In January 1910, La Seine overflowed her riverbanks. Not surprising, there’s a book about it released this centennial month: Jeffrey H. Jackson’s Paris Under Water: How the City of Light Survived the Great Flood of 1910. It tells the story of relentless rain saturating the ground, with water nowhere to go but in the sewers, streets and buildings.
Who knew? Another country’s history, so little cross-referencing. I don’t recall mentions of the Paris flood during readings about Katrina or, another time in my life, when I read about the Great Johnstown Flood that occurred in May 1889.
From the publisher’s website: “Given the Parisians’ history of deep-seated social, religious, and political strife, it was questionable whether they could collaborate to confront the crisis. Yet while the sewers, Métro, and electricity failed around them, Parisians of all backgrounds rallied to save the city and one another.”
Jackson is associate professor of history and director of environmental studies at Rhodes College in Memphis. He was recently honored as one of the top young historians in the United States. In The Guardian, he says: “They could not have known it, but for Parisians it was a ‘dress rehearsal’ for the unity needed in the first world war.”
The Guardian features an 8-photo slideshow of the flood. Also, there’s an extensive gallery of images on a French website, not related to the book. Finally, for more information, the book’s blog gives information about author readings, plus more about the book, including praise.