In the history of European revolutions, the barricade stands as a glorious emblem. Its symbolic importance arises principally from the barricades of Eric Hazan’s native Paris, where they were instrumental in the revolts of the nineteenth century, helping to shape the political life of a continent.
The barricade was always a makeshift construction (the word derives from barrique or barrel), and in working-class districts these ersatz fortifications could spread like wildfire. They doubled as a stage, from which insurgents could harangue soldiers and subvert their allegiance. Their symbolic power persisted into May 1968 and, more recently, the Occupy movements.
Hazan traces the many stages in the barricade’s evolution, from the Wars of Religion through to the Paris Commune, drawing on the work of thinkers throughout the periods examined to illustrate and bring to life the violent practicalities of revolutionary uprising.
“This is a wondrous book, either to be read at home with a decent map, or carried about sur place through areas no tourists bother with.”
“Hazan is all business. He trudges through Paris street by street, quoting what Balzac, Hugo, Baudelaire or Kafka said about a particular spot, pointing out where barricades were once erected and thieves gathered for drinks.”
“One of the greatest books about the city anyone has written in decades, towering over a crowded field, passionate and lyrical and sweeping and immediate”
“Hazan wants to rescue individual moments from general forgetting and key sites from the bland homogenization of international city development; he is also a passionate left-wing historian seeking to rescue the truth of Paris’s revolutionary past.”
“A History of the Barricade is essential reading for anyone seeking a guided tour of revolutionary Paris…Hazan’s book is arguably the most readable, and constitutes a marvelous introduction to the history of revolt.”