP (Societe des Amis du Peuple). The accused (Auguste Blanqui, Bonnias, François, Guillaume Gervais, François-Vincent Raspail, Antony Thouret) defend themselves; they are found guilty and sentenced on 27 February, Blanqui was sentenced to a year in prison. The SAP was officially dissolved but it continued its activities.

February. Several newspapers are put on trial. A workers’ commission is set up within the SAP made up of Auguste Caunes senior, Gaussuron-Despréaux, François Sugier). Pierre Leroux and Jean Reynaud take over editorship of the Revue encyclopédique, organ of the neo-Saint-Simonians

February 6 The first cholera epidemic victim dies in Paris.

February 23 Daumier is sentenced to six months in prison and fined 500 francs for his Gargantua cartoon.

February 26 Chopin gives his first concert in Paris in the Pleyel‘s salon in the Rue Cadet.

March 29. Official announcement of a cholera epidemic in Paris.

April 1 Revolt by prisoners at Sainte-Pélagie, supported by several sections of the SAP. One death. A protest by Parisian chiffoniers (rag collectors) begins against the official collection of refuse introduced by the authorities to try to halt the spread of cholera.

April 20 Leroux’s newspaper Le Globe ceases publication.

End April. Commissions for the Rights of Man are set up within the Friends of the People Society (SAP).

May 16 The banker, mine owner and President of the Council of Ministers (Prime Minister) since March 13 1831, Casimir Perier, dies of cholera. He had visited ill patients in Paris’ principal hospital next to Notre-Dame, the Hotel Dieu. A conservative right-winger who had tried to keep Charles X in power he had accepted the position of prime minister only after Louis-Philippe had agreed to allow him to have more freedom of manoeuvre in government than the king.

June 1 Jean-Maximilien Lamarque dies of cholera at his house in the Rue St Honore. Promoted to General by Bonaparte in 1801, he again served with him during the Hundred Days of 1815. Exiled until 1818, he supported the liberal opposition to Louis XVIII and then Charles X. Elected a deputy in 1828, he reluctantly accepted the July Monarchy. His reputation was as someone who had fought both for the Republic and the Empire.

June 2 A large gathering of members of the Friends of the People (SAP) takes place at the funeral of the 20-year-old republican who posthumously become known as one of France’s leading mathematicians, Évariste Galois. He had been mortally wounded in a duel, and was buried in Montparnasse Cemetery.

June 5-6. Popular insurrection in Paris on the occasion of the funeral of General Lamarque. The last group of insurgents fight heroically around the cloisters of Saint-Merri in the Rue de St Martin. Casualities are very heavy: at least 150 are killed on the side of the insurgents, more than 400 are wounded and more than 1,500 arrested; 134 deaths and 326 wounded on the side of the police. A state of siege is declared in Paris that lasts until June 29.

Summer. Birth of the Society for the Rights of Man (SDH).

August 15 The first issue of La Femme libre (the Free Woman) appears. It was an answer by working class women to the Saint-Simonian ‘silence’ on the women’s question imposed by Prosper Enfantin. ‘Written and published by women’ from No. 17 Rue du Caire, it only gives the first names of one founder and one editor, .Jeanne-Désirée (Véret-Gay) and Marie-Reine (Guindorf). One other name appears in the single article in the first issue, that of Jeanne-Victoire (Deroin), a washerwoman who had become a teacher. Thirty-one issues of the paper appear until it ceases publication in 1834.

August 27 Daumier is imprisoned in Sainte-Pélagie.

August 27-28 Trial of the Saint-Simonians in the Court of Assizes in Paris for organising an illegal association and of publishing material offensive to public morality. Prosper Enfantin, Michel Chevalier and Charles Duveyrier are sentenced to one year in prison. Enfantin and Chevalier are imprisoned in Sainte-Pelagie on December 15.

23-31 October. Trial of the 22 charged with fighting on the barricade at cloisters of Saint-Merri. Charles Jeanne, who had been awarded the July 1830 decoration for his part in that insurrection, told the court he took full responsibility for his actions. He was sentenced to be deported, but instead, after being moved successively between various prisons he died in 1837.

November-December. Several groups of Saint-Simoniant missionaries (forty people altogether) leave Paris for Lyon to build a ‘workers peaceful army’.

15 December. Opening of the trial of “The Association of Rights” against the SAP. The SAP is definitively dissolved, but the acquittal of the accused enables it to survive for some time.


25 January. La Tribune publishes the list of five great “patriotic” associations in Paris, into which the SAP and the SDH dissolve. Apart from the society “The sky helps him who helps himself,” rather far from the workers movement, the others, the associations for free public education and for the freedom of the press, played a considerable part.

1st February. Imprisoned in Sainte-Pélagie, Laponneraye publishes her Lettre aux prolétaires. It wil be followed by Deuxième lettre aux prolétaires dated 26 March. (The first of these letters will see the author be condemned on 27 June following).

20 May. Insurrection of the miners of Anzin.

July. Publication of the newspaper of Étienne Cabet, Le Populaire.

September-October. Reorganization of the SDH with the extreme left predominant, after several months of internal conflicts between the “Girondists” (with Francois, Vincent Raspail) and “Montagnards” (with Napoleon Lebon). Within the Society, a Propaganda Committee in charge of education and organisation of workers, is founded. It gathers Neo-Babouvists like Napoleon Lebon, Buonarroti and Marc Voyer d’Argenson, as well as workers like the tailor Alphonse Grignon and shoemaker Z Efrahem. Several of its members will be imprisoned in November as “instigators of combinations of workmen.” Important movements of the carpenters in Paris, tailors (who create a “national workshop” to provide work for the strikers), shoemakers and bakers. Creation of a Lyons section of the SDH. The SDH publishes its “Manifesto” in the La Tribune. Publication of Reflections of a Tailor by Alphonse Grignon, and On the Association of Workers of all Trades by Z Efrahem.

1st October. Creation of the Philanthropic Society of Tailors in Nantes. It will play an important part in the creation of a network of correspondents from Brittany to Bordeaux, as in Marseille. The Philanthropic Society of Tailors in Nantes is destroyed on 20 February 1837.

11-12 December. “Trial of the 27” (leaders of the SDH) accused of having planned a riot in July, marking the third anniversary of the “Three Glorious Days.”


Founding of the Association of Goldsmiths, which will continue to exist until 1873.

January. Law prepressing town criers.

February. Strike of Mutualist workers in Lyon, following a reduction in wages. The general strike will last approximately 10 days.

2 February. The first and only number of Libérateur, journal of Auguste Blanqui.

22 February. Following the strike of Mutualist workers in Lyon, adoption of a law prohibiting associations organised in branches of less than 20 persons.

9-14 April. Insurrection, initially of workers in Lyon and Saint-Étienne, and of a diverse character in Arbois, Épinal, Lunéville, Chalon, Grenoble, Vienne, Clermont-Ferrand, Marseille, Toulon. On the 11th, in Lyon, massacre in rue Projetée. On the 12th, in Paris, the arrest of 150 republicans, including the leaders of the SDH. La Tribune cannot appear. On the 14th, in Paris, massacre in rue Transnonain. In Paris as elsewhere, riots are quickly repressed and casualities are very heavy: more than 300 dead and 600 wounded in Lyon, scores dead in Paris; 2,500 arrested, of which half are in Paris, more than 2,300 charged.

10 April. Passing of law on associations, which requires official approval for associations split into branches of less than 20 persons.

June-September. Disorders and revolts in Sainte-Pélagie.

July-August. Creation of the Société des Familles by Hadot-Desages.

8 October. Publication of the first number of Réformateur of François, Vincent Raspail.

11 October. La Tribune reappears.


6 February. Members of the Cour des Pairs sign arrest warrants for more than 420 persons. The defense organised itself. Parisians appoint a committee (Godefroy Cavaignac, Guinard, Auguste Blanqui, Vignerte.), the Lyonnais another (Baune, Lagrange, Caussidière..). Dissension between those which preach a traditional defense (Jules Favre, Ledru-Rollin) and those who want instead to build a movement. On 17 April the list of the defenders chosen by the defendants appears in the press.

5 May. First session of the “April Trial”: after the withdrawal of charges, according to the Tableau drawn up by Caussidière and the Inventaire, 164 insurgents of April 1834 (including 87 Lyoneses) will appear before the Cour des Pairs. Defendants meet at Auguste Blanqui’s place.

8 May. Publication of the defendants’ protest.

11 May. Publication of the Lettre des défenseurs aux accusés d’April.

29 May-4 June. Trial of the defendants before the Chamber of Peers. They are convicted: Ulysse Trélat very severely, Michel de Bourges a little less, and some others.

12 July. Escape of at least 25 prisoners from Sainte-Pélagie.

28 July. Fieschi’s arrest.

3-8 August. First trial for the production of explosives (Eustache Beaufour).

13 August. Judgment of the Cour des Pairs on those accused in Lyon (72 convictions).

9 September. Law of September. Freedom of the press if forcefully restricted and it is made an offence to declare oneself a republican.

7 and 28 December. Judgment of the Cour des Pairs on those accused in Lunéville, Saint-Étienne, Grenoble, Marseille, Arbois and Besançon (25 convictions).


23 January. End of the “April” trial. 40 Parisians are condemned.

30 January-15 February. Trial of Fieschi.

19 February. Execution of Fieschi, Pépin, Morey.

8 March. Discovery of the “Explosives Conspiracy”; Armand Barbès and d’Auguste Blanqui arrested on the 11th.

25 June-11 July. Arrest, trial, execution of Alibaud.

2-10 August. “Explosives Conspiracy Trial.” Armand Barbès and Auguste Blanqui sentenced to prison.

17-23 October. “Explosives Conspiracy Trial” appeal. The majority of the setences are confirmed.


April-July. Inflammatory post campaign, with 7 proclamations from the “Printworks of the Republic,” the first being entitled Au Peuple. Arrests (Antoine Fomberteaux). Reorganization of the Société des Familles is reorganised under the name of “Pelotons” and launches publication of the Moniteur républicain.

8 May. Amnesty to mark the marriage of the Duc d’Orléans, but missing or escaped prisoners are excluded.

June. “Les Saisons” replaces the “Familles.”

November. First number of the Moniteur républicain, dated “3 Frimaire year XLVI” according to the Republican calendar The 8th and last number is published in July.

8 November. Discovery of a plot against the King (Aloys Huber, Laure Grouvelle, convicted in May 1838).


August-September. Publication of four numbers of L’Homme libre, followed by the arrest of the printers (Eugène Fomberteaux, Jean-Baptiste Guillemin, Lecomte Minor). Trial in June 1839, accompanied by a new publication which is swiftly repressed (Joseph Béchet, Stanilas Vilcoq, trial in November 1839).


12-13 May. Attempted insurrection by Armand Barbès, Martin Bernard, Auguste Blanqui and the Société des Saisons. Barbès, woundd, is arrested; the other two manage to elude the police, until 21 June and 14 October respectively. There were 77 killed and at least 51 wounded on the side of the insurgents, 28 and 62 on the other side. More than 750 are brought to trial.

11 June-12 July. Trial of the first group of the May insurgents (19 accused). Faithful to the traditions carbonarists and of the secret societies, Armand Barbès and Martin Bernard refuse to defend themselves. Bernard is condemned to deportation and Barbès to death. Without his knowledge, his sister obtains from the king, the commutation of his sentence to life imprisonment, commuted again to deportation on 31 December.

14 October. Arrest of Auguste Blanqui and five of his comrades. Charges against the five others will not be pursued.

November. The Saint-simonist workers (Jules Vinçard, L.-J. Vannostal, …) create La Ruche populaire with the Fourierists (H. Fugère, …) and the “Democrats” (J. Gilland, …) who successively withdraw. Publication will be stopped in 1842, before being continued again by L’Union from 1843 to 1846.

28 November. Explosion d’une machine infernale (Pierre Béraud).

December. Formation of Nouvelles saisons (Henri Dourille, Lucien Delahodde).


January. First edition (without the name of the author) of Voyage en Icarie by Étienne Cabet, giving birth to the Icarian communist movement, which will become more and more extensive until the decision to leave to found a Communist colony in Texas is taken at the end of 1847. Formation of the “Egalitarian Workers,” a neo-Babouvist communist tendency.

13-31 January. Trial of the second group of May 1839 revolutionaries (34 accused). Like Armand Barbès and Martin Bernard, Auguste Blanqui refuses to defend himself. Condemned to death on 31 January, on the intervention of his wife, and without his knowledge, like Barbès, on 1st February his sentence is commuted to deportation. He will join Barbès and the others in Mont-Saint-Michel.

27 April. Amnesty for missing and escaped prisoners, not amnestied in May 1837 (Godefroy Cavaignac, Édouard Colombat, …).

11 May. Message from the French Socialists to the Congress of English Socialists.

June. P.J. Proudhon launches his celebrated maxim: “Property is theft.” Beginning of important strike movement by boy-tailors, which becomes extensive during the following months and extends to other branches of industry (Henri Troncin).

1st July. Communist banquet in Belleville of which J.-J. Pillot is the principal organiser. Anxious, the government scours all France in pursuit of militant revolutionaries.

Beginning of September. Almost 30,000 workers are on strike; more than 400 arrests.

September. Publication of the journal L’Atelier, written entirely by workers. It will appear until July 1850. Publication of Louis Blanc’s L’Organisation du travail, and it will see nine editions up to 1850. This material will cause furious debate, which will continue thorughout the Second Republic.

15 October. Darmès’s attack on Louis-Philippe. The trial will bring to light the existence of secret societies of communists.


14 March. Launch of the Populaire of Étienne Cabet.

22 March. Law limiting child labour in factories. Children under the age of eight are forbidden to work, limitation of the working day to 8 hours for 8-12-year-olds and 12 hours for 12-16-year-olds. Night work (9pm-5am) is forbidden for children under 12 years, and for all ages, 2 hours counts as three.

May. Richard La Hautière launches the journal La Fraternité.

July. Publication of L’Humanitaire, a materialist-communist journal (J. Gay, J.-J. May, Page, …).

1st August. Beginning of publication of the Fourierist journal La Démocratie pacifique.

13 September. Quénisset’s attack on the Duc d’Aumale. His trial will be turned into a trial of the Société des Travailleurs égalitaires.

October. Following the publication of a petition by M. Carles et Mme Augusta Carles, sister of Armand Barbès, written by Fulgence Girard with the agreement of Auguste Blanqui and other prisoners, a press campaign begins on behalf of the political prisoners (Journal du Peuple, Le National, later La Réforme), which will culminate with debate in the Chamber of Deputies.

1st November. Creation of the Revue indépendante (Pierre Leroux, George Sand).


November. Publication of Théodore Dezamy’s Code de la Communauté, the most advanced theoretical work of French Communism of the period.

December. Resurgence of unemployment. 150 000 Parisian workers are unemployed.


End May. Publication of the first edition of Flora Tristan’s L’Union ouvrière de. Close to the ideas of Fouriersists and especially the Owenites, she made contact with a large number of workers (Jules Vinçard, Agricol Perdiguier …). Flora Tristan was active preparing for a Tour of France destined to popularise her project to set up local circles of the L’Union ouvrière. Exhausted, she died at Bordeaux in November 1844.

5 July. Tocqueville’s report on the prisons, favourable to solitary confinement.

10 July. The Parisian Typographers’ Society, created in 1839, and the print employers chamber sign the first wage agreement, the first true collective agreement.

29 July. Creation of La Réforme (Auguste Ledru-Rollin).


February-December. The press campaign in support of political prisoners intensifies and is prolonged until December, buoyed by debates in the Chamber around the prison laws. (April-May).

31 March. Beginning of the miners’ strike in Rive-de-Gier (Loire), lasting more than two months, against working conditions imposed by the company. It is a failure.

14 August-18 October. French forces defeat the Algerians at the Battle of Isly and to celebrate and counter the unpopularity of his foreign policy, especially his visit with the Queen of England, Louis-Philippe grants the political prisoners pardons (remise de peine – which does not constitute an amnesty and deprives them of the possibility of recovering their full rights as citizens), while putting it about that an amnesty will be proclaimed at the time of the marriage of the duc d’Aumale. Armand Barbès, Martin Bernard, Auguste Blanqui and some 32 others are excluded from the pardon.

9 December. Auguste Blanqui, transferred since 18 March to Tours, where he remains in hospital, is given a pardon. He refuses it and it is never ratified by the royal court.

29 December. Creation in Paris of Conciliation Boards for the metals and related industries.


January. La Réforme launches “The Workers’ Petition” in the workshops of Paris.

9 January. Publication of the Le Fraternité in Paris, (Brige, then later on Savary, Mallarmé, etc).

9 June. Beginning of a strike of the Parisian carpenters for wage increases. For the first time, the military are placed at the disposal of the employers.


30 March. Demonstration of workers in Saint-Étienne, repressed by the troop: six dead.

22 May. Demonstration of clothing workers at Elbeuf for the destruction of machines which are causing unemployment.

July. Théodore Dezamy dissolves the Communistes égalitaires. The following year there are efforts to continue it.

August. New economic crisis approaching a food shortage.

30 September. Demonstration in the suburb of Saint-Antoine against increases in the price of bread; troops intervene. The rioters are to be imprisoned.

21-23 November. Grain riots in Tours, to be followed by the arrest of members of the workers’ unions (Jean-François Béasse, Étienne Bonnin, Pierre Boucher, Louis Desmoulins, Eugene Vieillefond).


13-14 January. Peasant riots in Buzançais (Indre); the crowd puts to death a landowner who had killed a rioter. Three rioters will be tried and executed on 16 April.

26-29 April. The trial at Blois. Blanqui is acquitted but refuses to be set free. He will remain in Blois until February 25, 1848.

8 June. Proclamation of the preliminary opposition of the Peasant banquets.

27 June. Riots caused by the raising of prices of the bread in Mulhouse; repressed by troops; there are several deaths.

9 July. First reformist banquet in Paris.

31 August-7 September. Popular riots in rue Saint-Honoré in Paris.


Armand Barbès

1809-1870 • France

Republican Insurrectionist

Organiser with Blanqui of the republican Rights of Man society, he was wounded in the 1839 insurrection and sentenced to life imprisonment. Called ‘the scourge of the establishment‘ by Marx , in 1892 perceptions had changed. The 18th arrondissement’s Boulevard Barbès and in 1903 the new Barbès metro station were named after him as a republican icon.

Barbès was one of the many left political prisoners who were jailed in the Sainte Pélagie prison from 1831.

On June 2 1836 several members of the Society of Seasons led by Barbès and Blanqui were arrested in their secret workshop at 22-24 Rue Dauphine where they were making gunpowder.

On May 9 1839 Barbès arranged for a trunk to be left that evening with the 55-year-old Catherine Rouchon, a widow who made trimmings for furniture, at 23 Rue Quincampoix. On May 12 when she wasn’t there some of the Society knocked down her door and collected its contents, ammunition. After the insurrection she identified Barbès to the police in the infirmary at the Conciergerie.

When the Society of Seasons insurrection finally took place on May 12 1839 Barbès and Blanqui took part in the pillaging of the Lepage armoury at 22 Rue du Bourg l’Abbé. Today, after the Haussmann rebuilding of Paris under the Second Empire, this is where the buildings stand at 64-66 Boulevard de Sébastopol.

Blanqui’s headquarters during the insurrection was in a café at 1 Rue Mandar. Barbès led another column to seize the Palais de Justice on the Cité island on the Seine, where they also attacked the police station, killing its commander.

The most important of the barricades erected on that Sunday in May 1839 was across the Rue de St. Martin. The insurrection was able to seize one local town hall at 43 Rue des Franc-Bourgeois.

The insurrectionaries, in the low thousands, including an estimated 200-300 students, occupied the Hotel de Ville. During the attack Barbès was wounded in the head. He was arrested outside 79 Rue des Gravilliers (now 248 Rue St Martin) at about 7 pm on May 12.

In 1848 Blanqui and Barbès were both released from prison, but they were no longer close allies. They did, however, found the Political Prisoners’ club at a meeting in the Salle Valentino at 251 Rue St Honoré  with Barbès as President and Blanqui Vice-President.

On March 21 Barbès founded the Club de la Révolution at a meeting in the Salle Molière at 159 Rue St Martin. At the same time he was meeting Proudhon, Pierre Leroux and Étienne Arago. With Leroux at 12ter Rue Coquilliere Barbes founded the newspaper, The True Republic, whose first issue stated: ‘Without labour reform, there is no true Republic‘. It produced 104 issues before being banned in August by Cavaignac.

On May 15 1848 the Republican left (Barbès, the worker Albert, Louis Blanc, François-Vincent Raspail and others) organised a demonstration in Paris to the Palais Bourbon, the Chamber of Deputies in support of the Polish revolution. While not being planned as an insurrection, Barbès took centre stage in the Constituent Assembly and announced the formation of a new government. Soon after they are all arrested.

The 15 arrested after the May 1848 protests against government inaction over the Polish revolt against the Russian colonisers included insurrectionary revolutionaries like Barbes and Blanqui alongside socialist republicans like Blanc and Raspail.

More info

Le Maitron


Boulevard Bonne-Nouvelle

Arrondissements 2, 10

Numbers 20, 38,

A postcard of the Theatre du Gymnase in 1900. In 1848, 28 years after the small theatre was built, a key barricade placed across the boulevard at this location.saw a major contingent of Louis-Philippe’s troops go over to the people.

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‘.

After burning down once in 1849, a second time in 1899 and a third time in 1930, a huge post office was built at No 20 on the site of the 1848 Club des Femmes meetings

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.


Boulevard Diderot

Arrondissement 12

Numbers 23-25 Prison de Mazas

The 1200-cell Prison de Mazas was built in 1850. Its entrance was at 23-25 boulevard Mazas, which was renamed the boulevard Diderot in 1879.

The location of the Prison Mazas superimposed on a google Map. The Gare de Lyon main station entrance is directly opposite the southern end of the Rue Emile Gilbert.

On April 30 1870 Louis-Napoleon‘s new more liberal government drummed up a red scare and arrested 38 active supporters of the First International just days before a referendum on the latest constitutional moves towards a slightly more parliamentary government system. The ‘reds’ were jailed at the Mazas Prison with its American-style cells. The idea was to keep prisoners isolated at all times from one another.

The cell windows in the Mazas prison shown in an early photograph from the 1850s.

One of the new prison’s earliest political uses was in briefly jailing the republican Assembly representatives and other opponents of Louis-Napoleon’s coup d’Etat of December 2 1851. Among these was the socialist biologist François-Vincent Raspail (1794-1878). His sentence was commuted to exile from which he returned in 1862.

The scientist and republican socialist Francois-Vincent Raspail drawn in the 1850s. Already imprisoned under Louis-Philippe he ran for president in December 1848.

After Louis-Napoleon won the May 8 1870 referendum overwhelmingly by 7.4 million votes to 1.5 million, the republicans believed the Empire was stronger than ever. On July 18 France declared war on Prussia. The Third Republic was declared on September 8.

The 16-year-old Arthur Rimbaud was held at the Mazas prison for a few days from 29 August 1870 on suspicion of being a Prussian spy.

The prison was used to keep many of the hostages taken by the Commune in April 1871 intended (unsuccessfully) to be exchanged for Auguste Blanqui. It was the site of fierce fighting during the Bloody Week of May 1871. After the Austerlitz bridge was taken by the Versaillais on 25 May, the defenders retreated to the prison and fought from there. On 26 May more than 400 Communards were executed there, with their bodies thrown into a well.

Felix Fénéon at the Mazas Prison opposite the Gare du Lyon in 1894 sketched by Maximilien Luce.

In 1894 the 30 anarchists and anarchist sympathisers were imprisoned at the Mazas during their trial for conspiracy to commit bomb attacks and murders in Paris. Felix Fénéon (1861-1944) was sketched here by another anarchist sympathiser, Maximillien Luce , who also produced a lithograph self-portrait of the inside of his prison cell.

Jailed while awaiting the ‘trial of the 30’ in 1894, Maximilien Luce produced this lithograph.

Both Fénéon and Luce and another 24 of those tried in August 1894 were acquitted.


Rue du Four

Arrondissement 6

Numbers 40, 43, 48

Unemployed marchers stole bread from three bakeries here in 1883. In 1943 No. 48 witnessed the first full meeting of the united French resistance under Jean Moulin.

The communal bread oven (four) belonging to the Abbey Saint-Germain was situated at what is now No. 43, and so gave its name to this 13th century road. In 1470 under King Louis XI (‘Louis the Prudent’) all the inhabitants were required to use this oven.

François-Vincent Raspail published his newspaper, L’Ami du Peuple (‘The People’s Friend’) at No 40 between February and May 1848.

On 9 March 1883 the street witnessed the end of the unemployed march led by Louise Michel with a black, anarchist flag. Three bakeries were entered and bread stolen. Michel was later sentenced to 6 years in jail as a result, while Emile Pouget, who supported her and (allegedly) took a pistol away from her before her arrest, was too.

In 1943 Jean Moulin organised the National Resistance Council bringing together the main groups from the Occupied and Vichy halves of France. Its first meeting was in rue du Four in Paris.

On May 27 1943 the National Council of the Resistance met secretly at No. 48 in the flat belonging to René Corbin . Those attending were: Jean Moulin (1899-1943), Roger Ginsburger (Pierre Villon, FN), Roger Coquoin (Ceux de la Libé), Jacques Lecompte-Boinet (Ceux de la Rés), Charles Laurent (Libération-Nord), Jacques-Henri Simon (OCM), Eugène Claudius-Petit (Franc-Tireur) and Claude Bourdet (Combat).


Rue Montmartre

Arrondissements 1, 2

Numbers: 1, 24, 64, 113, 123, 138-142, 144, 146, 154

The cafe at the corner of Rue Montmartre and Rue du Croissant where Jean Jaurès’ assassin fired two bullets through the café window in the street on the right of my photograph.

On January 11 1898 Zola submitted his defence of Alfred Dreyfus J’accuse to Georges Clemenceau, editor of the L’Aurore newspaper at No. 144. It was printed the following day.

Jean Jaurès was assassinated in the adjoining cafe at No. 146 on 31 July 1914.

Rarely for Paris, two plaques mark both these important spots in the story that helped define the modern French left.

The street has many other associations with the history of left struggles in Paris too. At No. 1, the barricade across La Pointe St Eustache saw considerable fighting on May 24 1871.

No 24 was the location of an arms depot created in 1942 by Paris city employees during the German occupation.

Nearly a century earlier, in March 1848, the Hôtel d’Angleterre at No. 64 was the location of the German Social Democratic Society organised by the poet Georg Herwegh, and the arms depot set up by the Republican National Guard to arm the ‘Democratic Legion’ of German volunteers formed to go to the support of the German Republican Hecker insurrection in Baden in April 1848.

During the 1830 Revolution François-Vincent Raspail was the president of the Revolutionary Club based at No. 113 that Buonarroti supported. It soon became the Society of the Rights of Man that was responsible for the first huge demonstration (and riot and barricade made famous by Victor Hugo) of June 5-6 1832.

A northern stretch of Rue Montmartre was a centre of newpaper printshops.

No. 123 was associated with left newspapers. In 1893, Le Chambard socialiste was based there. The CGT and then CGTU trade union paper Worker’s Life (La Vie Ouvrière) was printed at the Dangon printworks there from 1919. In 1927 the same printshop produced Ho Chi Minh‘s Vietnamese paper, l’Âme annamite (The Vietnamese soul).

On 18 April 1904 the first issue of the daily newspaper l’Humanité founded by Jean Jaurès was printed at No. 138-142. The same address in 1916 saw a left socialist anti-war newspaper, Le Populaire de Paris, appear. It was founded by Marceau Pivert, Jean Longuet, Paul Faure and Henri Barbusse.

On July 18 1927 the then Communist leaders Marcel Cachin and Jacques Doriot (who became a fascist leader between 1934 and 1936) were arrested at the L’Humanité offices now based at its printing works. The same address, No. 138-142, was the interwar editorial offices of the Young Communist publication, L’Avant-Garde.

On 27 February 1848, Proudhon published the first edition of his newspaper, The People’s Representative, at No. 154.

On November 15 1793, four months after Jean-Paul Marat‘s assassination, the delegates from the Montmartre commune called for the Rue Montmartre to be renamed Rue Mont-Marat.

Originally some believe the name Montmartre derived from ‘Mont Mars’ because of an alleged Roman temple to Mars built on the hill. Others consider it was because criminals or Christian martyrs were executed on the top of hills.

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Père Lachaise Cemetery

Arrondissement 20

East Cemetery

Opened in 1804 this world famous cemetery gets its name from Louis XIV’s Jesuit priest confessor from 1675 to 1709, François d’Aix de La Chaize. This was the period when the Sun King, having decided that anyone who was not a Catholic was the ‘enemy within’, revoked the 1598 Edict of Nantes that had tolerated protestants. While discriminatory measures took off from 1661, persecutions intensified from 1679 leading up to the 1685 revocation in the Edict of Fontainebleau. One per cent of the population, some 200,000 Huguenots were then forced out of France.

The Jesuits bought the land on the Mont-aux-Vignes hill to the North-East of Paris in the 16th century. After the young King Louis XIV had spent a few hours there the hill was renamed the Mont-Louis, and this was where Louis’ confessor, Father La Chaise, lived and died.

In 1780, finally, all cemeteries within the city walls were closed. As Consul Napoleon decreed that cemeteries should be open to all faiths and to the poor as well as the rich. In 1803 the land on the hill was acquired by the Prefect of the Seine department and the design of the cemetery entrusted to Alexandre-Theodore Brongiart.

The Père La Chaise opened for its first burial on June 4 1804. That year there were only 13 tombs. In 1815 still only 2,000. In 1830 there were 33,000 and after several expansions some 70,000 in 2014.


Hôtel de Ville / Paris Town Hall

Arrondissement 4

Number 10 Place de l’Hôtel de Ville

Jean-Victor Schnetz‘s painting of the July 28 1830 battle outside the symbolic Paris Town Hall shows both the Tricolor and a Red flag – with the words’ ‘Long Live the Charter’ on it. The July Revolution was about restoring a semblance of democratic bourgeois rights, with the threat of workers’ rights behind it.

Lamartine rejecting the red flag on 25 February 1848 in favour of the Tricolor representing the Bourbons (white), the Empire (blue) and the Republic (red).

At the next successful insurrection on February 25 1848, Henri Philippoteaux painted the republican Lamartine outside the Town Hall rejecting the Red flag and endorsing the Tricolor.

Citizens, for me, the red flag, I am not adopting it, and I’ll tell you why I’m against with all the strength of my patriotism. It’s that the tricolor has toured the world with the Republic and the Empire with your freedoms and your glory, and the red flag was that around the Champ-de-Mars, dragged into the people’s blood.

Alphonse Lamartine

On March 22 1848 a delegation of women activists from the ‘Women’s voice’ group went to the Town Hall to demand women have full citizens’ rights including the right to vote.

On May 15 1848 demonstrators against French intervention in Poland, including Blanqui, the worker Albert, Blanc, Cabet, Leroux and Raspail occupied the Town Hall and declared a new provisional government before being arrested.

Lamartine went on to order the brutal suppression of the June 1848 workers’ insurrection sparked by the government’s closing of the world’s first unemployment system with national workshops offering work paid by the state.

On September 4 1870, after Napoleon III’s capture at the battle of Sedan, Léon Gambetta stood on the Town Hall balcony and announced the end of the Second Empire and proclaimed the creation of a new Republic.

On 31 October Blanqui and others demonstrated in front of the Town Hall demanding more action against the Prussian army from the new government led by Jules Favre. A supporter on the inside unlocked the doors and the demonstrators occupied it.

On January 22 1871 Louise Michel was one of many who protested outside the Town Hall at the government’s inertia in face of the Prussian siege of Paris. the demonstrators were fired on and Louise Michel later wrote that this was the first occasion that she had fired back with her rifle.

On March 18 1871 the Thiers government first placed a regiment loyal to to it into the Town Hall overnight, and then attempted to seize all the canons in Paris. These events sparked the creation of the Paris Commune by the Central Committee of the National Guard on March 29 1871.

Retreating before the murdering Versaillais troops the Communards carried out their warning that they would burn down several of Paris’ historic buildings, including the Hotel de Ville

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Accused of being drunkards in several areas of France the early SFIO campaigned against alcoholism as well as against capitalism

French socialism began to distinguish itself both from Proudhon’s anarchistic appeal to humanity’s moral responsibilities and from Blanqui’s insurrectionism in the 1890s. Founded by Blum, Jaures and Vaillant in 1905 in the aftermath of the Dreyfus affair, the SFIO united left reformist republicans and Marxist sectarians. The alliance broke up in 1920 when a majority at the Tours Conference voted to affiliate to the new Communist International.

Despite being a minority at that SFIO conference, the SFIO of left reformist socialism became the leading left political current through nearly all the interwar period. After the Communist Party ended Stalin’s ‘class against class’ propaganda against the Socialists and proposed a Popular Front alliance, Blum became prime minister in 1936.

Under the Fourth Republic its internal divisions over Algerian independence, with Mendes France and the challenge of the stronger Communist Party allowed De Gaulle to take power. In 1981 Mitterrand won a decisive majority on a left platform that he abandoned three years later. From then the Socialist Party became largely a party of elected national and local officials, without any real mass membership. In 2017, following five politically disastrous years under Hollande, the Socialist Party suffered a major defeat in both the presidential and National Assembly elections. A new left party, La France Insoumise (France untamed), did relatively well, with the Left Front’s presidential candidate getting 19.6% of the vote in the first round.

The vote for the La France Insoumise leader Mélenchon in the first round of the 2017 presidential elections shows stronger support in the less wealthy parts of Paris

Like the Socialists, though, Melonchon’s La France Insoumise has still virtually no local membership base. In the European elections of 2019, its share of the vote fell to 6%.

Work in progress