Napoleon III and the Making of a New Paris

Contributor: Brian Anthony. Lesson ID: 12283

Do you like change? Not pocket coins, but changes in your neighborhood or home? It can be uncomfortable but needful. Study the struggle behind what transformed Paris from darkness to La Ville Lumière!



learning style
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Paris is known as a beautiful city, but it was once pretty disgusting! Find out how it was transformed by someone with a famous French name!

The city of Paris is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

You may already know some of its important landmarks, like:

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Read more about how Paris was built into a great modern city. As you read the information below, look for answers to these questions:

  • Who was responsible for the rebuilding of Paris?
  • Why was the city rebuilt?

Paris wasn’t always known as such a great tourist destination. In fact, in the early 1800s, many of its residents considered it to be cramped, dirty, and unhealthy. That’s where Napoleon III comes in.

Napoleon III came from a very famous and important family, the Bonaparte family. You may have heard of his more famous uncle, Napoleon. Napoleon I had controlled much of Europe and brought France into the modern world. While Napoleon III would not become quite as famous as his uncle, he would leave a major mark on history — by building the Paris we know today!

When Napoleon III first became Emperor of France, people feared the worst. He didn’t seem like he was going to be a good leader. He kicked up to six thousand of his opponents out of the country and restricted the press. He seemed to be acting like a dictator, but then he started to make positive changes. He relaxed his control over the press and began to make other reforms. He modernized the country and helped build up factories, railways, and canals. He also worked to make major French cities nicer places to live.

Paris was not the most pleasant place to live, according to many. One famous resident said, “How one chokes in these dark, narrow and dank corridors that we like to call the streets of Paris! One would think that one was in a subterranean city, that's how heavy is the atmosphere, how profound is the darkness!" Napoleon III brought in another family member, George Eugene Haussmann, to supervise the planning and rebuilding of Paris!

Look back over the reading to collect any information you need to answer the questions above. When you have all your answers, share them with your parent or teacher, then discuss these questions together:

  • What are some of the challenges of rebuilding a whole city?
  • How has life changed over the centuries? How do those changes affect the way cities are built?
  • What do you think is important in the planning of a modern city?

Napoleon III gave the world one of its most beautiful cities. Even so, some people liked the changes while others did not like them so much.

In the Got It? section, see for yourself some of the big changes that Napoleon III and Haussmann made to this great European capital.

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