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The Revolutionary Storming

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Why did the people stormed the Bastille and how important was the storming to the start of the revolution?

The French Revolution in 1789 changed France and “equalized” the rights of the people. One of the major events that started it was the storming of the Bastille on July 14th, 1789. This day represented the French revolution because it showed us the public’s sprit of rebellion. Rumors were everywhere during that period of time and therefore, most people were able to hear of the horrific and secret Bastille. In reality, the Bastille was not as horrible as all the rumors and paintings had described. Are the rumors the reason the people stormed the Bastille? Was the storming of the Bastille significant to the French revolution? In fact, there were a few reasons that contributed to the storming of the Bastille and they showed the importance of it to the start of the revolution.

The Bastille was a huge structure situated in the East of Paris. (Source 6) It was a prison built in the 14th century to guard Paris, but by the 18th century, the Bastille had become a prison. Throughout the 18th century, there were never more than 40 prisoners, and most of them were served with short sentences. On July 14, 1789, during the storming of the Bastille, there were only 7 prisoners and two of them were insane. But to most people in 1789, the Bastille was a somber scary place. Why do the people think that way? To the authors, sculptors and painters who glorified the taking of the Bastille, it was a dark and secret castle that prisoners will never return. (Source 3) Also, people heard of horrible experiences and lives in the Bastille, such as starving, extreme coldness, torturing etc. Therefore, authors and artists drew, write and sculpt about what they think the scary and secret prison. For art works, a famous representative will be the Bastille in Paris by Jean-Pierre Houel (Source 1), and it showed the darkness of the torturing prison.

As for eyewitness account, Constantine de Renneville, a middle class tax official who was incarcerated in 1702, wrote the poem “The Bastille as a Symbol of Tyranny”. He said that he suffered in the Bastille and he sleeps with rats on damp straw, eat only bread and water, and was exposed to extreme cold. (Source 2) These art works and paragraphs were spread widely to the society and rumor started spreading over Paris. There will not be any way we could see the truth of the events, but I suspect he was spreading fake rumors about the Bastille for the king to fear the people, as modern historians already proved the rumors were used to fear people. A lot of historians think that the rumors are the reason why the Parisians stormed the Bastille because these rumors showed people the king’s control. Therefore, they hated the Bastille, as it symbolized the king’s power. (Source 4)

On the other hand, some historians like George Rude claimed the reason for the storming of the Bastille was because people saw troops of the foreign countries, and thought Louis XVI was going to attack Paris with the help of foreign armies. Rude stated in his book The French Revolution “The immediate aim was to find the powder which had been sent there from the arsenal…” he claimed that the Parisians did not aim to storm the Bastille at first, and planned to negotiate with the government. All they wanted was the gunpowder to defend themselves. Rude also claimed “It was rumored that during the night troops had marched into Faubourg …begun to slaughter its citizens.” And therefore, the people were frightened and decided to take the gunpowder to defend against the foreign troops. (Source 8)

No matter the reasons why the Bastille got stormed, modern historians have strong debate against how significant the storming of Bastille was. A history teacher Miss Lavelle claimed the soldiers refused to stop the storming by attacking their own country’s citizen was a symbol of the king lost control of the French army (source 7), hence, a lot of historians such as Robert W. Brown (source 5), Barry Vale that wrote the article “Bastille stormed 1789” and Lavelle think the storming of the Bastille is extremely significant as the start of the French Revolution, since the revolution was to abolish the king’s power. Also, Bastille Day is a national holiday of France and originated from the Storming of the Bastille on July 14th. This, to me, indicates that most people will agree that the storming of the Bastille was important, because there are even anniversaries for the event to remember people from the French Revolution.

On the other side, historians like _Steven Kreis_ and Sally Waller think that the storming of Bastille was not the start of the French revolution. Kreis didn’t even mention the Bastille and to me, it indicates that he doesn’t think it was significant as the start of the French revolution at all. While on the other hand, Waller mentioned the Bastille, but she clearly stated that she thinks the start of the revolution was the calling of the estate generals and tennis court oath, while the storming of the Bastille that happened on July 14th, 1789 was what developed from the outbreak of the French revolution.

As for source 4, the mobs were angry because the governor did not return when they asked him for the permission to get into ammunition for the gunpowder. It indicates that the storming of the Bastille is not important to the start of the revolution because the people stormed the Bastille just to protect themselves, not because they wanted to abolish the king’s power. At the same time, source 6 stated that ironically, on July 14th, Louis XVI in the comfort of his palace, he was unaware of the event happening, he wrote nothing on his diary for the day. This shows that, to Louis XVI, and some people at that period of time, the storming of the Bastille was nothing and not important at all, and therefore, it supports some historians’ point, that the storming of the Bastille was not important to the start of the revolution.

I personally think that both the rumors of the Bastille that made people hated the Bastille, and the fear of the people due to the foreign troops contributed to the storming of the Bastille. Because, the sources indicates that due to the low intelligence level of the people during the period of time compared to nowadays, and with an additional influence of their hunger, they could have believed in the rumors blindly to “save” themselves from starving. Therefore I think they most likely attacked the Bastille because they hated it as a symbol of the king’s power. On the other hand, as they were frightened when the foreign troops marched into the city, they most probably were nervous and would want to find a way to defend themselves. Plus, the governor didn’t return when the crowd was asking for the gunpowder, so they were even more worried and that’s why they stormed the Bastille.

Therefore, I think that both of the perspective contributed to the storming of the Bastille. As for the start of the French revolution, I agree that the storming of the Bastille is significantly important to the start of the French revolution. The French revolution started because the people wanted equality and wanted to abolish the king’s power, and the storming of the Bastille made the king lost his control of the French army. It is the start of the king losing his power, and after the storming of Bastille, events started to happen and the king started to lose his power slowly. As the storming of Bastille became one of the most famous events in the history and was assigned as the national holiday of France afterwards, it also shows the importance of the storming of the Bastille as the start of the French revolution. And therefore, I agree that it was extremely significant to the start of the French revolution.

We do not have a chance to see what exactly happened during on July 14th, 1789, but I see no doubt on the significance of the storming of the Bastille and how it is the symbol of French Revolution, because that was how people “took over” the king’s power, as they was in control of the symbol of king’s power, the Bastille.

SOURCE 1:

Early prisons were dark, forbidding places designed for torture and punitive confinement, as depicted in this painting of the Bastille in Paris by Jean-Pierre Houel. Officials did not expect prisoners to return to society and made no attempt to rehabilitate them.

ORIGIN: This painting is painted by Jean-Pierre Houel

PURPOSE: This source is a painting depicting the Bastille in Paris.

VALUE: Paintings are sometimes reliable because they can effectively capture the spirit of a time. This source also contains evidence about the Bastille, and even if it is not true, it provides us with example of art styles of the time. Also, this painting can show how Jean-Pierre Houel felt about the Bastille and provide us with his opinion. As Jean-Pierre Houel lives during the same period of time, this source will be a primary source. Primary source are sometime more reliable compared to secondary source, because they get first hand information on the events. Therefore, this makes the source quite reliable.

LIMITATIONS: By looking at the limitations of the source, we could find a lot of possibilities that might affect the accuracy of the source. Paintings are produced by an artist with his own definite point of view, therefore, this source is biased, as it is affected by Jean-Pierre Houel’s point of view and opinions. Also, this particular painting is a limited source because

it only describe one aspect of the event. As artists are not generally concerned with providing an account of historical event, the source will be more emotional and artistic rather than historically recording the details of the Bastille. This causes the source to be less reliable. Also, artists drew the paintings to sell, therefore, they have to make the painting artistic and nice. When they do it, they might miss out some significant details of the Bastille, this also will make the source less accurate. Therefore, this source might not be that reliable, lacking a lot of accuracy.

Jean-Pierre Houel. _The Bastille in Paris_.

SOURCE 2:

The Bastille as a Symbol of Tyranny

Mortals, be frightened by this image of hell, A tyrant rules here, the devil is his slave, For Satan punishes only the guilty, But Bernaville may cut down Innocence herself.

“Under an opening in the wall, I saw human bones; it was like a cemetery, and since I found the cellar in parts without paving, I dug and found a corpse wrapped in rags . . . the warder said that they had kept the sorry remains in his cell; two other men and one woman had suffered the same fate.”

This poem accompanied an account of the Bastille by Constantine de Renneville, a middle class tax official who was incarcerated in 1702 for
spying for the Dutch government.

ORIGIN: This is a poem and a passage by Constantine de Renneville, a middle class tax official who was incarcerated in 1702 for spying for the Dutch government.

PURPOSE: The purpose of Constantine de Renneville is not clearly stated. It might be telling people how tough his life in the Bastille was.

VALUE: The source is written by Constantine de Renneville, which is an eyewitness account of the Bastille, because he was even imprisoned in the Bastille. This makes the source seems reliable as he experienced the life in the Bastille. This source chronicles the experiences and feelings of Renneville and offers an emotional appeal, allowing readers to identify closely. This provides us with at least Renneville’s opinion on the Bastille. Therefore, this source is valuable, generally reliable but lack affirmative accuracy.

LIMITATIONS: As the kings want people to fear him, he might order Renneville to spread rumor on the horrible life in Bastille when he came out. This possibility makes the source inaccurate because if so, then Renneville will be hiding the fact. Also, as it is written by one individual, there might be bias and might be affected by his own opinion and feeling. Therefore, the source might lack accuracy and will not be too reliable for this particular question.

Source 3:

“The Bastille was a prison, built of stone, it had eight round towers, with it”s highest tower being seventy-three feet. It was built as a defensive fort against the British, and was not converted into a prison until under the rule of Charles VI. TO THE AUTHORS, SCULPTORS AND PAINTERS WHO GLORIFIED THE TAKING OF THE BASTILLE, IT WAS A DARK AND SECRET CASTLE, WHERE PRISONERS NEVER RETURNED FROM. EACH PRISONER HUNG FROM SHACKLES UNTIL THEIR DRIED BONES WERE PUSHED INTO A CORNER, BUT THE BASTILLE WAS NOTHING LIKE THAT IN REALITY.

It was a prison for nobility, clergy, the occasional scandalous author, and juvenile delinquents whose parents had asked for them to be kept there. Most prisoners had more money spent on them, then it took for an average Parisian to subsist. The living quarters were octagonal rooms, sixteen feet in diameter. Pets were allowed to deal with the vermin, and prisoners were allowed furnishings, clothes, and other personal belongings. Even one of the most infamous criminals, the demented Marquis de Sade, made his home their, receiving his wife and other visitors on a regular basis.”

“Essay on World History. College Papers, Research Papers on The Reign of Terror and the French Revolution.” _Dream Essays: Custom Term Paper and Essay Writing Firm_. Web. 28 Sept. 2009. .

ORIGIN: This is a secondary source. An essay/Term paper on the reign of terror and the French revolution.

PURPOSE: The purpose of this source is for education. It is a source to teach people, so it is

rather reliable and there shouldn’t be bias because educational sources are suppose to be impartial.

VALUE: It is educational sources so there won’t be bias and therefore it’s reliable. It is rather reliable because it is a term paper and if it is not accurate enough, marks will be deducted. As this secondary source is written long time after the event, there will be a lot of available sources and might help to make the paper more accurate. Therefore, this source should be generally reliable.

LIMITATIONS: It is counted as a secondary source because it isn’t an eyewitness source, but it doesn’t mean it is not reliable if it’s a secondary source. Secondary source might be wrong because as time passed, information changes and if it’s verbally passed from generations to generations, then it might not be as accurate as it was. Therefore, I think this source is mostly reliable, but not completely reliable.

SOURCE 4:

“When prisoners were released from the walls of the Bastille, they were allowed to go only if they agreed never to tell what they had seen or what had happened inside the feared prison. This lack of knowledge about the Bastille helped to create a mystique of horror and terror that the King could use to coerce certain things out of people. However, the reality of the Bastille was much different than the mystique created by the King. All of the rooms until the year 1701 were left unfurnished. Wealthy political prisoners were allowed to bring in their own furniture, many even brought their own servants with them. Meals were of generous proportions, and more luxurious meals could be bought if the prisoner was wealthy enough. Most prisoners were docile. They were allowed to walk freely around the fortress, talk with officers and other prisoners and play games. Many had their own personal hobbies, and a few were even allowed to visit the city of Paris on parole. The Bastille was much more comfortable, even homelike, than the horrific rumors that circled around France proclaimed.”

Smith, Brian. “History of the Bastille.” _Essortment Articles: Free Online Articles on Health, Science, Education & More.._ 2002. Web. 18 Sept. 2009. .

ORIGIN: This is a secondary source. It is a brief summary of the history of the Bastille.

PURPOSE: The purpose of this source is for education. As its purpose is to educate people, it will be rather reliable and there shouldn’t be bias because educational sources are suppose to be impartial.

VALUE: It is educational sources so there won’t be bias and therefore it’s reliable. As this secondary source is written long time after the event, there will be a lot of available sources and might help to make the paper more accurate. Therefore, this source should be generally reliable.

LIMITATIONS: It is counted as a secondary source because it isn’t an eyewitness source, but it doesn’t mean it is not reliable if it’s a secondary source. Secondary source might be wrong because as time passed, information changes and if it’s verbally passed from generations to generations, then it might not be as accurate as it was. Therefore, I think this source should be rather reliable, lacking some accuracy.

Source 5:

Brown, Robert W. “The French Revolution.” _T he University of North Carolina at Pembroke_. Web. 26 Sept. 2009. .

(The reason I chose this: Please refer to source 4’s analysis value.)

Source 6:

An ironic discovery that was made was the entry in King Louis XVI’s diary for that particular date. In the comfort of his Palace at the Versailles he was unaware of the impact of the events that were taking place in Paris and the effects that they would have on the future course of the country’s fate he wrote “July 14th; nothing”.

“French Revolution Storming the Bastille.” _Translation Services | Interpreters | Intercultural Communication | Cross Cultural Training_. Web. 28 Sept. 2009. .

(The reason I chose this: Please refer to source 4’s analysis value.)

Source 7:

Lavelle. “The Revolution Begins.” _SchoolHistory.co.uk – online history
lessons, revision, games, worksheets, quizzes and links._ Web. 22 Sept. 2009. .

(The reason I chose this: Please refer to source 4’s analysis value.)

Source 8:

Royalist historians have scoffed at the picture of thousands of Parisians hurling themselves at the Bastille to release a handful of prisoners. But such criticism falls somewhat wide of the mark. The immediate aim was to find the powder which had been sent there from the arsenal – all the more urgent after the large haul of muskets taken from the Invalids. Other motives no doubt played a part. It was believed that the fortress was heavily manned; its guns, which that morning were trained on the Rue St Antoine, could play havoc among the crowded tenements; besides, it was rumored that during the night troops had marched into the Faubourg and had already begun to slaughter its citizens. Moreover, though it had ceased to harbour more than a tickle of state prisoners, the Bastille was widely hated as a simple of ministerial despotism.

Rude, George. _The French Revolution_. New York: Grove. Print. (pg 54)

(The reason I chose this: Please refer to source 4’s analysis value.)

Source 9 :

Kreis, Steven. “Lecture 11: The Origins of the French Revolution.” _The History Guide — Main_. 2000. Web. 28 Sept. 2009. .

(The reason I chose this: Please refer to source 4’s analysis value.)

Source 10:

FRANCE IN REVOLUTION, 1776-1830 By Sally Waller

Waller, Sally. _Heinemann Advanced History_. New York: Heinemann Educational, 2002. Print.

(The reason I chose this: Please refer to source 4’s analysis value.)

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Brown, Robert W. “The French Revolution.” _The University of North Carolina at Pembroke_. Web. 26 Sept. 2009. .

“Essay on World History. College Papers, Research Papers on The Reign of Terror and the French Revolution.” _Dream Essays: Custom Term Paper and Essay Writing Firm_. Web. 28 Sept. 2009. .

“French Revolution Storming the Bastille.” _Translation Services | Interpreters | Intercultural Communication | Cross Cultural Training_. Web. 28 Sept. 2009. .

Jean-Pierre Houel. _The Bastille in Paris_.

Kreis, Steven. “Lecture 11: The Origins of the French Revolution.” _The History Guide — Main_. 2000. Web. 28 Sept. 2009. .

Lavelle. “The Revolution Begins.” _SchoolHistory.co.uk – online history lessons, revision, games, worksheets, quizzes and links._ Web. 22 Sept. 2009. .

Rude, George. _The French Revolution_. New York: Grove. Print.

Smith, Brian. “History of the Bastille.” _Essortment Articles: Free Online Articles on Health, Science, Education & More.._ 2002. Web. 28 Sept. 2009. .

Waller, Sally. _Heinemann Advanced History_. New York: Heinemann Educational, 2002. Print.

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