have fun storming the castle!

July 14, 2009

today is bastille day, a french national holiday commemorating the storming of the bastille on july 14, 1789, a symbolically important event in the early stages of the french revolution. now, i am not even close to an expert on french history. in fact, in reading the wikipedia article on bastille day, i’m seeing things that seem important (like the tennis court oath), but i have no memory of their actual historical importance. look, guys, the french revolution was complicated. it had lots of players and lots of phases. i’m not remotely qualified to break it all down for you.

what i can tell you is that 1789 is considered a turning point in world history generally, and in european history particularly. 1789 is generally given as the start of the “modern” period and the long 19th century (1789 – 1914). the french revolution gave rise to robespierre and the terror; to napoleon and his imperial ambitions, which directed european politics and international relations until 1815 and weakened or brought down the spanish empire and the holy roman empire; and to a new kind of nationalist republicanism that so frightened europe’s other imperial powers that it provoked a crackdown (as seen in the settlements reached at the congress of vienna) throughout europe that emphasized the conservative order and imperial control over liberal republicanism–although issues of nationalism and liberalism would percolate throughout the 19th century and periodically flare up in more dramatic ways, such as in the revolutions of 1848, and would come to dominate european politics in the 20th century.


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