The People Emerge: The Storming of the Bastille

Mann, K

Publisher:  Solidarity
Date Written:  18/07/2019
Year Published:  2019  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX23788

A history of the storming of the Bastille emphasizing the revolutionary history that is glossed over in patriotic celebrations.




This year marks the 230th anniversary of the beginning of the French Revolution of 1789. The storming of the Bastille by an angry crowd of Parisians on July 14 of that year has always been the chief symbolic event of the French revolution....

Up until that point, the revolution had been largely an elite affair. The revolutionary process began as the political representatives of the three "estates" the clergy, nobility, and commoners assembled in nearby Versailles to bargain with the Monarch in the spring of 1789. That was a significant affair in its own right; the French monarchy had been powerful enough not to call representatives of the three estates over the previous century, a feature of the absolute rule of the crown. However, by the late 1780s, Louis XVI’s monarchy found itself badly in debt -– largely the result of a series of costly wars aggravated by expensive sinecures and government contracts doled out to royal favorites....

Over the next several years, a series of urban uprisings by the sans-culottes, referred to by French historians as journées, pushed recalcitrant national legislative bodies forward. The pitched battle between an armed royal contingent and thousands of sans-culottes backed up by revolutionary contingents from Marseille and Brittany on August 10, 1792 in the gardens of the Tuileries adjacent to the Louvre, was a precipitating event in the fall of the monarchy.

As the forces of European reaction prepared military intervention against the revolution, the sans-culottes enthusiastically joined the revolutionary armies. These poorly trained but highly motivated “citizens’ armies” scored impressive victories over the much better trained professional armies of Austria and Prussia who were intent on overthrowing France’s revolutionary government.
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