Podcast: What remains of the Siege of Paris?

Alysa Salzberg, a short woman wearing a black lace, Victorian-esque dress, stands with one hand proudly on hip, smiling, in the downstairs room of Bill & Rosa’s Book Room. Beside her is an easel with a poster she made of images related to the Siege of Paris, and a copy of her novel, “Hearts at Dawn”.

One of the things that fascinates me the most about the 1870–1871 Siege of Paris is what still remains of it. Not really anything large-scale, despite the fact that so many historical events happened during or (at least partially) because of it.

Rather, physical remnants of the Siege are memoirs, photos, works of art, and some unexpected small relics, including a stuffed pigeon, secret letter holders, and old bread.

This past weekend, on Saturday, April 9th, I was invited by Bill & Rosa’s Book Room, one of my favorite used English bookstores, to do a presentation on the Siege of Paris and then a reading from Hearts at Dawn.

I was excited to share things about a moment in history that fascinates me and that’s little-known, even in the city and suburbs where it happened. But I have to admit, I was also a little nervous!

Arsène, an adorable brown tabby cat, sits on a poster of images that Alysa is compiling for her presentation, and stares plaintively at the camera.
Luckily, Arsène was there for moral support and to “help” me as I prepared my visual aids, as only a cat can.

In the end, the presentation seems to have gone well. The crowd was warm and welcoming and had a lot to share and ask…

…unfortunately, the recording I tried to make was the only thing that didn’t go well. Between what seemed to be issues with lighting, as well as cutting off after a certain number of minutes to transition to another video, and then cutting off entirely after a while (to be fair, the presentation was longer than I’d expected), I came away with only some of that moment on my phone.

Those who are fans of the ephemeral would probably say that this is how it should be, but as the theme of my presentation shows, I kind of like holding onto things, for better or for worse.

My husband, a tech wizard in my eyes, was able to convert the bad video to audio, and then we worked to put images to it, when they were referenced or used in the presentation.

We created a podcast, of sorts, although the audio isn’t quite podcast-level.

We were able to save more or less the entire presentation, but unfortunately lost the introduction by the Book Room’s lovely, kind Iasmina, as well as the Q&A and reading portions.

Here’s the video, if you’re interested in hearing more or less all of the presentation. It’s full of interesting facts about the Siege of Paris, and hopefully is a fun listen.

If you DO listen, please be sure to take a moment to watch the 21:29 minute marker — the text there covers an important phrase that was cut off, which explains why modern scholars consider September 19, 1870, to be the official start of the Siege of Paris. (It’s the day the last telegraph line was cut, cutting Paris off from the world in terms of transportation and communication with the outside world.)

Also, if you watch, you’ll see the images that I showed and referenced during the presentation. I will put all of their links and attributions after the video, and you can also find them in the description. To my knowledge, all images are either public domain, my property/copyright, or correctly attributed.

And now, without further ado, here’s the presentation embedded below, or you can follow this link to YouTube.

I hope you enjoyed if you watched! Special thanks to Bill & Rosa’s Book Room for hosting and providing cookies and crackers (not rats or cats!) after.

Here are the image credits:

- Bastion numéro 95 de l’enceinte de Theirs: public domain. Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thiers_wall#/media/File:Si%C3%A8ge_de_Paris._Au_Bastion.jpg

- La place d’Armes à Saint-Cloud: public domain. Image sources: https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Si%C3%A8ge_de_Paris_(1870-1871)#/media/Fichier:Braun,_Adolphe_(1811-1877)_-_Paris,_1871_-_St_Cloud,_La_place.jpg

and https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Saint-Cloud.Place_d%27Armes.1909.jpg

- Menu du Café Voisin, 25 décembre 1870: public domain. Image source: https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronologie_du_si%C3%A8ge_de_Paris_(1870-1871)#/media/Fichier:Menu-siegedeparis.jpg

- Early 20th century photos of the Thiers Wall: public domain. Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thiers_wall#/media/File:Fortifications_de_la_porte_de_Versailles_(Paris).jpeg

and Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thiers_wall#/media/File:Porte_d'Arcueil,Porte_de_Sceaux_-_Porte_-_Paris_14_-_M%C3%A9diath%C3%A8que_de_l'architecture_et_du_patrimoine_-_APMH00037741.jpg

- Dagron projector detail and Liste de ballons sortis de Paris pendant le Siège 1870–1871: public domain. In the collection of the Musée Carnavalet. Image source.: https://www.parismuseescollections.paris.fr/fr/musee-carnavalet/oeuvres/liste-des-ballons-sortis-de-paris-pendant-le-siege-1870-1871

- Pigeon from the Siege. In the collection of the Musée de la Poste. Image source: https://twitter.com/museedelaposte/status/989110427173969920

- 2 cartoons by Cham, from Album du Siege, de Cham et Daumier. Public domain. Find the images and the entire book here. : https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k10653361/f97.planchecontact

- Boule de Moulins, from Google Arts & Culture. Image source: https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/boule-de-moulins-si%C3%A8ge-de-paris-mus%C3%A9e-de-la-poste/rwHbSAwIx4BDcg?hl=en

- photograph of Le Neptune, by Nadar, 1870: Public domain. Image source: https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b105397517.item

- Ration card. Image uploaded by Kounilig. Image source: https://fr.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fichier:Rationnement_de_Chanal_si%C3%A8ge_de_Paris_1870_verso.jpg

- Rat, cat, and dog meat stall: Public domain. Image source: https://archive.org/details/siegeofparis00sibb/page/250/mode/2up?view=theater

- title page of Les ambulances de Paris pendant le siege (1870–1871) d’Alexandre Piédagnel: Public domain, see the page and read the book for free via Gallica.fr: https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k6516856p.texteImage

- Souvenir historique du Siège de Paris banner from a souvenir shadowbox in the permanent collection of the Musée Paul Éluard. Image source: https://musee-saint-denis.com/portfolio/pain-du-siege-confinement/

- Souvenir historique du Siège de Paris shadowbox, image source: https://www.ivoire-france.com/fr/lot-2961-305135-41_souvenir_historique_declaration_guerr

- Siège de Paris 1871. Queue devant une boulangerie rue Saint-Martin, 3ème ou 4ème arrondissement, Paris, de Jules Ferat. Sketch from the collection of the Musée Carnavalet. Image source: https://www.parismuseescollections.paris.fr/fr/musee-carnavalet/oeuvres/siege-de-paris-1871-queue-devant-une-boulangerie-rue-saint-martin-3eme-ou

- Commemorative plaque for Alexandre Prince, photograph by marcelline45. Image source: https://www.geneanet.org/cimetieres/view/4971401

- “Le pigeon” de Puvis de Chavannes. From the collection of the Musée d’Orsay. Image source: https://www.musee-orsay.fr/fr/oeuvres/le-pigeon-78601

- “Le ballon” de Puvis de Chavannes. From the collection of the Musée d’Orsay. Image source: https://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/node/80218

- Paris map: Source unknown, digital collection of the author. Please contact me if you have attribution or copyright information for this image.

- Vitrine de l’année terrible, collection of the Musée Paul Éluard. Image source: https://musee-saint-denis.com/portfolio/pain-du-siege-confinement/

Any errors in attribution or copyright information are unintentional.

All other images are photographs by Alysa Salzberg or Alysa Salzberg’s book cover, to which she holds the copyright.

If you’d like to see more images or find links to additional sources (many of them free!), feel free to stop by the Images and Resources pages of the Hearts at Dawn section of my website.

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A Beauty and the Beast retelling set during the 1870–1871 Siege of Paris, Hearts at Dawn has been selected as a Historical Novel Society Editors’ Choice book. It’s currently available in Kindle and paperback formats and is part of the Kindle Unlimited Library. I hope you’ll give it a read!

And if you do, I’d be forever grateful if you left an honest review on Amazon and any other sites or social media platforms where you post. Reviews help books gain more visibility and credibility. Even a review of a short few lines can be incredibly helpful.

I hope you enjoyed this special podcast post about what remains of the Siege of Paris. Feel free to subscribe to this blog or follow me on Goodreads or Amazon to find out when I publish new posts.

Until next time!

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Alysa Salzberg

is a writer & worrier. She recently published her first novel, “Hearts at Dawn”, a Beauty & the Beast retelling set during the 1870 Siege of Paris.