Paris and its Foreigners in the Late
‘Comme les étrangers abondent, et arrivent des quatre coins de l’Europe’
Louis-Sébastien Mercier, Le tableau de Paris.
The impression is shared by all. Paris attracts foreigners. The statement by Louis-Sébastien Mercier from the late eighteenth century is echoed by Jacques Bertillon’s remark of 1895: ‘Paris is a city of immigration. Births are rare there, even rarer than in the rest of France. There are not enough adults produced by the population of Paris to meet the ever more strident calls for labour. Their numbers are increased by young men coming from all parts of France and — even more remarkably — from all parts of the world’ (Bertillon 1895: 1). The arrival of foreigners is therefore closely linked to the fate of the capital. Nevertheless, this is a historical subject which is not well researched.
According to jurists and contemporaries, the situation of foreigners in Paris during the ancien régime is relatively favourable. Far from being considered a threat, foreigners benefit from a benevolent attitude. Discriminatory measures remain limited and are quite traditional. A mechanism for the surveillance of foreigners is installed (in a relatively commonplace form) using spies and mouches, but it is aimed mainly at powerful foreigners such as