OVERRIDE

Paris Under Water

How the City of Light Survived the Great Flood of 1910

Jeffrey H. Jackson

Palgrave Macmillan Trade

In the winter of 1910, the river that brought life to Paris—the Seine—became a force of destruction in a matter of hours.  Torrential rainfall saturated the soil, and faulty engineering created conditions that soon drowned Parisian streets, homes, businesses, and museums, thrusting the City of Light into a battle with the elements. Given the Parisians’ history of deep-seated social, religious, and political strife, many worried that they wouldn’t be able to collaborate to confront the crisis. Yet while the sewers, Métro, and electricity failed around them, Parisians of all backgrounds rallied to save the city and one another. Improvising techniques to keep Paris functioning and braving the dangers of collapsing infrastructure and looters, leaders and residents alike answered the call to action. In breathtaking detail, Jeffrey Jackson captures here for the first time the epic story of the great flood. As the waters rise, so does the tension, but ultimately, the Parisians’ love of their city leads them to triumph over nature against all odds.

REVIEWS

Praise for Paris Under Water

"A tight, concentrated tale of adversity and survival . . . Evenhanded, at once pragmatic and inspiring." -- Caroline Weber, The New York Times Book Review
 
"[This] riveting account of the great flood of 1910 and the city's benevolent response is fascinating and inspiring. . . . surprisingly gripping." --Minneapolis Star Tribune

"It’s hard to imagine a more thoroughly researched history of the Paris, France, flood of 1910 than Paris Under Water by Jeffrey H. Jackson.  With the national debate roaring on whether post-Katrina New Orleans should be rebuilt, Paris Under Wateroffers the definitive answer of yes.  A truly first-rate book." --Douglas Brinkley, author of The Great Deluge:Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Gulf Coast

"Jeffrey Jackson’s meticulous account of the great Paris flood is harrowing history told in gripping detail but also a stark warning as waters rise everywhere."--Mort Rosenblum, author of Secret Life of the Seine and Chocolate

"Paris Under Water is a riveting account of a natural catastrophe that struck Paris in 1910.  Going far beyond the boundaries of environmental or urban history, it draws on an exceptionally wide array of sources to offer the reader a meticulous, yet rich and personal, reconstruction of what the great flood felt like to contemporaries, what it revealed about social tensions and solidarities, and what it signified on a broader historical scale.  Jackson has succeeded masterfully in telling a fascinating story in a way that any reader will find utterly irresistible, while applying insightful and erudite scholarly analysis in a way that sheds light on a great city’s social, economic, and cultural life.  A tour de force of scholarship and brilliantly creative craftsmanship." --Michael D. Bess, author of Choices Under Fire:Moral Dimensions of World War II

"Before New Orleans, there was Paris.  The Great Paris Flood of 1910, which paralyzed the world’s most modern city and caused over a billion euros (by today’s standards) worth of damage, provides a fascinating study of physical and social devastation and human survival.  Jackson blends the vivid details of the flood--exploding sewer covers, disintegrating streets--with the wider historical context, from the Commune of 1871 to World War I, and the psychology of disaster.  Modernization itself contributed to Paris’s destruction.  But, as Jackson concludes, in the end Paris survived the flood because it was a functioning human community, not because it was a modern metropolis.  Any student of history or lover of Paris will want to read this book." --Sarah Smith, The Knowledge of Water, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year

"Fascinating work, important story, beautifully told. Jackson tells us about a little-known flood of a well-known city, Paris. He weaves seamlessly together the political and cultural significance of the flood, all while engaging the reader with stories about what the flood meant for everyday life. A fine achievement." --Lee Clarke, author of Worst Cases: Terror and Catastrophe in the Popular Imagination
 
"Narratives of natural disasters often show swift and all-consuming devastation, but PARIS Paris Under Water is a story of waters rising.  Set against the backdrop of the world’s most beautiful city, the Seine itself is at the center of the story ­ from its role in making Paris a modern city to the day in 1910 when Parisians stood on its banks and watched it climb several feet a day, carrying debris from flooded towns in the countryside.  Through Jackson’s deft storytelling and first-hand accounts, we see the terror of watching a disaster slowly, methodically drown a city and a community’s fight to survive it." --Molly Caldwell Crosby, An American Plague: The Untold Story of Yellow Fever, The Epidemic That Shaped Our History

"Stories about Paris have left us with a rich profile of a city at the vanguard of political action and cultural life.  Yet Jeffrey H. Jackson’s new book muddies these familiar waters.  His gripping account of the 1910 flood recounts the highs and the lows of what happened when water “shorted out” the city of light.  With a knack for the diversity of human response to disaster and the historian’s eye for the telling detail, Jackson draws our attention to how nature interacts with our greatest of human-wrought environments:  the metropolis.  This book not only is an important tale, worthy of being told but it also will open the door to reconsiderations of the interaction of technology and the environment in ways that are vitally relevant today." --Vanessa R. Schwartz, It’s So French: Hollywood, Paris, and the Making of Cosmopolitan Film Culture

“A spirited look at the Parisian move into "Syst'me D"—crisis mode.” --Kirkus
 
"An engrossing narrative" --Library Journal
 
 “Enlivened by period photographs of a flooded Paris, this is a capable, well-researched history of a modern city’s battle with nature” --Publishers Weekly
 
"Combining exhaustive archival research and such primary sources as the diary of the city's chief of police, the book creates a compelling image of what at the time was viewed as an epachal event in one fo the world's great cities.  It shows, in compelling fashion and with shades of Hurricane Katrina, how a city that has been often riven by divisions managed to come together to face a body blow from nature and how the City of Light managed to shine once again." --Michael Deibert
 
"Jackson ... has written an agreeably non-academic account of the Seine's rise and fall. He has also put together an excellent Web site -- www.parisunderwater.com -- that includes a number of photographs and a brief explanatory text. It is a useful companion piece to the book as well as a free-standing if brief story of the flood."  --Washington Post
 
"Jackson writes with clarity and confidence. As a reflective historian, he examines the event of 1910 in relation to the present day. . . . Jackson has a capacity for dramatic description."--Winnepeg Free Press
 
"{Jackson} does an excellent job not only on the aftermath and significance of the flood, but also on laying the necessary background to understand the state of Paris at the turn of the century, skillfully interweaving such complicated material as the 1870–71 siege and commune and Baron Haussmann’s redesign of the city in the 1890s into his narrative. . .. In addition to history and engineering buffs, the book will appeal to Francophiles hungry for more information about the city and readers of disaster narratives like Gary Krist’s The White Cascade. about America’s deadliest avalanche, and Daniel James Brown’s Under a Flaming Sky, about an 1894 firestorm in the American Midwest."--New York Journal of Books
 
 

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Jeffrey H. Jackson

  • Jeffrey H. Jackson is Associate Professor of History and Director of the Environmental Studies program at Rhodes College in Memphis, and has worked in the Parisian archives for over ten years.  He was recently honored as one of the top young historians in the US.  Based on his first book Making Jazz French, he was a consultant for the documentary “Harlem in Montmartre:  A Paris Jazz Story” on PBS.  He lives in Memphis, Tennessee.
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    Paris Under Water

    How the City of Light Survived the Great Flood of 1910

    Jeffrey H. Jackson

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