Laying their own Track: Provincial Cities and Urban Development in France, 1851-1918
Type of Degreethesis
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This thesis examines the role of the railway station in the development and transformation of the provincial city in France in the second half of the nineteenth century, in terms of its effect on the relationship of provincial citizens to the French nation, and in terms of changes to the city itself. The railway station was a place in which ordinary Frenchmen encountered and actively participated in the imagined community of the nation. National officials used the station as a platform for mass politics; later, during World War I, it became a site of mass enthusiasm, and then of mass mourning. Meanwhile, urban improvement projects reoriented provincial cities on a new axis, stretching from station to the city center. The station came to represent the provincial city’s unique modernity (distinct from that of Paris). Provincial travelers recognized the structures and orientations of other regions’ cities as similar to their own.