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J Urban Hist. 2011;37(1):43-58.

Sauvons le Luxembourg: urban greenspace as private domain and public battleground, 1865-1867.

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  • Arizona State University.


This article examines the way in which public response to a municipal proposal concerning greenspace reduction in Paris during the Second Empire reflected not only political antipathy but also an ever-increasing understanding of public urban greenspace as part of the private domain. By examining archival records concerning the proposal, essays, newspaper accounts, and memoirs, this article argues that a particular proprietary sensibility, fomented by expansive public greenspace development in Paris, intersected with extant social constructs and political tensions to create a public, coordinated, and sustained challenge to the authoritarian regime. Thus, the battle over the Luxembourg Garden became more than just a fight to prevent a reduction in size of a particular public urban greenspace. Rather, public debate surrounding alteration of this garden underscores the extent to which public greenspace, in general, was urban space that blurred the public—private boundary and presented unique opportunities for community formation, social integration, and political action.

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