Louis XIV, Coronavirus & ECB (3/7): Centralisation & Health Vulnerability

From a health perspective, in general terms, any human concentration increases the risk of spreading a disease. When, to this risk factor, are added those of a lack of bodily and domestic hygiene, due to the absence of running or nearby drinking water, the urban environment therefore becomes a favorable environment for geographic spread of a bacteria or virus. For example, the epidemics of Plague in Paris, in 1661-1662, then in 1667, preceded by the terrible famine of the Advent of the king in 1660 and 1661, show the disadvantages of the urban density[1]SABOT Thierry, The great demographic crises of the Old Regime, January 29, 2009. [Accessed 04/09/2020], available at: https://www.histoire-genealogie.com/Les-grandes-crises -demographic. When this environment becomes even denser, under the combined effect of political decisions (centralisation) and technological progress (transport) and commercial progress (financial attractiveness), the risk is multiplied all the more. Thus, cholera epidemics, among others in the dense and unsanitary center of Paris, caused the death of 18,400 people in 1832 and almost 19,000 deaths in 1849[2]Rapport sur la marche et les effets du choléra-morbus dans Paris et dans le département de la Seine (Report on the progress and the effects of cholera-morbus in Paris and in the department of the Seine), Paris, 1832, p. 202. [Consulted on April 8th 2020], available at: https://www. cairn.info/revue-histoire-economie-et-societe-2004-3-page-433.htm. FAURE Alain, “Spéculation et société : les grands travaux à Paris au XIXe siècle” (Speculation and society: major works in Paris in the 19th century), in Histoire, économie et société (History, economy and society) – March 2004, p 433 to 448, [Consulted on April 8th 2020], available at: https://www.cairn.info/revue-histoire-economie-et-societe-2004-3-page-433.htm. Read also: CARMONA Michel, Haussman est nommé préfet de Paris (Haussman is appointed prefect of Paris), [Consulted on April 8th 2020], available at: https://francearchives.fr/commemo/recueil-2003/40118. Indeed, the Parisian population had increased from 700,000 inhabitants in 1817 to 1 million in 1849 and even to 1.2 million in 1853, an increase of 71% in just over a third of a century [3]. However, the center of the capital had hardly changed, recent construction, less unsanitary, being done mainly in the outer districts. Due to the poor quality of water in wells and, before Pasteur, ignorance of the existence of bacteria and viruses[3]Pasteur published in 1861 a study on the butyric ferment (from butter) demonstrating the existence of bacteria. This work is the result of several decades of European research, by different scholars or inventors, like the Frenchman Nicolas Appert who created the method of conservation in 1795, the Appertisation, or like the Italian anatomist Filippo Pacini who discovered in 1854 the bacillus cholera, especially in aqueous media, the population did not pay attention to the biological quality of drink. The historian and town planner Michel Carmona corroborates the link between the water we drank and cholera by specifying that all social strata were affected by the bacteria, and not only the poor or working class populations.

At the crossroads of health and transport, in 1900, at the time when a curious machine was born which was going to be called automobile, 80,000 horses, or dung engines, were present in the capital [4]BONNIEL Marie-Aude, Le Figaro, “En 1900 le pic de pollution à Paris est dû aux «moteurs à crottin»” (In 1900 the pollution peak in Paris is due to “dung engine), July 1st, 2016. [Consulted on April 4th 2020], available at: https://www.lefigaro.fr/histoire/archives/2016/07 /01/26010-20160701ARTFIG00300-en-1900-le-pic-de-pollution-a-paris-est-du-aux-moteurs-a-crottin.php. In 1859, Etienne Lenoir, a French of Belgian origin, invented the first internal combustion engine which would be improved in 1864 by the Frenchman Alphonse Beau de Rochas who developed the theoretical model of the four-stroke cycle to improve the efficiency of the system. In 1897, Rudolf Diesel, a Franco-German engineer – Europe, again! – built the first prototype of the oil engine, which would later take the name of its inventor[5]L’INTERN@UTE, Moteur à explosion – invention d’Etienne Lenoir (Combustion Engine – Etienne Lenoir’s invention). [Consulté le 28 avril 2020], disponible sur : http://www.linternaute.com/science/invention/inventions/415/moteur-a-explosion.shtml. Also read : L’AUTOMOBILE, Le premier moteur à explosion et son inventeur – Rudolf Christian Karl Diesel (The First Combustion Engine and its inventor – Rudolf Christian Karl Diesel). [Consulted on April 28th 2020], available at: https://sites.google.com/site/az42auto/home/le-premier-moteur-a-explosion-et-son-inventeur. These new technologies made it possible to resolve, with all due respect to the followers of deep ecology, the question of the management of horse dung in the face of the sharp increase in horse-drawn traffic in Paris during the XIXth century. This state of affairs posed a problem of hygiene, but also of esthetics and olfactory comfort, in the whole capital.

Whether in the medical or mechanical fields, these scientific advances show the attractiveness of France and its capital, with this contradiction still difficult to manage for urban planners: the geographic proximity of human beings, within a megalopolis, gives birth to a proliferation of ideas and innovations but also extends the risks for the population. This difficult equation prompts (or in any case should encourage) the authorities to reflect on how to increase the first variable (via the invention of a vaccine, for example) while trying to decrease the second. In the following articles, Contrib’City will return to the question of decentralisation: thanks to modern transport – provided that these are disinfected – and to telecommunication, this decentralisation, particularly in this first half of this XXIst century, is fully integrated into European dynamics and could bring a better demographic balance at continental and regional scales, while allowing to continue developing constructive interactions between citizens.

Additional bibliography[6]BÉLY Lucien, La France moderne. 1498-1789 (Modern France. 1498-1789), Paris, PUF, 2003 [7]GARNOT Benoît, La population française : aux XVIe, XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles (The French Population: In The XVIth, XVIIth et XVIIIth Century), Paris, Ophrys, 2005. [8]LAROUSSE, Guerre de la succession d’Espagne (War Of The Spanish Succession), [Consulted on the 8th April 2020], available at : https://www.larousse.fr/encyclopedie/divers/guerre_de_la_Succession_dEspagne/145407 [9]HERODOTE, 1702-1713 – Guerre de la Succession d’Espagne (War Of The Spanish Succession), le 18/12/04. [Consulted on the 8th April 2020], available at: https://www.herodote.net/Guerre_de_la_Succession_d_Espagne-synthese-84.php [10]REINHARD Marcel, “La population française au XVIIe siècle”  (The French Population In The XVIIth Century) in Population, 1958, p 619-630, [Consulted on the 8th April 2020], available at : https://www.persee.fr/doc/pop_0032-4663_1958_num_13_4_5734 [11]CARMONA Michel, Haussman, Paris, Fayard, 2000, 647p


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