Urbanism and housing in the eighteenth-century Chaussée d’Antin
Collins, Nancy W.
Elite (Social sciences) -- France -- History Housing -- France -- Paris -- History Sociology, Urban -- France -- Paris -- History Ελίτ (Κοινωνικές επιστήμες) -- Γαλλία -- Ιστορία Στέγαση -- Γαλλία -- Παρίσι -- Ιστορία Κοινωνιολογία, Αστική -- Γαλλία -- Παρίσι -- Ιστορία
Historians of European urbanism and architectural forms have long documented the segregation of elite residences from housing of other social groups. Scholars studying eighteenth-century Paris, taking this discussion a step further, have detailed the congregation of specific elite groupings in distinct neighbourhoods. In numerous articles and books, these historians have described the isolation of ‘old’ elites (particularly the noblesse d’epée) from ‘new’ elites (those individuals whose titles had recently been purchased or those whose status derived from wealth rather than title), noting that the entrenched nobility preferred the Faubourg Saint-Germain and that ‘new’ counterparts (generally those who had made their fortunes from trade and commerce) congregated in the Faubourg St-Honoré. This dichotomy has been supported by extensive archival evidence, sources that range from partages to inventaires après décès. Focusing on these two particular areas yields historically sound conclusions, for the most part. But these studies have overlooked a significant elite neighbourhood that emerged in eighteenth-century Paris, the Chaussée d’Antin. Destroyed in nineteenth-century redevelopments and largely forgotten today, this area, opened up for development under Louis XIV, became the site of a great housing boom in the second half of the century. New hôtels, or urban townhouses, were built for a diverse range of clients, including an actress (Guimard), a prince (Artois), a banker (Necker), and a high-ranking aristocrat (Montmorency). Analysing these residences significantly challenges the reigning assumption that French elites lived in largely separate, rarely operating spheres and counters the arguments of those who have claimed that clearly delineated boundaries existed between social groups.I propose to present a paper, offering a succinct analysis of this Parisian neighbourhood, drawing on extensive archival and manuscript material, including but not limited to notary contracts, construction records, architectural designs, city-planning documents, and descriptions from memoirs and correspondence. By presenting this case study, I will challenge assumptions about elite rankings and social identities in France and will suggest as well how this methodological model may be used for comparative European historical analysis.
Paper presented at Seventh International Conference on Urban History: European City in Comparative Perspective, Panteion University, Athens - Piraeus, Greece, 27-30 October 2004, Session: Living in the city: Urban Elites and their residences