Episode 4 – Life in the Commune

Life in the Commune

Life in the Commune

After the spontaneous revolution of March 18th, 1871, how was life different in Paris? Was life better or worse?

Before the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1, Paris was a city of extremes. The wealthy in Paris lived lives of opulence, enjoying new-found internationalism as a result of the World Fair of 1867. Furthermore, Baron Haussmann rebuilt the city of Paris as a modern urban space, expanding the roads into grand boulevards and pushing the housing of the poor towards the outskirts of the city.

As wealthy nobles partied and enjoyed their wealth, the poor in Paris suffered. Rent prices skyrocketed as wages lowered, and workers laboured for 12 hour days without being able to afford food. The Commune was a chance for the impoverished in Paris to improve their miserable lives.

Different types of people experienced different changes to their lives under the Commune-style government. Women such as Louise Michel and others found new freedoms under the Commune, able to join clubs and voice their political opinions for the first time. On the other hand, religious figures found themselves oppressed by Communard supporters who believed organized religion to be a hoax.

While life in Paris changed as a result of government, by far the most significant cause of change in lifestyle was the increasingly more deadly war with France. As life in Paris continued for the better or worse, the war grew ever closer to the city.

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