In 1853 the French emperor Louis Napoleon inaugurated a vast and ambitious programme of public works, directed by Georges-Eugène Haussmann, the prefect of the Seine. Haussmann's renovation of Paris would transform the old medieval city of squalid slums and disease-ridden alleyways into a 'City of Light' ? characterised by wide boulevards, apartment blocks, parks, squares and public monuments, new railway stations and department stores and a new system of public sanitation. City of Light charts a fifteen-year project of urban renewal which ? despite the interruptions of war, revolution, corruption and bankruptcy ? would set a template for nineteenth and early twentieth-century urban planning and create the enduring and globally familiar layout of modern Paris.