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Architecture General

Architecture and Urbanism in the French Atlantic Empire

State, Church, and Society, 1604-1830

by (author) Gauvin Alexander Bailey

McGill-Queen's University Press
Initial publish date
Jun 2018
General, France
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    Jun 2018
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    Jun 2018
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Spanning from the West African coast to the Canadian prairies and south to Louisiana, the Caribbean, and Guiana, France's Atlantic empire was one of the largest political entities in the Western Hemisphere. Yet despite France's status as a nation at the forefront of architecture and the structures and designs from this period that still remain, its colonial building program has never been considered on a hemispheric scale. Drawing from hundreds of plans, drawings, photographic field surveys, and extensive archival sources, Architecture and Urbanism in the French Atlantic Empire focuses on the French state's and the Catholic Church's ideals and motivations for their urban and architectural projects in the Americas. In vibrant detail, Gauvin Alexander Bailey recreates a world that has been largely destroyed by wars, natural disasters, and fires – from Cap-François (now Cap-Haïtien), which once boasted palaces in the styles of Louis XV and formal gardens patterned after Versailles, to failed utopian cities like Kourou in Guiana. Vividly illustrated with examples of grand buildings, churches, and gardens, as well as simple houses and cottages, this volume also brings to life the architects who built these structures, not only French military engineers and white civilian builders, but also the free people of colour and slaves who contributed so much to the tropical colonies. Taking readers on a historical tour through the striking landmarks of the French colonial landscape, Architecture and Urbanism in the French Atlantic Empire presents a sweeping panorama of an entire hemisphere of architecture and its legacy.

About the author

Gauvin Alexander Bailey is an associate Professor in the Department of Visual and Performing Arts at Clark University.

Gauvin Alexander Bailey's profile page

Editorial Reviews

“In this superbly researched and handsome book, Gauvin Alexander Bailey presents a groundbreaking assessment of three and one-half centuries of rampant French colonialism, as well as its physical impact on cultures scattered around the Atlantic Ocean. The book’s beautifully reproduced plans-for buildings, urban centres, formal palaces, churches, gardens and fortifications-reveal inventive and aggressive responses to the indigenous cultures and local environments it sought to subjugate. As we struggle with the resounding impacts of colonial legacies, this is a most timely and welcome work.” Canadian Architect

“A very ambitious and deeply researched mapping of French colonial planning and building in the Atlantic sphere during the early colonial period, from the first settlement of 1609 up to 1830. Regardless of whether the phenomenon presented in this excellent book really ends with the Revolution or in 1830, its treatment here is painstaking, new, and important. It should be awarded the highest praise.” Journal of Modern History

“Architecture and Urbanism in the French Atlantic Empire is an original, engaged, and engaging study. Bailey excels at making readers aware of the dichotomy between the propagandistic ambitions of the white colonists and the harsh realities they faced, a reality check that extends to the current condition of over-restored landmarks such as the Place Royale in Quebec City.” Isabelle Gournay, University of Maryland

"The book is a goldmine of newly published drawings, and the chapters on cities and gardens especially will frame the discussion of French colonialism for some time." New West Indian Guide

"This is a project that could be written only by two or three specialists in the entire world, and then after many years of research. Bailey, his colleagues, and his publisher are to be congratulated for the enormous scope as well as the careful attention to detail lavished on this excellent volume. They have done an outstanding job of raising challenging issues and setting them in a remarkably handsome tome." AAG Review of Books

"This gorgeously illustrated work is accompanied by a text equally replete with rich details on the dreamers, designers, builders and occupiers of the towns and structures themselves." French History

“The extraordinary range of Bailey’s book--covering both the history of art and architecture and the development of cities and urban policy in the French colonial empire--will make it of interest to a wide audience.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians

"This [is a] fine book, both in its contents and the excellent binding and quality of its publication." Transactions

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