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The Bastille was a fortress in Paris. It played an important role in the internal conflicts of France and for most of its history was used as a state prison by the kings of France. It was stormed by a crowd on 14 July 1789, in the French Revolution, becoming an important symbol for the French Republican movement. It was later demolished and replaced by the Place de la Bastille.

The Bastille was built to defend the eastern approach to the city of Paris from potential English attacks during the Hundred Years' War. Construction was underway in 1357, but the main construction occurred from 1370 onwards, creating a strong fortress with eight towers that protected the strategic gateway of the Porte Saint-Antoine on the eastern edge of Paris. The innovative design proved influential in both France and England and was widely copied. The Bastille figured prominently in France's domestic conflicts, including the fighting between the rival factions of the Burgundians and the Armagnacs in the 15th century, and the Wars of Religion in the 16th. The fortress was declared a state prison in 1417; this role was expanded first under the English occupiers of the 1420s and 1430s, and then under Louis XI in the 1460s. The defences of the Bastille were fortified in response to the English and Imperial threat during the 1550s, with a bastion constructed to the east of the fortress. The Bastille played a key role in the rebellion of the Fronde and the battle of the faubourg Saint-Antoine, which was fought beneath its walls in 1652.

Louis XIV used the Bastille as a prison for upper-class members of French society who had opposed or angered him including, after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, French Protestants. From 1659 onwards, the Bastille functioned primarily as a state penitentiary. Although inmates were kept in relatively good conditions, criticism of the Bastille grew during the 18th century, fueled by autobiographies written by former prisoners. Reforms were implemented and prisoner numbers were considerably reduced. On July 14, 1789 the Bastille was stormed by a revolutionary crowd, primarily residents of the faubourg Saint-Antoine who sought to commandeer the valuable gunpowder held within the fortress. Over the next century, the site and historical legacy of the Bastille featured prominently in French revolutions, political protests and popular fiction, and it remained an important symbol for the French Republican movement.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Historical events-- artifacts, 1750-1945. University of Georgia Main Library
referencedIn Morton, James Douglas, Earl of, 1702-1768. Papers of the Earl of Morton, 1745-1807. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
creatorOf Bastille. Records of the Bastille, 17th-18th centuries. Library of Congress
creatorOf La Bastille. Clippings from Le Français, 1878, pasted in book. Princeton University Library
referencedIn Louis XIV, King of France, 1638-1715. Louis XIV decree, 1665. Louisiana State University, LSU Libraries
referencedIn Cities National Archives at College Park
referencedIn Collin d'Harleville, M. (Jean François), 1755-1806. Plays of the French Revolution period, 1781-1802 (bulk 1789-1799). Cornell University Library
referencedIn Morton, James Douglas, Earl of, 1702-1768. Papers of the Earl of Morton, 1745-1807. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Place Name Admin Code Country
Paris A8 FR

Corporate Body

Establishment 1380s

Disestablishment 1789-07-14



Ark ID: w64k15pb

SNAC ID: 85563101