Bienvenue/Welcome to week 1 of LA COMMUNE 2021, a virtual free school experience hosted by Dr. Roxanne Panchasi (a.k.a. RP) in collaboration with UNIT/PITT Society for Art and Critical Awareness.

The Paris Commune erupted in the spring of 1871 following more than a century of political, social, and economic transformation in France. After months of war and siege, the French capital’s working-class population rose up in March, holding elections, and forming their own government. The revolutionaries of the Commune attempted a complete overhaul of all aspects of life in the city. Instituting political and economic reforms, they also pursued a program of universal public education, the separation of Church and state, and the promotion of a radical culture.

This first week of the free school is focused on the period leading up to March 18th, 1871, what is commonly understood to be the beginning of the Paris Commune. This was the day that people in the French capital resisted the removal of the cannon protecting the city. The Versailles government headed by Adolphe Thiers had sent in troops to disarm Paris and this was the first of many subsequent confrontations over the next two and a half months.


Here’s a TIMELINE that includes a number of key events leading that may help to situate this week chronologically and within the broader history of nineteenth-century France. We’ll be adding dates to the timeline each week, following events from March through May as we go.

*Note on viewing the Timeline: the view is best if you scroll to the bottom of the page and click “Timeline” and select full screen mode.

RADIO 1871

Each week of LA COMMUNE 2021 is anchored around an episode of radio 1871, an audio series created for a seminar in History at Simon Fraser University in the spring term of 2021 with subsequent release via this free school in mind.

Focusing on the experiences of citizens under siege in the French capital in the months before the Paris Commune, this first episode of radio 1871 features a conversation with Dr. Patrick De Oliveira, Assistant Professor of Science Technology and Society at Singapore Management University. 


These open access readings might be useful to check out before listening:

Henry Labouchere, Diary of the Besieged Resident in Paris, esp. the Preface & ch. 1 (1870-71), Nabu Press, 2012

Lorenzo Carra “The Gambetta Telegram”, Post Horn Magazine, 2019

Beth Ann Fennelly, “Madame L. Describes the Siege of Paris,” Michigan Quarterly Review, 1997

Wietske Maas and Matteo Pasquelli, The City Devouring Itself: Urbanibalism in Times of World Wars, Insurgent Communes and Biopolitical Sieges, Open #18, 2009

Interview with Michèle Audin by Ethan Earle, ‘When the “nobodies” dared to govern: Remembering the Paris Commune,”Ricochet, 17 March 2021

You might also want to read the Twitter thread that Patrick de Oliveira began in April 2020 to reflect on the Siege of Paris while under COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. [Note: This link is dependant on the individual’s Public/Private account settings, and may not always work.]


And don’t forget to check out the HAPPENINGS & HEADS-UPs section, a collection of Paris Commune-related & Commune-spirited events taking place in various sites during the period of the free school.