THE GERMAN INVASION OF PARIS.

No, no, not that one, a peaceful one a century earlier. My pal Jason at Henry Holt sent me a copy of Marx’s General: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels by Tristram Hunt, which arrived at the perfect time, just when I was finally trying to understand the various turns of the German philosophical wheel from Hegel to Schelling and beyond (having read Isaiah Berlin’s “The Counter-Enlightenment” and gotten a running start). Hunt has a nice description of the young Engels attending Schelling’s 1841 Berlin lectures (as a partisan of Hegel, he was there to “shield the great man’s grave from abuse”) along with Jacob Burckhardt, Mikhail Bakunin (who called them “interesting but rather insignificant”), and Søren Kierkegaard (who said Schelling “talked ‘quite insufferable nonsense’ and, worse, committed the cardinal academic crime of ending his lectures past the hour: ‘That isn’t tolerated in Berlin, and there was scraping and hissing’). But what I came here to pass along is this fascinating passage about Paris in the 1840s, where Engels went to hang out with Marx and spare his pious German family the disgrace of his increasingly notorious presence:

In 1848, Paris had 350,000 workers, with one-third of these engaged in the textile trades and much of the remainder divided between construction, the furniture trade, jewelry, metallurgy, and domestic service. A large part of the workforce was made up of Germans—Engels described them as being “everywhere.” By the late 1840s, there were some sixty thousand of them, and such was their strength that in certain Parisian quarters barely a word of French was to be heard.

I had no idea, and I love learning this kind of forgotten detail from history books.

Comments

  1. Not surprising given the 19th century French workers condition of chronic malnourishment and demographic precariousness due to abusive military conscription.

  2. I wonder where in Germany (since Germany didn’t exist as an entity) they came from, if some of them were actually Alsatians?
    I’d always thought Engels was from Manchester.

  3. marie-lucie says:

    Very interesting, I had no idea either.

  4. Tristram Hunt is the brother-in-law of Giles Foden, who wrote The Last King Of Scotland.

  5. J.W. Brewer says:

    In the early 18th C. the population of Berlin was supposedly something like 20-25% French (Huguenot refugees after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes), so I suppose turnabout was fair play.

  6. which arrived at the perfect time, just when I was finally trying to understand the various turns of the German philosophical wheel from Hegel to Schelling and beyond
    Well flab my gaster! Only a few blogs back you were faintheartedly moaning about an
    aversion to trying to wrap my mind around what the thinkers of two centuries ago were thinking about
    You realize, of course, that you have now effectively excommunicated youself from the Church of Intellectual Progress. Another few blogs, and you will be talking a hamburger onto our ears (Ger. loc.) about de Maistre.
    What were the circumstances behind all those German workers there? Did this have something to do with the economic expansion under Louis-Philippe? There were a lot of German intellectuals and gentry of all kinds in Paris in the decades before 1848 – that’s the impression I got from Heine (for instance the Französische Zustände 1832, “French goings-on”)

  7. marie-lucie says:

    The 100,000-plus workers engaged in the textile trades must have involved not only workers (many of them women, and some of them children) in factories making cloth, thread, and various types of tapes, ribbons and similar decorative woven textiles for clothing and upholstering, and in workshops making artificial flowers and other hand-made ornaments, but also (especially for women) in sewing garments, which in 1840 were still sewn by hand. Hat-making was another related trade, usually carried on by men in workshops, but trimming women’s hats (adding ribbons, flowers, etc to a bare hat form) was the province of women, as was most of the production of gloves. Socks and hose were also part of the garment trade. I wonder if laundry work, also carried on mostly by women, is included in the “textile trades”: it was very important at a time where it was very difficult to wash shirts and underwear (mostly made of linen, which required boiling), let alone sheets, in apartments without running water, and only the poorest did not send those things to a professional laundry.
    In literature of the period there are many instances to “romantic attachments” between a middle or upper class (male) student (supported by his parents) and a young working woman, as in La bohême (these relationships are usually doomed because of class differences). In most cases the young woman earns a (very meager) living by sewing or mending clothes, either in a workshop (a sweatshop really) or at home (most likely in a cheap room in the topmost floor of a building, before the age of elevators): this very poorly paid occupation was at least clean and relatively healthful, unlike work in manufacturing or in a laundry, the latter clean but unhealthy because of the constant steam and the harsh soap used, and difficult because of the heavy and dangerous work of handling boiling hot sodden cloth.

  8. John Emerson says:

    Unmarried milliners figure in at least two stories by Alice Munro (contemporary Canadian writer).

  9. marie-lucie says:

    In the early 18th C. the population of Berlin was supposedly something like 20-25% French (Huguenot refugees after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes), so I suppose turnabout was fair play.
    The circumstances of these migrations are hardly similar. I have no idea why so many German workers were in Paris (as opposed to German intellectuals, whose numbers were much smaller), but the Huguenots who were able to emigrate from France were by and large an urban, educated and relatively affluent minority who gave a boost to the economy and culture in Berlin (as the King of Prussia expected). The poorer, rural ones who could not leave were subjected to extremely harsh treatment by the French government of the day (late Louis XIV period).

  10. marie-lucie says:

    unmarried milliners
    At a time when women were raised in the expectation that they would be supported by a husband, there were not many occupations by which an unmarried woman could support herself, apart from those related to the “feminine sphere”.

  11. John Emerson says:

    I’ve told this story before, but a women from my home town here had in a shop in Minneapolis where she made those old fashioned hats right up until she died a few years ago at the age of 80 or so. The store had been founded by her mother and she had promised her to keep it open. During the life of the store the neighborhood had descended from fashionable to ghetto, but she kept right on.
    Two of her customers lived up here, twin sisters who died recently at the ages of 102 and 103. (Kruunu: yes they died in different years). A business that relies too heavily on centenarians probably won’t last long.

  12. marie-lucie says:

    JE, I remember that story! You were wondering how a hat shop could stay in business in this day and age. You did not mention the twin sisters though.
    When my mother was young (between the two world wars), her mother (an excellent seamstress) had a friend who (although married and a mother) ran a successful hat shop with another woman. The first woman designed the hats and the other one was very skillful at executing the designs.

  13. “The Germans wore gray; Engels wore blue.”

  14. I’ve always assumed that “millinery” in those stories was a euphemism for a much less respectable trade–or at least that said girls may have supplemented their income by engaging in that less respectable trade.
    It’s possible that not all those Germans were German. Paris also drew a number of East Europeans. My grandfather managed to spend WWI there on his way from Moldava to America, making a living as a watchmaker (he was in his late teens and had left his wife, my grandmother, back in Moldava[arranged marriage], with the promise he would send for her when he got settled in the USA. He did, eventually…). Of course back then Moldava was Bessarabia. And, since his primary language was Yiddish, he might have been counted, seventy years on, as one of the German speakers, depending on the classifier.
    More respectably, LH, this is for you
    http://ionarts.blogspot.com/2009/09/from-house-of-dead.html

  15. In the mid-nineties, the last time I spent any time in Berlin, the shopping streets were packed with Eastern-European transient folk, much more so than other German cities, I don’t know if it’s still like that.

  16. It’s still much like that in Cologne. About 3 years ago, Lufthansa opened an outlet in the main train station. I was about to state that luggage can be picked up there as well as checked in, but thought I’d better verify that first with Lufthansa. I was told that it used to be that way, but now you can only check luggage in. Nevertheless, the Cologne-Bonn airport is only 30 km away, and people pour into Cologne from there and with the trains.
    There are also long-distance bus services with shack-like terminals behind the train station. You see many families dragging quantities of cheap bags and luggage so crammed with stuff as to be coming apart at the seams. Almost all of them I would guess to be East Europeans. More young couples are turning up who seem to be just tourists, whereas the others appear to have upped stakes.
    In the last two years I’ve seen lots of black folks coming and going on vacation, small families I would judge to be middle-class in terms of income, like most tourists I guess. That didn’t use to be the case in Cologne. I almost wrote “African”, but how would I know where they come from just because they’re “black”? When I have the time, I try to position myself so as to listen in on what language they might be speaking. Much of the time I don’t understand a word, but there is often some French and, to a lesser extent, Portuguese (interspersed with the stuff I don’t understand). They’re not from the USA, in any case.

  17. An unmarried milliner also features in a French novel of the period, and in an Italian opera based on it fifty years later.

  18. I have to question whether “sixty thousand” could justifiably be called a “large part” of “350,000″.
    In such ways (in other contexts) are passions about foreigners inflamed.

  19. Then there was that TV show “Who Wants to be a Milliner?”

  20. marie-lucie says:

    I’ve always assumed that “millinery” in those stories was a euphemism for a much less respectable trade–or at least that said girls may have supplemented their income by engaging in that less respectable trade.
    The word may have been used that way in some contexts, since all the garment trades were poorly paid, although milliners and glove-makers were more skilled and therefore better paid than those who simply sewed (and a fashionable milliner who became head of her own shop could make quite a good income from wealthy customers). Some of these women were probably forced into some form of prostitution by the low wages, especially if they had children, but you can’t generalize. Novels by Balzac, Zola and others who deal with all levels of French society often depict the plight of these women.

  21. And now the garment trades are poorly paid in India and China. Is there some economic law that says these skilled workers will always be poorly paid?

  22. And now the garment trades are poorly paid in India and China. Is there some economic law that says these skilled workers will always be poorly paid?

  23. marie-lucie says:

    You have to ask an economist.

  24. Schelling did talk insufferable nonsense, he was worse than Hegel.

  25. Thanks, sh ! The Mareike König article usefully sketches the economic and political background of “Germans everywhere” in Paris.
    The site containing the article is DeuFraMat, which abbreviates “Materials in German and French for teachers of history and geography”. It is a project to provide bilingual learning materials for these subjects in Gymnasien. I thought the König article well-written, and it uses good illustrative materials. Other articles that I skimmed seemed to be of equal quality.

  26. That was the same era as a wave of emigration from Westphalia went into the Ohio River Valley and westward. Those migrants had a lot more resources and education than the oens in Paris probably – they basically built Indianapolis. Milwaukee may have been another one of their cities too.

  27. After the Révolution (and perhaps before, the article does not make this perfectly clear), the world of Paris fashion was made in Paris – by Germans. It was bon ton to have a German tailor:

    les artisans allemands avaient aussi une renommée excellente en France. Cela valait surtout pour les ébénistes ainsi que les tailleurs. La haute-couture de l’époque était allemande: il était de bon ton de faire couper ses vêtements chez un tailleur allemand.

    There are some delightful caricatures of German bootmakers and tailors of the time.
    What I found particularly interesting was that emigration out of Germany from political as well as economic motives connected up in Paris. It seems that much of (the parts of what were to become) Germany were pretty reactionary and economically backward, from the Révolution onwards. Of course I knew that in outline from Heine, Engels and the socialist movement from 1840 onwards, but this description “from the outside” in France really makes me feel how little I know. This page of the König article describes the politicial background.
    After the Revolution of 1848, up until the Franco-German War of 1870/71, many poor German families arrived in Paris avec armes et bagages, just like the East Europeans in Cologne that I described above.
    I wonder where in Germany (since Germany didn’t exist as an entity) they came from, if some of them were actually Alsatians?
    The König article says yes, along with other areas near the French border:

    les plus gros contingents étaient fournis par les régions frontalières de l’Allemagne du sud et de l’ouest, comme la Hesse, le Palatinat, le pays de Bade et les territoires rhénans.

  28. Jim: the same era as a wave of emigration from Westphalia went into the Ohio River Valley and westward
    Was this around 1830-40? There seem to have been political, economic and religious components in all of these waves of emigration from Germany to America.

  29. I add my thanks, sh—that König piece is terrific. That first graph in particular is very enlightening (even if it’s a strain to make out the figures).

  30. Only one on each page is German, though.

  31. (One caricature, I mean.)
    Yes, brilliant detection, sh. Are you related to MMcM?

  32. Hat: a strain to make out the figures
    I simply did a single left-click with the mouse pointer on the image, and got a full-screen presentation (in Firefox).

  33. Only one on each page is German
    You’re right! Although the text above the two reproduced engravings says “the physiognomy of German artisans” – which is what I was relying on – in each one of the engravings only one caricature has “(Allemand)” in the caption next to it.

  34. Yes, brilliant detection, sh. Are you related to MMcM?
    Oh, Doktor Krone, ich fühle mich geschmeichelt. No, not related to the phenomenal MMcM (but perhaps cut from the same cloth).

  35. We are all cut from the same cloth. In the present context of 19th century Paris, the question should be: do you and MMcM have the same tailleur allemand?

  36. “Was this around 1830-40? ”
    Yes, Stu. That region is called the “Old Northwest” (the northwest of the United States at the time). This was the decades after Tekamthi and his alliance were defeated and the area opevned up to white migration. Germans have never been particularly good at taking care of their own defense. They’re not very warlike people really, at least not as far as actual effectiveness goes.

  37. Nice to learn Hessen is feminine in French, I can’t imagine I’ll come across that factoid again soon.

  38. And now the garment trades are poorly paid in India and China. Is there some economic law that says these skilled workers will always be poorly paid?
    Yes, supply and demand. They’re not skilled; even a child can do the work, and in some countries, many children do (The Onion‘s satiric video).
    Jordan’s King Abdullah, when considering the type of economic development he wanted for Jordan, said he did not favor developing a huge garment industry, since it’s a volatile industry–it’s too easy for another country to offer slightly cheaper conditions and quickly attract the manufacturer away. He wanted pharmaceuticals, which would require some infrastructure for example for creating a more educated workforce. Still you do see the “Made in Jordan” tag every once in a while.

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