The Power of Water: The Politics of the Parisian Waterworks (1660-1799)


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




Historians locate the origins of concerns over the governance of water supply in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, ignoring the early modern period. My dissertation argues that the debate over the governance of water in Paris actually began in the 1720s, when entrepreneurs challenged the municipality’s monopoly over waterworks in the aftermath of severe scarcity. From the 1720s to the 1790s, the municipality fought to guarantee general access to water. Entrepreneurs sought to construct a market for water and to create a technological system that would supply water reliably, yet only to a few. Entrepreneurs used and benefited from the development of commercial capitalism, the monarchy’s reliance on private investment, and the rise of scientific expertise to shape the confrontation over water provision.