Wrapped up for Christmas, 1814

Actonbooks

Cities get many reputations, some of them undeserved. Their names can become characterised — often tarnished — for reasons out of their control. It was not the city’s fault that the congress in Vienna or treaty in Versailles were each blamed for subsequent European wars, and there is not an anti-EU movement across Europe that has not roundly condemned the Treaty of Rome, or global warming foes who bemoan the saggy green liberalism of ‘Kyoto’. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was so ineffectual that it lasted less than nine months. Before ‘Sony Pictures’, ‘Munich’ was the epitome of caving in to aggression for a craven quiet life, simply putting off the moment when the toughest decisions have to be made.

Paris on the other hand has hosted so many peace treaties that it is immune from being singled out for any one failure (M. Hollande excepted, of course). Paris is a…

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