Theses Doctoral

The Police and the City: Paris, 1660-1750

Birignani, Cesare

Since antiquity the term polis has captured both the idea of city as physical settlement and that of city as community/state. In early modern France, this constituent ambivalence was embodied in the notion of police. The object of this dissertation is to trace the contours of the ville policée, or well-ordered city--an idea of the city that underpinned the work of police officers and government administrators during the seventeenth and eighteenth century. The research explores the practices developed by the Paris police to control, discipline, and manage the city, and the discourse that informed and authorized those practices.

The focus is on two critical passages: the creation, in 1667, of the Lieutenance de Police, an institution that reconfigured the political dynamic of city government and changed the way Paris was to be managed and built for more than a century; and the publication, between 1705 and 1738, of Nicolas Delamare's Traité de la police, the first and most important formulation of the scope and principles of the police. The theorists of the ville policée turned the city into a new, complex object of knowledge; they developed a new `rationality' of the city, an understanding of the multiple, interconnected factors essential to city life (public safety and order, public health, food supply, labor relations, urban infrastructure, etc.) and an awareness that, in order to manage the city effectively, that entire spectrum of factors was to be confronted holistically and inscribed within a coherent planning and governmental strategy. In exploring the attempt of Delamare and his fellow police officers to produce an impossibly comprehensive science of the city, I argue that the project of police marks the first sustained effort to understand and come to terms with the modern urban condition.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
McLeod, Mary Caroline
Middleton, Robin D.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
June 4, 2013