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The Greater Journey

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The Greater Journey

Americans in Paris

Simon & Schuster,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Text available

What's inside?

Americans from all walks of life went to Paris in the 1800s and brought home new ways of thinking.


Editorial Rating

8

Qualities

  • Innovative

Recommendation

When you think of Americans in Paris, you might picture Gene Kelly dancing on the banks of the Seine, but a century earlier, Americans were already making their way to the City of Light. From the early 1800s, American artists, writers, social activists, politicians, doctors and more went to Paris to live, study, learn and create. Celebrated historian David McCullough describes their experiences in exquisite detail, making long-forgotten people come vividly to life and placing his readers in the fascinating and sometimes volatile 19th-century French capital. At the same time, he nestles his stories within the US’s dynamic, though affectionate, relationship with the French. getAbstract recommends this intelligent and thought-provoking book to anyone who loves Paris and is intrigued by its long-lasting impact on US culture, art, classical music and geopolitics – not to mention that McCullough is always a great read.

Summary

The City of Light Beckons

During a period of approximately 70 years beginning in the 1820s, many important Americans traveled to Paris to live and work. Some, like author James Fenimore Cooper, were already famous, while others, such as artist George P.A. Healy, were as yet unknown. Although the trip across the Atlantic by sailing ship could be grueling and risky, Paris offered American writers, painters, sculptors and students many more resources than their young republic could provide at the time. In addition to Cooper and Healy, “the first wave of talented, aspiring Americans” included Samuel Morse, who later invented the telegraph but who at first wanted to paint; educator Emma Willard; Charles Sumner, who went on became a US senator and an abolitionist; and the writers Nathaniel Parker Willis and Thomas Gold Appleton.

While Paris was still primitive in some respects – lacking sanitation but not poverty – in other ways, it was far more developed than any city in America. Its main attractions included the Palais Royal, the Louvre, and the Palace and Garden of the Tuileries. On the famous Left Bank were the College of the Sorbonne, the School of Law, some large hospitals...

About the Author

Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough, the author of many bestsellers, has received the US Presidential Medal of Freedom for his distinguished body of work.


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