The Paris World's Fair

  • Louis Napoleon opened the World's Fair in Paris to showcase his modernized Paris.
  • The Fair was a huge boost to the popularity of Napoleon III as France was presented in its best light and was the marvel of the world.
  • So confident was Napoleon that his officers gave guided tours of French fortresses to the eager, note-taking officers from Prussia.  A few years later those officers would return as conquerors, not tourists.
  • The Eiffel Tower was created as a "temporary" structure to showcase what could be done with iron.  The Tower was the tallest man-made object in the world when constructed.  It was the first artificial structure to top the Great Pyramid in Egypt.

By Chelsey Mullins, Class of 2005

As if completing the Suez Canal in order to successfully connect the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea wasn’t enough. France had also recently modernized their homeland. At the start of the French second empire, Louis Napoleon Bonaparte III held a World’s Fair in order to present the modernization of Paris to the rest of the world.

This fair included many structures that showed the rising prosperity in France. Of these structures was the Eiffel Tower. Initially, the Eiffel Tower was supposed to be temporary and was considered unattractive to the people of France. The Eiffel Tower’s sole purpose was to show how effective iron can be. The Eiffel Tower was the tallest manmade structure in the world at the time, it was even larger than the pyramids in Egypt which were previously the largest constructed structure. The Eiffel Tower was made to prove that France was also good at industrial type things. It showed that France could build and utilize all of it’s resources.

Another development in France that was on display was the newly made boulevards and avenues constructed by Baron Hausmann. The new roads contributed to the beauty that is currently in France. Along with the new roads, new government buildings were constructed to replace the plain old ones. In addition, a railway system was built to better transport people. The old part of France was rebuilt and beautified as well. The plan was to redesign France in a way that was a just as beautiful as it was convenient.

            The success in France came from the new economic policies as well as the previous successful foreign adventures. Napoleon wanted to help the poor people and to do this, he followed the American method of banking called the Credit Mobilier. This system eliminated serfdom and peasantry all together by allowing all people to take part in investment banks.

Napoleon III was a very talented politician that used the world’s fair to gain support from the people of France. His plan succeeded and Napoleon had successfully returned “la gloire” to France for a few years. His reign from 1852 to 1870 left a lasting impression on the French people and allowed the country to gain the popularity that it still holds on to today. The time that Napoleon III reigned was characterized by a boom in construction as well as great prosperity. Napoleon III, was able to unify the nation of France and was somewhat successful in foreign ventures. Napoleon combined all of these accomplishments and showed them off at the World’s Fair. Napoleon was so confident in the French army that he even allowed tours for France’s enemies, the Prussian’s, through French fortresses. Although this proved to be a bad move for the French, it is a perfect example of the confidence of the French in this time period.

The new Paris was very beautiful and was clearly in competition with Vienna for the title of the City of Lights. By the end of World War I, this title was officially given to Paris. This epic change can be credited to the work of Louis Napoleon while preparing for the World’s Fair.


Works Cited:


Colton, Joel, and R. R. Palmer. A History of the Modern World. Von Hoffmann Press, Inc. 1995

 “Napoleon III.” December 2005. 14 December 2005


 “Napoleon III.” December 2005. 14 December 2005


Written by: Chelsey Mullins                                                     Email at: [email protected]