Bastille (băstēl´) [O.Fr.,=fortress], fortress and state prison in Paris, located, until its demolition (started in 1789), near the site of the present Place de la Bastille. It was begun c.1369 by Hugh Aubriot, provost of the merchants [mayor] of Paris under King Charles V. Arbitrary and secret imprisonment by lettre de cachet gave rise to stories of horror, but actually the Bastille was generally used for persons of influence, and its regime for most political prisoners was mild. As a symbol of absolutism the Bastille was hated. It had strategic importance, for its guns commanded one of the gates of Paris. On July 14, 1789, a Parisian crowd stormed the Bastille in the hope of capturing ammunition. The governor was killed; the seven inmates, none of them political prisoners, were freed. The storming of the Bastille marks the beginning of the French Revolution, and July 14—Bastille Day—became the national holiday of republican France.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Bastille: Selected full-text books and articles

The Spirit of Revolution in 1789 By Cornwell B. Rogers Princeton University Press, 1949
Librarian's tip: Chap. V "The Capture of the Bastille"
Paris: Capital of Europe: From the Revolution to the Belle Epoque By Johannes Willms; Eveline L. Kanes Holmes & Meier, 1997
Librarian's tip: "July 14 and Its Consequences" begins on p. 44
The Crowd in the French Revolution By George Rudé Oxford University Press, 1967
Librarian's tip: Chap. IV "July 1789"
Historical Dictionary of the French Revolution 1789-1799 By Samuel F. Scott; Barry Rothaus Greenwood Press, vol.1, 1985
Librarian's tip: "Bastille" begins on p. 68
The Oxford History of the French Revolution By William Doyle Oxford University Press, 1990
Librarian's tip: Discussion of the Bastille begins on p. 110
The Making of Revolutionary Paris By David Garrioch University of California Press, 2002
Librarian's tip: Includes discussion of the Bastille in multiple chapters
Blood in the City: Violence and Revelation in Paris, 1789-1945 By Richard D. E. Burton Cornell University Press, 2001
Librarian's tip: Includes discussion of the Bastille in multiple chapters
Cultures in Conflict: The French Revolution By Gregory S. Brown Greenwood Press, 2003
Librarian's tip: Discussion of the Bastille begins on p. 4
Looking for a topic idea? Use Questia's Topic Generator
Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.