Birth, reorganization or formalization of an information system? Cleaning the streets of Paris, 16th-18th centuries

Information systems and urban management (18th-21st centuries)
By Nicolas Lyon-Caen, Raphaël Morera

In a context of urban growth, the management of flows of any kind is a technical, political and administrative challenge. Organization of waste collection greatly contributes to a healthy urban environment. In early-modern Paris, from the 16h century up to the French Revolution, the operating methods for waste disposal did not technically evolve. However, they did experience major developments in terms of local politics. In the 17th century, waste management was the concern of local citizens through a system of representation. At the beginning of the 18th century, the State took over the management for fiscal reasons and finally embedded it into its own administration through the Lieutenance générale de police. Henceforth, waste collection was subject to scrupulous controls that produced extensive localized and centralized data. This meant that 18th century administrators were aware of the material flows produced by urban consumption. Although the information was very precise, it was never used for projection or anticipation but only for financial auditing of public procurements.


  • Paris
  • Old regime
  • waste management
  • police
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