Barricade during the Paris Commune in 1871

I am currently writing an essay about “landscapes of insurgencies” across which the architectural typology of the barricade is, of course, predominant. This post will not be elaborating about this topic, since I am doing it in this essay, but rather gives a set of references specifically for the example of Paris  from the revolution of 1830 to the students and workers general strike in May 1968. Paris is indeed probably the most documented example of such militarized architecture but barricades have been built and used in many cities (Barcelona, Mexico, Warsaw, Riga etc.) around the world during the 19th and 20th century.

– For French readers, the book La Barricade edited by Alain Corbin and Jean-Marie Mayeur as a collection of lectures given in a symposium in 1995 and published by La Sorbonne is a precious historical look to the 19th century Parisian barricades and eventually extend it to other cities and other eras.

– In Les Miserables, Victor Hugo describes scenes of urban guerrilla during an insurgency in 1832 including one which remained famous in French literature history when the young Gavroche is shot by the royal army while singing a ritournelle (see previous article).

– In 1848, right after the revolution, Marshall Thomas Bugeaud who was famous for defeating the great Abd-el Kader and his moving city/army, the smala, and thus ending the colonization of Algeria (1837), writes a book entitled La Guerre des Rues et des Maisons (Streets and Houses War) which sets a series of strategies of counter-insurgency in Paris involving to a very important degree, architecture and the built environment.

– In 1866, Auguste Blanqui clandestinely publishes  a similar yet opposite treatise, Esquisse de la marche à suivre dans une prise d’arme à Paris that I partially translated in an old article. This short text describes very methodically how to transform an urban neighborhood in a veritable fortress, building-up barricades (he even gives calculations to know how many paved stone you might need) but also inside the buildings, piercing walls and floors to maximize the defenders circulation and minimize the opponent’s.

– About the 1871 Paris Commune (see previous articles 1 & 2), the narrative offered by Prosper Olivier Lissagaray who was in Paris during those three months of socialist independence, is usually considered as the most helpful to understand the events. However, the docu-fiction La Commune created by Peter Watkins (see the many previous articles) in 2000 offers paradoxically a depiction that must not be so far from the reality. In fact, this five hours long movie (that can be watch integrally here) is an anachronism in technology (it is a TV reportage !) and language (characters speak in a contemporaneous French), but by its humanity and its integration of small and big disagreements between people involved in the Commune, it manages to reach a level of clairvoyance that might be more useful than a lot of historical narratives.

– In Barricades and Boulevards, our friend Carl Douglas (see his guest essay) compares those 19th century insurgencies with the more drastic militarized transformation of Paris by Napoleon III and his Baron Haussmann.

All those references are related to the 19th century, but barricades have been also build-up at the end of the Second World War during the battle for the liberation of Paris by the French resistance, as well as in May 1968 by students and workers. In this latter case, an additional reference can be found in the film Regular Lovers (2005) by Philippe Garrel.

Barricade during the Revolution of 1830

Barricade during the Revolution of 1848

Barricade (Chateau Gaillard) during the Paris Commune in 1871

Barricade during the liberation of Paris in 1945

Barricade in May 1968