Today the population density of Paris is over 52,000 people per square mile, making it one of the most densely populated cities in the world (and the most densely populated major city outside of Asia). That's why it seems so crowded to those of us who come from smaller places.
But did you know that Paris used to be even more crowded? The population peaked in about 1920 when it reached nearly three million people. We're talking a bout central Paris, the city within the Périphérique (the ring road), which includes the 20 arrondissements. Paris central is no home to 2.2 million people, while the population of Paris metropolitan area is over 12,000,000.
Paris started out as a Celtic settlement at a convenient river crossing site. Under these Gauls, the population of Paris numbered a relatively few thousands. But then, under the Romans, Paris expanded into a more important commercial city that could control both river traffic and river crossings. At its peak, Roman Lutetia grew to about 80,000 people.
After Roman rule declined, and following the period of invasions of the third and fourth centuries, the population dropped to about 30,000, and continued to drop up to the period of the Viking invasions, reaching a low point of about 20,000 around the turn of the first millennium.
Paris really came into its own in the Middle Ages, and was the biggest city in Europe. In fact, it was the largest city in the world by about 1550. (It would have been even larger were it not for the Black Plague and the Hundred Years' War, both of which reduced the population considerably.)
More population ups and downs occurred in ensuing centuries because of continuing wars, but by the time of Henry IV (1630) the population of Paris had made a spectacular recovery to number well over 400,000 people.
From then the population continued to grow steadily, taking a couple of big jumps when Paris was expanded in 1860 and then during the amazing growth that occurred under Napoleon III and the revitalization of the city by Baron Haussmann.
Paris reached its peak population of 2.9 million in 1920, when the population density would have been a staggering 69,000 people per square mile. Following that the population declined slowly but steadily until it reached a modern low point of just over 2.1 million in 1990.
Since that time the population has slowly inched up to its present size of something over 2.2 million.
However, there have been major population shifts among the Paris arrondissements. All of the low-numbered arrondissements (1 to 11) have declined in population in the modern era, while the high-numbered arrondissements have grown in population. The difference is often dramatic —
|Marais: 3rd & 4th Arrondissements||184,690||62,496|
Today the highest and lowest populations are the 1st at 17,767 versus the 15th at 238,914. The population density runs from 25,000 people per square mile in the 1st to 109,000 in the 11th.
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