The colonisation of Paris

A fascinating ethnic map of 1920 Paris, and the suggestion that the metropolis was colonised by the provinces rather than vice versa.

The map, showing the origins of the nationals amongst the 61% of the population born outside Paris, is over at this post on Strange Maps, whence:

France’s shockingly recent ‘pagan’ past (from the word paganus, not coincidentally Latin for ‘rustic’) is resurrected in Graham Robb’s The Discovery of France, a fantastic study brimming with fascinating portraits, meticulously reconstructed scenes and bizarre facts about a country before it was centralised, homogenised and tamed by its rationalist hub, Paris.

Up until the early 20th century, Robb suggests, it still seemed the other way around. It was Paris that was being colonised, by its provinces: “By the mid-nineteenth century, half the inhabitants of Paris came from the provinces and most of them did not consider themselves Parisian. Migrants spent as little money as possible while away from home. Mentally, they never left their pays (…) In certain Paris streets, the sounds and smells of villages and provincial towns drowned out the sounds and smells of the capital. For many, their street cry was the only French they spoke.”

Catalan, Basque and Galician separatists perversely smear any attempt to end local state intervention in one’s personal freedom to choose one’s language as Jacobinism. The Jacobin Club, whose legacy was the imposition of French as the national language, was of course the invention of Breton deputies. If it has any heirs in contemporary Spain, the regional nationalists are the most obvious candidates.

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