Teacher | Student
Originally produced in: France
Also available in: en

Curricular level

8th grade (History):

  • the 19th century: topic 1
  • the industrial age: the industrialization that took place in the 19th century in Europe and North America led to economic, social, religious and ideological upheaval.” « Programmes du collège. Programmes de l’enseignement d’histoire-géographie-éducation civique », Bulletin officiel de l’Éducation nationale spécial n° 6 du 28 août 2008, p. 31

Possible in the 5th grade (1a and 2b documents): Humanist culture, History: “The French Revolution and the 19th century […] France and Europe during the industrial and urban expansion: working time in factories, technological progress, colonies and emigration.” « Horaires et programmes d’enseignement de l’école primaire », Bulletin officiel de l’Éducation nationale spécial, numéro hors série, n° 3 du 19 juin 2008, p. 25. France


The urban growth and the industrialization in the second half of the 19th century attracted excluded populations to big urban areas when old familial and social solidarities didn’t work anymore. In towns, homeless and unemployed people were numerous. At the town’s gates, often in the former military area, the “zone” attracted unemployed and homeless people and families who earned their living as scavengers, beggars or sometimes pillagers. The “zone” worried the upper middle class and the governments, and was frequently depicted in literature, which either praised the liberty of the “zoniers” or despised them due to the danger they posed.


To learn the basic vocabulary connected with the urbanization and industrialization in the 19th century and to master the political, economic and social chronology of the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.

Conceptual Objectives

  • To learn the concepts of unemployment, economic and social exclusion.
  • To learn more about the main attitudes towards economic and social exclusion and their representations.

Methodological Objectives and Skills

  • To describe and analyze a series of photographs.
  • To read, understand and analyze the ideas, the arguments and the value judgments presented in a text.
  • To search for clues, to put forward hypotheses and develop general conclusions in the field of the living conditions of the underprivileged and socio-economic exclusion, to make comparisons and find interrelations between iconographic and textual documentation.

Suggestion of Activities

The selected documents cover a period of over fifty years, so it is important that the students should firstly master political, economic, social, French and European history of the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century based on their textbook and – if needed - they should be made aware of the dates of the documents, so that afterwards they will be able to create a short list of works of the most well-known authors of the documents (Eugène Atget, Charles Baudelaire, Aristide Bruant, Maurice Halbwachs, Le Corbusier, Émile Gaboriau) on the basis of information found in a dictionary or the Internet.

After acquainting oneself with the iconographic documents on the “Zone”, the first steps should consist in:

  • locating as precisely as possible the photographs on a map of Paris from the late 19th and the early 20th century: various maps (showing the growth of Paris expanding to include the modern 20th district) published between 1860 and 1914 can be downloaded from the Internet; to find the right map, please type “Plan de Paris” with the date in the search engine;
  • precisely defining the words “zone” and “zoniers” in their Parisian historical context, as denoting the “fortified military/non aedificandi zone”, located in the area of the fortifications dating back to 1841, decommissioned by the Act of April 19, 1919, and marginalized populations who inhabited the area at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century; the students have to be careful about the multiple meanings of the term “zone” and its derivatives in different registers of the contemporary language. If necessary, we can study the semantic field of the “zone” (zonage, zonal, zonard, zone, zoner, se zoner, zonier…) in order to eliminate all inappropriate definitions.

Each iconographic document should be carefully described and analyzed (frame, framing, the angle of view, perspective, focus, composition…), then compared with other photographs in the album “Les zoniers” created by Eugène Atget between 1899 and 1913 (http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b3100004z and http://classes.bnf.fr/atget/feuille/01.htm, see also http://classes.bnf.fr/atget/pistes/08_8.htm ) and in the series “Vie et métiers à Paris” (http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b3100008m.planchecontact.r=btv1b3100008m.f1.langFR ).

While explaining to students that the notion of reporting in the modern sense of the term did not appear in France before the years 1920-1930 (it was particularly visible in the magazine “Vu” published by Lucien Vogel in 1928), and it would be inaccurate to consider Eugène Atget’s ambition to document a given subject entirely in photographs as a documentary, suggest them to work in small groups and write, on the basis of the photographs, either:

  • an historic and illustrated article
  • a double page of a history book
  • an illustrated report
  • a docu-drama text

Compare various received texts to prepare a summary of the photographic album of Eugène Atget, which can be again viewed on this occasion for instance on the BnF website (http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b3100004z/f1.planchecontact.pagination and wikis).

The passages will be discussed in two stages. At first, in small groups with 4 photographs and 1 or more passages – or if one has more time, one may use 60 reproductions of photographs by Eugene Atget from the album on “Les zoniers”, available on the BnF website (http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b3100004z/f1.planchecontact.pagination and wikis) – the students choose one or several photographs corresponding to text(s) they have. They have to provide a few lines of argumentation supporting their choice.

Having selected at least two passages, the students, after having defined the register of the text (literary, scientific, descriptive…) should analyze and compare them: indicate the methods of embellishment, disparagement, empathy, scorn, the language level, various images and figures of speech, etc.

The results of the exercises described above facilitate writing a general synopsis on the social exclusion, after the lesson on the urbanization at the end of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century.

Suggestion of Evaluation

The evaluation should either:

test the knowledge and skills gained from contemporary sources mentioned in the previous folder that can be downloaded from websites or found on basis of the works cited list, for example:

  • after having analyzed a series of photographs (the main theme and the characteristic features of the series: shooting conditions, frame, framing, perspective, the angle of view, focus, composition…), dating approximately the series, based on the use of the given formal devices and the subject matter, setting them in their historical and geographical context
  • mastering the appropriate vocabulary for urban analysis (center, periphery, suburban area, marginality, exclusion…)
  • understanding the register of a text or a collection of texts, to place it or them in the historical and geographical contexts; understanding the arguments and analyzing them critically.
  • formulating a simple problem on basis of a whole range of documents and writing a few lines of synopsis.

or, testing the same knowledge and abilities based on photographs of homeless people or vagrants taken by Eugène Atget (« Vie et métiers à Paris » http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b3100008m.r=Eug%C3%A8ne+Atget.langFR ) or the series Street Life in London by John Thomson and Adolphe Smith, 1877, with extracts from the texts by:

  • Rimbaud Arthur, « Ma bohême », 1870;
  • Murger Henry, Scènes de la vie de bohême, Paris, Michel Lévy, 1851 (several editions can be downloaded from the Internet)

or, testing them on basis of contemporary works, like Paris de nuit (1932) and Paris secret (1976) by Brassai, « Terre de personne » and « Utòpicos » series by Pierre Gonnord (http://www.pierregonnord.com/ ), combining this with a research on the headlines of the period.

Additional and Interdisciplinary Tasks

Geography, sociology (civics), history of arts: The exclusion in big towns is a recurring phenomenon; today, it concerns an large part of the French population. Its evolution throughout the two last centuries or its recent manifestations serve as subjects of thorough research in the press and a popular theme in art, especially contemporary art. Thus, we suggest:

  • creating a basic data collection on the basis of the daily newspapers and periodicals, reports and pictures from newspapers and television, reviews, analyses and testimonies concerning the mariginalised populations, their lives and precarious housing; presenting annotated excerpts in a portfolio, with an introduction on the historical context and a justification of the choice of materials;
  • studying a work of an artist (for example photographs by Lewis Hine, especially those from the National Child Labor Committee’s collection and the orders of the Farm Security Administration issued in 1930 in the US, or Dorothea Lange’s photographs, or more recent Zwelethu Mthethwa’s photographs of township inhabitants of South Africa or those by Peter Gonnord: http://www.pierregonnord.com/ ) or a documentary or a collection of works on the subject matter intended to analyze the perspective from which the problem of social exclusion is presented: documentation, compassion, aestheticization;
  • discussing the album of 60 photographs on “zoniers” realized in 1912-1913 together with documents available at the Library of Congress’ website; such a comparative approach may lead to interesting conclusions.
  • a coherent study of literary works representing different genres.

History, civics: At the national and the European levels, we recommend a research on the statistics of exclusion (unemployed, homeless, workers below the poverty line, migrants…) and the related institutions, concepts (the poverty line, median income, income integration…) and the current policies against exclusion or expulsion.

Literature: To use the results of the study to present a coherent reading of extracts from:

  • Cassady Neal, Fils de clochard, extrait de The First Third & Other Writings, San Francisco, City Lights, 1971, traduction F.-J. Temple, Paris, Pierre-Jean Oswald, 1977.
  • Georges Simenon, Maigret et le clochard, Paris, Presses de la Cité, 1962, réédition Poche LJF, 2000.
  • Siniac Pierre, Luj Inferman’ et La Cloducque, Paris, Gallimard Série noire, 1971, réédition Rivages Noir, 1999.
  • Beckett Samuel, En attendant Godot, Paris, Les Éditions de Minuit, 1952.
  • Jonquet Thierry, série des Lapoigne : Lapoigne à la foire du trône, Paris, Fernand Nathan, 1997 ; Lapoigne et l’ogre du métro, Paris, Fernand Nathan, 1997 ; Lapoigne et la fiole mystérieuse, Paris, Fernand Nathan, 1998 ; Lapoigne et la chasse au fantôme, Paris, Fernand Nathan, 1999, tous réédités en Folio Junior.
  • Declerck Patrick, Les Naufragés. Avec les clochards de Paris, Paris, Plon - Terre humaine, 2001.

And for the 5th grade:

  • Ditisheim Vonicke, Le clochard de la rue Vivaldi, Les 2 encres, 2003 (niveau CM2)
  • Marabotto Paolo, Daniel qui n’avait pas de maison, Paris, Circonflexe, 2004.
  • Padial Carlo, Cabassa Mariona, La vie a des hauts et des bas, Éditions du Rouergue, 2004.
  • Swindells Robert, Sans abri, Paris, Gallimard Jeunesse, 2003.

German, English, Italian, Polish: To conduct a study on social exclusion in the press from different European countries.