The Margins of City Life: Explorations of the French Urban Frontier, 1815-1851
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DescriptionUnlike most historians of France, who draw a sharp contrast between cities and the countryside, John Merriman focuses on the spatial and social margins of urban life, the faubourgs, or suburbs, where rural migrants and the labouring poor of the cities congregated in growing numbers in the first half of the nineteenth century. In the eyes of the urban elite, the women and men of the periphery resembled barbarians at the gates of civilization. The book examines the cultural and social traditions - as expressed in festivals, in songs, in strikes, and in political movements - that took root in these areas. Neighbourhood solidarities developed that were based on a collective sense of exclusion from the urban centre. Urban elites came to realize that the `disreputable' persons they had cast out to the suburbs were becoming a ring of organized worker communities, `the cord that might wring our necks one day'. To know the margins is also to know the centre, Merriman argues, for the periphery of urban life was a mirror in which the French upper classes viewed the most frightening aspects of their world.
Oxford University Press Inc
27 June 1991
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