Foreign Policy Watch: India-France

What is Bastille Day?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: World History: French Revolution


Central idea

  • The National Day of France, also known as Bastille Day, is celebrated on July 14 every year.
  • Known as La Fete Nationale or Le 14 Juillet in French, the day is celebrated with fireworks and a parade.
  • One of the most important days in the history of France, it marks the fall of the Bastille, a military fortress and political prison, then considered a symbol of the monarchy and armoury.

French Revolution: A quick recap

  • The French Revolution, which occurred between 1789 and 1799, was a significant period of social and political upheaval in France.
  • The revolution was characterized by a period of radical social and political change, which saw the-
  1. Overthrow of the French monarchy
  2. Establishment of a republic, and
  3. Execution (Guillotine) of thousands of people, including King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette

Fall of the Bastille

  • Symbolism and Discontent: The Bastille, located in Paris, represented the autocratic rule and abuse of power by the monarchy.
  • Rising Unrest: Dissatisfaction with King Louis XVI’s leadership grew, and on July 14, 1789, Parisians gathered at the Bastille.
  • Demands and Confrontation: The crowd demanded the release of political prisoners and access to the fortress’s weapons. The Governor refused, leading to a violent clash.
  • Storming of the Bastille: After hours of fighting, the fortress fell as the people of Paris overwhelmed its defenders.


Do you know?

During the French Revolution, Queen Marie Antoinette reportedly said, “Let them eat cake” when told that the French people were starving and had no bread to eat.

The remark was seen as a symbol of the queen’s aloofness and disregard for the plight of the common people, and it helped fuel resentment towards the monarchy.

This statement alone sparked fury among the French masses leading to the mighty French Revolution.

Significance of the Event

  • Symbol of Triumph: The fall of the Bastille symbolized the people’s victory over the monarchy and the end of the oppressive old regime.
  • Catalyst for Change: This event sparked a period of intense violence and upheaval, paving the way for the revolutionaries to seize power and establish a new order.
  • Socio-political Transformations: The French Revolution led to the abolition of feudalism, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, and the establishment of the First French Republic.
  • Ideological Influence: The revolutionary principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity have left a lasting impact on global political and social movements.

Global Importance of the Event

  • Inspiring Other Nations: The fall of the Bastille became an inspiration for other nations to fight for their own rights and freedom.
  • Spreading Revolutionary Ideals: The French Revolution’s principles resonated globally, influencing subsequent revolutionary movements throughout history.
  • Rise of Democracy: The revolution’s emphasis on individual rights, democratic governance, and social equality has significantly shaped the political and social landscape worldwide.

Try this question from CS Mains 2019:

Explain how the foundation of the modern world was laid by the American and French Revolutions.

Post your answers here.
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