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What is Bastille Day and Why is it Celebrated in France? - Answers

What is Bastille Day and Why is it Celebrated in France?

Map of France with an Inset of Paris City

The ‘Storming of the Bastille’ is not merely a significant incident in the history of France, it has become symbolic of liberty and the power of the masses. It marks the start of the French Revolution, a cohesive protest against an oppressive and apathetic regime – one that has inspired people across the world to rise up for their rights. It is this storming of the Bastille prison on July 14th, 1789, that is commemorated by Bastille Day (July 14th) each year in France. The French national holiday is celebrated by holding large firework displays and a large military parade down the Champs-Élysées in Paris.

By 1789, the people of France became increasingly despondent under the rule of Louis XVI. The monarchy had become out of touch and tyrannical. The deepening economic crisis turned into a political crisis. The political and legislative decisions of France were dominated by the three estates representing the nobility, the church, and the commoners. The Third Estate voiced demands for a valid constitution and for equal and equable rights for all. Members of the three estates joined together to form the National Constituent Assembly (Assemblée Nationale Constituante)

It is at this time that the king dismissed the minister of finance, Jacques Necker, who was known for his sympathies for the Third Estate. Parisians feared that the King and the royalists would make more controversial and inimical decisions and would also soon dissolve the National Constitutional Assembly or hurt its members.

Storming the Bastille Prison came as the ultimate sign of rebellion because it is in this prison that political dissenters were held, often arbitrarily without charges or trial. The prison was also a bastion that stocked ammunition and gunpowder. This was seized by the Parisians and used to stage the French Revolution.

The Parisians were soon joined by the French Guards (Gardes Françaises) who had turned mutinous. The day turned bloody as many were killed in the violence. The incident remains a turning point in French history. Soon after, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen) was proclaimed. The French Revolution resulted in the abolition of monarchy and the establishment of the first republic.

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