The Untold Truth Of La Belle Époque

Despite the popular view that La Belle Epoque was the perfect, beautiful age for France, the glory of the period was inaccessible to France’s lower classes. During the redesign of Paris, the designer, Georges-Eugène Haussmann, recreated the urban center of Paris into houses that were affordable only for the middle and upper classes. The lower classes (approximately 350,000 people) were pushed into living on the edges of Paris, and the city spread outward rapidly (via Apollone Journal and The Guardian).

According to Apollone Journal, by 1900, less than half of the redesigned urban central housing was accessible to the working classes. As a result, the move to the outer edges of the city happened most prominently between 1872 and 1896, during which time the poor population in that area grew by around 60%. Roads and sanitation were not kept up on the edges of Paris, either, with lack of water being a major problem. In comparison, by 1900, 85% of buildings in Paris’ urban center were supplied with water.

Still, some of the working class didn’t move to the city’s outskirts. Instead, they congregated in the back alleys and side streets of the city, which grew steadily more squalid and overcrowded. For the most part, the lower classes didn’t benefit in the slightest from the public works projects that overtook Paris during this time, according to the Apollone Journal.

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