Paris from the Ground Up
James H. S. McGregor Harvard University Press, 2010 Library of Congress DC707.M443 2009 | Dewey Decimal 914.43610484
Paris is the most personal of cities. There is a Paris for the medievalist, and another for the modernist—a Paris for expatriates, philosophers, artists, romantics, and revolutionaries of every stripe. James H. S. McGregor brings these multiple perspectives into focus throughout this concise, unique history of the City of Light.
His panorama begins with an ancient Gallic fortress on the Seine, burned to the ground by its own defenders in a vain effort to starve out Caesar’s legions. After ninth-century raids by the Vikings ended, Parisians expanded the walls of their tiny sanctuary on the Ile de la Cité, turning the river’s right bank into a thriving commercial district and the Rive Gauche into a college town. Gothic spires expressed a taste for architectural novelty, matched only by the palaces and pleasure gardens of successive monarchs whose ingenuity made Paris the epitome of everything French. The fires of Revolution threatened all that had come before, but Baron Haussmann saw opportunity in the wreckage. No planned city in the world is more famous than his.
Paris from the Ground Up allows readers to trace the city’s evolution in its architecture and art—from the Roman arena to the Musée d’Orsay, from the Louvre’s defensive foundations to I. M. Pei’s transparent pyramids. Color maps, along with identifying illustrations, make the city accessible to visitors by foot, Metro, or riverboat.
Venice from the Ground Up
James H. S. McGregor Harvard University Press, 2008 Library of Congress DG674.2.M44 2006 | Dewey Decimal 945.31
Venice came to life on spongy mudflats at the edge of the habitable world. Protected in a tidal estuary from barbarian invaders and Byzantine overlords, the fishermen, salt gatherers, and traders who settled there crafted an amphibious way of life unlike anything the Roman Empire had ever known. In an astonishing feat of narrative history, James H. S. McGregor recreates this world-turned-upside-down, with its waterways rather than roads, its boats tethered alongside dwellings, and its livelihood harvested from the sea.
McGregor begins with the river currents that poured into the shallow Lagoon, carving channels in its bed and depositing islands of silt. He then describes the imaginative responses of Venetians to the demands and opportunities of this harsh environment—transforming the channels into canals, reclaiming salt marshes for the construction of massive churches, erecting a thriving marketplace and stately palaces along the Grand Canal. Through McGregor’s eyes, we witness the flowering of Venice’s restless creativity in the elaborate mosaics of St. Mark’s soaring basilica, the expressive paintings in smaller neighborhood churches, and the colorful religious festivals—but also in theatrical productions, gambling casinos, and masked revelry, which reveal the city’s less pious and orderly face.
McGregor tells his unique history of Venice by drawing on a crumbling, tide-threatened cityscape and a treasure-trove of art that can still be seen in place today. The narrative follows both a chronological and geographical organization, so that readers can trace the city’s evolution chapter by chapter and visitors can explore it district by district on foot and by boat.