Paris est un jardin. La nature en ville au XVIIIe siècle by Jan SYNOWIECKI – Archives du Calvados

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Paris est un jardin. La nature en ville au XVIIIe siècle by Jan SYNOWIECKI – Archives du Calvados

Paris is a garden. Nature in the 18th-century city

Be they royal or princely, Paris’s 18th-century gardens must have offered urban dwellers some salutary islet amidst the fetid fumes and miasmata of the city. Hence, far from static entities in their verdant settings, simple rural enclosures in the heart of the city, these areas were perfectly integrated within the urban fabric. They shared all forms of pollution, just like they depended on the networks that provided water and plants, brought in from the town or, often, from a suburban area that stretched beyond the Parisian frontiers. Paris en ses jardins (Paris in its gardens), published in May 2021 by Editions Champ Vallon, proposes an environmental history and a genuine microphysical study of Parisian nature, of the damage caused by moles and caterpillars, from boxwood cuttings to tree pruning. The material and living history of 18th-century Parisian gardens also offers us a remarkably faithful reproduction of a world composed of tiny mutual elements with their share of disputes between jurisdictions, police regulations and tension among the various social users of public spaces and garden areas. Conflict between the recreational users of gardens and their preservation as natural areas led to various forms of imbalance which the monarchical and urban authorities of the time strove to control, failing, however, to successfully impose their position without provoking resistance and contestation. This work highlights the processes through which gardens became sites that crystallise the debate on appropriation of public areas and the use of resources, equally involving the powers that be, and local inhabitants or walking visitors. Finally, it stresses the major social discriminiations that governed access to gardens, before the French Revolution permanently declared these areas of public utility and, consequently, open to all citizens, independently of their social status.

Jan Synowiecki

A former student at the ENS Ulm, qualified history professor and doctor in history and civilisations (PhD upheld at the EHESS), Jan Synowiecki is currently a temporary research and education assistant (ATER) at the University of Strasbourg. In November 2019, he upheld a thesis entitled Paris en Vert. Jardins, nature et culture urbaines au XVIIIe siècle (Paris in green. Gardens, nature and urban culture in the 18th century), which was awarded a special mention by the PSL thesis prize jury and was published in an amended version by Editions Champ Vallon in 2021, under the title, Paris en ses jardins. Nature et culture urbaines au XVIIIe siècle. (Paris in its gardens, nature and urban culture in the 18th century).