Visiting the Paris Stock Exchange building at place Brongniart: pillared magnificence and memories of conflict
Splendid, Neo-Classical edifice by Alexandre-Théodore Brongniart, commissioned by Napoleon I
This magnificent, pillared building in Paris, France, and the square where it is situated, has been known by different names, but basically it is the building which has housed the Paris Stock Exchange (French: Bourse de Paris) and the square is named for it also. Sometimes the building is also known as the Brongniart Palace (French: Palais Brongniart)
It has been the focal point for investment activity linked with France having been one of the most prosperous countries in the world. It has also been a fulcrum of social controversy which at times has threatened the very foundations of the Republic.
Still, as an architectural achievement, it is hugely significant. The building is the work of Alexandre-Théodore Brongniart (1739-1813)(1), received a commission for the building by Napoleon I in 1807. In Neo-Classical style, with many, conspicuous pillars, it was not completed until 1815, after the architect's death, but it remains among the finest of his creations. Other features of the building include statues by way of allegeorical representations of Commerce, Justice, Agriculture and Industry.
IN 1986, an electronic trading system began to replace the old floor trading system. The building is now used for a variety of functions, including as a conference centre.
In the United States, business has long been foundational to her citizens' concept of life, and in Great Britain, freedom of the seas and the rôle of the City of London have been pivotal in its history. In France, however, with its mercantilist rather than free trade traditions even before the French Revolution, hostility to the free exchange of goods proved harder to dislodge. Indeed, at one time Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations was even a banned book in France, and during the 19th and early 20th centuries aspiring politicians would regularly use the very existence of the stock exchange as an easy 'whipping boy' to generate the social resentment that drove various, perceived nationalist and statist solutions. For example, the careers of a statesman such as Georges Clemenceau under the 3rd Republic was dented by nationalist agitation (some of it with anti-Semitic overtones), whereby he was accused of 'selling out' over failed Panama Canal Company investments. In the 1930s, the failures of an investor Stavisky supplied sundry, anti-Semitic and fascist groups with supposed justification for their brand of extremism (2). The Paris Stock Exchange, then, has been both a focal point for France's prosperity but it was also widely portrayed at various times as a supposed source of many of France's perceived ills.
(1) Other works by Architect Brongniart include the Hôtel de Monaco, Paris, now the Polish Embassy.
(2) Among works which gives copious details and incisive comments about the upheavals and troubles of France's Third Republic is: D. W. Brogan, France Under the Republic: The Development of Modern France 1870-1939 , published in 1940.
Also worth seeing
In Paris itself, the visitor attractions are so numerous that any summary will be inadequate, but a few of these must include: the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Sacré Cœur church on Montmartre, the Bourbon Palace (National Assembly), the Louvre, the Madeleine church, the Sainte Chapelle, and many others.
How to get there: United Airlines flies from New York Newark to Paris (Aéroport Paris-Charles de Gaulle ), from where car rental is available; however, visitors to Paris may wish to explore the city via its excellent public transport system. The Métro (subway) stop for the Stock Exchange is 'Bourse'. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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