Free thoughts on language learning

Discussions on learning Spanish, English and other language issues. Occasionally, we may stray from language learning topics if there is something that catches my interest.

Friday, July 14, 2006

French Culture - Bastille Day

Claude Monet, Rue Montorgueil, Paris
Festival of June 30, 1878.
Oil on canvas. Musée d'Orsay, Paris

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July 14th is what we english speakers call Bastille Day. The French refer to this important holiday as either Fête nationale or 14 juillet. On this day in 1789 revolutionaries stormed the infamous Bastille prison that was known for holding political prisoners whose writings had displeased the royal government. In fact, only 7 non-political prisoners were freed that day but still, it is considered to be the beginning of the French Revolution.

The intent was not to free prisoners so much as to aquire arms and ammunition in response to the rumor that the king was moving troops from Versaille to Paris. This rumor turned out to be false. (bad intelligence in any era has consequences...) In spite of the seemingly minor nature of this event King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette two days later fled from Paris to Versaille.

Bastille is an alternate spelling of the word bastide meaning fortification. It's also related to the verb embastiller - to place troops in a prison.

You can see a concise timeline at this link showing the events that lead to Bastille Day and the terrible things that occurred on France's path to representative government. I think we often forget just how hard it is to convince people in power that sharing power is the only long term solution to governing. Read history and one can see that it's neither easy,inevitable nor permanent once achieved.

Now for a few more related links.

Bastille Day History (in French)
Bastille Day Quiz


At 2:30 PM, Blogger cowgirl94 said...

Great blog!!! heey I know this really great website, with lots of educational content of many subjects, including History, and they also have documentaries about the French Revolution. It's really awesome, you should check it out! The website is, but if you wish to see this documentary, just go to:


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