Since deciding to write a novel set in 1870s Paris, I’ve been reading up a storm to get a handle on the tumultuous times of that decade. The Franco-Prussian war, the siege of Paris, and the Paris Commune dominated 1870 and 1871 – dramatic and horrific events that demonstrate the actions leaders will take to maintain power and the unrest that comes when working class and ruling class are at odds. (Could be some lessons for today’s world.)
Getting clear on what happened when is a challenge and after reading four first hand accounts of the siege and commune, I decided to create a timeline to keep things straight. Here’s what it looks like:
At the moment, it’s 18 pages long and there’s much more to add. Beyond the timeline are impressions and personal commentary.
November 8, 1870 “These foolish people really imagined that, like them, the world regarded their city as a species of sacred Jerusalem, and that public opinion would never allow the Prussians either to bombard it, or to expose the high priests of civilization who inhabit it to the realities of war.” Diary of the Besieged Resident in Paris by Henry Labouchere
November 27, 1870 “Pâtés of rat are being made. They are said to be very good.” extract from Victor Hugo’s diaries.
January 12, 1871 “They are now cutting down the big trees in the great avenues of the city – on the Champs-Elysées and the Avenue Montaigne.” Elihu Washburne: The Diary and Letters of America’s Minister to France during the Siege and Commune of Paris by Michael Hill.
May 22, 1871 “The gates at Auteuil have disappeared as completely as those at Point du Jour, and at the railway station behind the iron railway bridge over the road all the habitations are, so to speak, in a heap. Stone, mortar, iron bridge metal, lamp posts, trees, are smashed, pounded, and scattered.” The Insurrection in Paris related by an Englishman.
The trick will be to select useful tidbits while not overloading the story with detail.
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M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE is set in WWI France and is available from Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Google Play and iTunes. Her debut novel, UNRAVELLED: Two wars. Two affairs. One marriage. is also available from these retailers.