The invasion of the barbarians, or the criminal tramway (Paris, 1872–1914)

The elite coping with urban changes
By Alain Faure

This article examines resistance to the building and expansion of tramway lines in Paris between 1872 and 1914. Vehicle traffic in certain places frequented by high society triggered fierce campaigns in the right-wing press and many protests from conservative elected officials, who viewed this as the death of Paris’s wealthy and cosseted districts. The tramway was supposedly an instrument of this desire to destroy, hence its nickname, “the barbarians’ tramway.” These episodes are interesting in that they sparked a very clear discourse by representatives of Paris’s western districts about excluding poor and ordinary people. Those born into privilege and the moneyed elite viewed tramway lines, which supposedly disrupted harmonious living, as an attack on their sociability and on their territory.

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