Architectural Studies

Preservation & Victor Hugo’s War on the Demolishers

Victor Hugo’s essay “Guerre aux Démolisseurs!” (“War on the Demolishers!”), decrying the wanton destruction of French cultural heritage, appeared in the literary journal Revue des deux Mondes in 1832. An early salvo in the preservationist movement, the essay pleaded for a law to protect architectural landmarks, especially medieval structures. Citing specific examples of significant buildings recently razed, the essay argues in blunt terms for the appreciation and maintenance of such sites. Hugo held similar aims, and reached a far wider audience, when writing his popular novel set in fifteenth-century Paris, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, published just the previous year. His brief 1825 article, “A Note on the Destruction of Monuments in France,” referenced in “War on the Demolishers!,” is translated here as well. (Both translations are by our assistant program leader Danny Smith.)

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