When you look at the European city, from the early 19th century to today, many changes have occurred; from the development of a boulevard to the birth of the department store, most aspects of public life are very different.

Saint Patrick’s Street in Cork
A boulevard in Paris from the top of the Arc De Triomphe

One of the earlier changes towards modernity was the development of the boulevard. Here in Cork, Saint Patrick’s Street is what I’d consider the closest thing to a boulevard. It’s wide, with plenty of walking space on both sides, and there are shops and businesses all along the street. The reason it is so wide is because it was once a waterway that was filled in and made a street. Although it doesn’t compare to the boulevards of Paris, you can’t expect it to; Paris is a much larger city and the infrastructure there has to support more people.


Another important change in the European city is the idea of having a large public space for people to gather in to talk about ideas. Some people gathered in small coffee shops to discuss more personal matters, while others strutted their stuff in the public square. In the square one was expected to behave, and almost to wow the crowd to show off their status. Here you were on display for the whole town to see, much like the last place that brings us towards modernity: the department store.

Brown Thomas Cork

While the square was more old fashioned, the department store was really a huge step forward. This space not only changed society, but it challenged all the social norms of the time and became the women’s space. By challenging the social norms, this arguably aided the rise of the flapper and helped society reach where we are at today. All of these spaces transformed 19th century Europe and without any one of these, the world we see today would be vastly different.