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French Revolution

Storming of the Bastille

History >> French Revolution

The Storming of the Bastille took place in Paris, France on July 14, 1789. This violent attack on the government by the people of France signaled the start of the French Revolution.

What was the Bastille?

The Bastille was a fortress built in the late 1300s to protect Paris during the Hundred Years' War. By the late 1700s, the Bastille was mostly used as a state prison by King Louis XVI.

Painting of the Storming of the Bastille in France
Storming of the Bastille
by Unknown
Who stormed the Bastille?

The revolutionaries who stormed the Bastille were mostly craftsmen and store owners who lived in Paris. They were members of a French social class called the Third Estate. There were around 1000 men who participated in the attack.

Why did they storm the Bastille?

The Third Estate had recently made demands of the king and had demanded that the commoners have more of a say in government. They were worried that he was preparing the French army for an attack. In order to arm themselves, they first took over the Hotel des Invalides in Paris where they were able to get muskets. However, they didn't have gun powder.

The Bastille was rumored to be full of political prisoners and was a symbol to many of the oppression of the king. It also had stores of gunpowder that the revolutionaries needed for their weapons.

Storming the Bastille

On the morning of July 14, the revolutionaries approached the Bastille. They demanded that the military leader of the Bastille, Governor de Launay, surrender the prison and hand over the gunpowder. He refused.

As negotiations drug on, the crowd became agitated. In the early afternoon, they managed to get into the courtyard. Once inside the courtyard, they began to try and break into the main fortress. The soldiers in the Bastille became scared and fired into the crowd. The fighting had began. The turning point in the fight came when some of the soldiers joined the side of the crowd.

De Launay soon realized that the situation was hopeless. He surrendered the fort and the revolutionaries took control.

Were people killed in the battle?

Around 100 of the revolutionaries were killed during the fighting. After surrendering, Governor de Launay and three of his officers were killed by the crowd.


The Storming of the Bastille set off a series of events that led to the overthrow of King Louis XVI and the French Revolution. The success of the revolutionaries gave commoners throughout France the courage to rise up and fight against the nobles who had ruled them for so long.

What does it represent today?

The date of the Storming of the Bastille, July 14, is celebrated today as the French National Day. Similar to the Fourth of July in the United States. In France it is called the "The National Celebration" or "The Fourteenth of July."

Interesting Facts about the Storming of the Bastille Activities

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More on the French Revolution:

Timeline and Events
Timeline of the French Revolution
Causes of the French Revolution
Estates General
National Assembly
Storming of the Bastille
Women's March on Versailles
Reign of Terror
The Directory
Famous People of the French Revolution
Marie Antoinette
Napoleon Bonaparte
Marquis de Lafayette
Maximilien Robespierre

Symbols of the French Revolution
Glossary and Terms

Works Cited

History >> French Revolution

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