Friday, July 17, 2009

A Little Late, But Still Interesting

Bastille Day: a celebration, yes, but why?

Bastille Day is today, July 14th. It marks the date in 1789 when the mob stormed the hated Royal fortress of the Bastille and freed 8 prisoners while doing so.

The real point of the storming though was not to liberate the prisoners but to gain access to the gunpowder stored therein: this was to be added to the large number of muskets that had already been "liberated" from other stores but which were without that vital additional ingredient.

There are two ways to consider the importance of the day: the first is the traditional one. That it marked the beginning of the overthrow of the Monarchy and the emergence of France into the light and reason of "Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite" and the modern era.

The second is to be more realistic about it. It did indeed mark the beginning of the end for a not very oppressive nor particularly inefficient monarchy, one soon to be superseded by the mass slaughter of the Revolution itself. A Revolution which quickly threw up Napoleon and the series of wars that kept Europe fighting from 1799 to 1815, a period in which millions upon millions died.

A funny thing to celebrate and have parades about but then that's the French for you.

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