Taking place on the 14th of July 1789, the Storming of the Bastille was a flashpoint moment of the French Revolution. After the Fête de la Fédération celebrated the unity of the French people one year later, Bastille Day has been celebrated on July 14th ever since.

To commemorate the occasion, we’ve delved through the archived content hosted on the Exact Editions platform to learn more about Bastille Day, the French Revolution and its importance to French history and culture.

“The spark that lit the touch paper of revolution”

BBC History Revealed, ‘Prison Break’: October 2021 issue

Storming of the Bastille, 1789, French Revolution
The Storming of the Bastille, 1789

The October 2021 issue of BBC History Revealed is a French Revolution special, with analysis and contributions from historians Marisa Linton, Will Bashor and Spencer Mizen.

Mizen’s article offers a detailed analysis of the revolutionary motivations for the storming of the Bastille. He writes that Bastille “came to be a hated symbol of the ancien régime” and its destruction was a “visible symbol of the dismantling of royal tyranny”.

Read the article, pages 40 to 41, here.

“An important moment for political fashion and its relationship to revolution.

Index On Censorship, “Baggy trousers are revolting”: Vol 45, No 4 issue

sans-culotte 18th Century fashion in France.
A lithograph from the 18th century depicting a sans-culotte

Fashion historian Katy Werlin explores how new styles of clothes played a significant role in the French Revolution, in a 2016 issue of Index on Censorship.

As a “potent visual indicator of social status in the late eighteenth century”, fashion became an effective way to express visual loyalty to the revolution in France. Werlin highlights of the rise in popularity of the “sans-culottes” (“without breeches”) stylistic movement – a “deliberate and highly visible rejection of authority and polite society”.

Read the article, pages 36 to 38, here.

“Art is often described as revolutionary, but is that anything more than a metaphor?”

Tate Etc., “Turn Left for the Revolution”: Autumn 2013 (Issue 29)

The Death of Marat, 1793 Jacques-Louis David
Jacques-Louis David, The Death of Marat (1793)

In the Autumn 2013 issue of Tate Etc, Hari Kunzru explores political art with the French Revolution as his starting point.

Kunzru cites ‘The Death of Marat’ (1793) as an example of how left-wing values can influence the making of art and visual culture. Jacques-Louis David’s painting was used in support of the Republican cause and became an overtly political symbol – changing “the meaning and power of the image forever”.

Read the article, pages 50 to 55, here.

“A centrepiece for the Revolution’s bicentennial celebrations”

Opera, “The Bastille – ‘Vision fugitive’?”: April 1989 issue

Opera Bastille, opera house in Paris France
Opéra Bastille, located in Paris, France

In 1982, French president François Mitterrand aimed to bring Paris back to the centre of the international operatic map with Opéra Bastille, a brand a new opera house in the Bastille area. In attempting to make opera “as accessible as possible to the largest number of people”, the Opéra Bastille was designed to self-consciously evoke many of the French Revolution’s principles.

Writing in Opera, Andrew Clark recognises that this new “theatre of revolutionary design and concept” would anchor the French Revolution’s bicentennial celebrations in 1989.

Read the article, pages 406 to 412, here

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