The 20th century, a tumultuous time | From 1945 to the present day

Paris had its finest hours of glory and some of its darkest moments during the 20th century. A look back at the second half of this tumultuous century.

Paris under the reign of Charles de Gaulle

In 1958, just after he came to power, Charles de Gaulle wanted to get to grips with the situation in Algeria and decided to proclaim the country’s independence. The Front de Libération Nationale and the Organisation Armée Secrète were at the forefront of a period of terrorism that became increasingly murderous. In May 1968, Paris was once again in turmoil. Further to mismanaged university reforms, the student movement took to the streets, and soon the general discontent grew: all of French and Parisian society rose up against capitalism and the traditional society… The revolt was about cultural aspects of life as well as social and political ones. Despite the support given by the government in office, Charles De Gaulle decided to resign.

Paris, from the local to the international

Aside from the tensions that punctuated internal life in Paris, the capital was resolutely turned towards the rest of the country and the international stage. The construction of the suburban RER railway line began in 1962 and the network continued to grow until the 1970s. In the same period, motorways leading out of Paris were built and the Orly (1961) and Charles-de-Gaulle-Roissy (1974) airports were inaugurated. From a cultural point of view, the major fashion figures – such as Yves Saint-Laurent and Paco Rabanne – reinvented fashion and allowed Paris to make a name for itself as the number one destination in the world for ready-to-wear fashion. Design in the French capital also had its moment in the limelight. Based on the movement launched in the 1960s and 1970s, the governments over the following decades remained faithful to the idea of making Paris a capital that was second to none. In 1981, the first Salon du Livre book fair took place at the Grand Palais and in the same year the Train à Grande Vitesse (TGV) was inaugurated. The following year, the Fête de la Musique, an event that is now held in several countries in Europe, was created. Important cultural sites were created: the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and La Villette, and the Louvre museum saw the building of its handsome glass pyramid designed by the Chinese American architect Ieoh Ming Pei. In the world of fashion, new figures like Karl Lagerfeld contributed to the prestige of the French capital.

The eternal capital of the arts

This movement is still advancing today. The Grand Paris project, launched by Nicolas Sarkozy in 2005, aims to build upon and improve the attractiveness of the wider Paris area. With an improved and enlarged transport network, increasingly comfortable accommodation and an attractive tourism policy, Paris has firmly planted one foot in the 21st century. The Musée du Quai Branly is a new focus of reflection upon museography, primary arts and the art of gardens. Initiatives such as Paris Plage or the Nuits Blanches are genuinely popular. Finally, some great personalities such as the chef Yves Camdeborde, who defends gastronomy transformed into a more accessible format – or the concept of bistronomy -, Isabelle Marant and her renewal of ready-to-wear shapes and major events such as FIAC contribute to a wider distribution of French and Parisian art de vivre.

Source images / Happiness as an Art de Vivre :


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Art de Vivre & History Paris History

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