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- settlement from Paris, Ile de la Cité (an island in the middle of the Seine River, now home to both the Notre Dame and the Palais de Justice), onto the left bank (Rive Gauche). Because of its planned location along this major waterway, Paris was constantly at the center of struggles for power, and changed hands several times; after the Romans came the Franks, the Carolingians, and the Capetians, along with some major attacks by the Huns and Normans. The 12th and 13th centuries saw the beginnings of the cathedral of Notre Dame, the Louvre (a royal fortress before it became a museum), and what is today’s most famous French university, La Sorbonne. The celebrated Château de Versailles was constructed for and inhabited by Louis XIV between 1643 and 1715. When all of this monarchical excess came to its unjust head in 1789, the commoners charged the Bastille and started the gory and ferocious French Revolution, changing the face of Europe and Parisian class divisions forever. Although it took the good part of a century to end the cycles of continuing tyranny, by 1889 when the Eiffel Tower was built, Paris was enjoying a period of intense prosperity and intellectual production called, fondly, “La Belle Epoque” (the beautiful period). Baron Georges-Eugène Haussman, commissioned by Napoleon III to carry out reforms in Paris’ landscape, had completely redesigned huge sections of the city a few decades earlier and transformed Paris into the boulevard-sliced and façade-studded arrangement we know today. New sewer systems, public buildings, an opera house, and the design of massive parks such as the Bois de Boulogne are among his achievements, although it was necessary to destroy nearly sixty percent of medieval Paris to achieve them. World War II saw Paris fall to the Germans, 1968 saw it (almost) fall to hordes of enraged students and workers, and the latter part of the twentieth century saw many of the city center’s inhabitants journey to the suburbs, although the current administration is trying to reverse this phenomenon.
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