In “Convolute E,” Haussmannization, Barricade Fighting,” Benjamin focuses on Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann’s extensive plans for renovating the streets of Paris and their effects on revolutionary actions in the city, particularly barricade fighting. Haussmann, the Seine prefect from1852 to 1870, organized a number of plans for the streets and the facades of buildings that led to an extensively different Parisian cityscape.
Portrait Baron Haussmann, c. 1865
Paris, Ile de la Cité. A map based on the 1771 Robert de Vaugondy plan and shows in dark blue the buildings, in light blue the public spaces and in red the streets created by Haussmann.
Haussmann’s plans, under the direction of Napoléon III reflect an attempt to order the city in a more rational manner, or as one fragment cited by Benjamin suggests, “Louis- Napoléon Bonaparte felt his vocation to be the securing of the ‘bourgeois order’ [E4a,4]. These efforts spread through many parts of Paris, reshaping the streets and the facades of the buildings.
Haussmann map, Street work 1850 to 1870, Mark Jaroski 2004. The red shows street work between 1850 and 1870.
The most notable aspect of Haussmannization was the widening of the streets themselves (“his predilection for perspectives, for long open vistas [E2,a7]), which Benjamin focuses on as having a profoundly-diminishing effect on the ability to construct barricades during uprisings. Benjamin contrasts the difference between barricade fighting in 1830 and in later actions, such as the Commune of 1871 (which he focuses on in “Convolute k”): “In 1830, rope was used, among other things, to barricade the streets” [E10a,2]. After Haussmann’s rebuilding of the streets, such action would be almost unimaginable.
Pierre-Ambrose Richebourg, 1871