What Actually Happened on Bastille Day, Anyway?

Today marks the French national holiday of Bastille Day. For those who may not know, Bastille Day commemorates the beginning of the French Revolution with the fall of the fortress of Bastille on July 14, 1789. During the unrest and revolution of 1789, a citizen mob approached the Bastille to demand the weapons stored there and the release of prisoners. While the storming and capture of the Bastille signaled the beginning of the French Revolution, and has also come to symbolically signal the end of the ancien régime. July 14, often called la fête nationale in France, became an official holiday in 1880. 

There is a well quoted remark (now debunked, but nonetheless profound) associated with former Chinese premier, Zhou Enlai, who, when asked to comment on the French Revolution during a visit by Richard Nixon in 1972, said it “was too early to tell”. Whether this statement is true or not, it speaks to an event that is paramount to the role of the state and democracy in modern history; the defeat of absolutism; and victory of tyranny by the masses. The French Revolution is but a mere peg in the wheel of history, but nonetheless a very important one.  

Have a look at a quick and humorous video compiled by Slate Magazine that briefly summarizes the events and significance of July 14, 1789.


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