Elucidate the meaning and importance of “Bastille” and “Great Fear” in context with French Revolution.
The Bastille was a Paris prison that came to symbolize everything that was wrong with France and everything that the French people resented about their country. After the Third Estate broke off from the Estates General and formed the National Assembly, the people of Paris grew restless and riots broke out in the city. When King Louis XVI sacked the people’s favorite government minister, Jacques Necker, the violence escalated.
On July 14, 1789, a mob attacked the Bastille, seeking to seize gunpowder and free prisoners. Commander Bernard-René Jordan de Launay refused to surrender, and with a few of his men did his best to defend the Bastille. Finally, however, with the help of a company of deserters from the French army, the mob overran the prison, marched triumphantly through the streets, and executed Launay.
As news of the Bastille’s fall spread, paranoid and agitated peasants rose up against their seigneurs, or noble landlords, attacking the nobles’ houses, destroying records, and even taking hostages. This uprising, called the Great Fear, reached its peak at the end of July. On August 4, the National Assembly abolished the seigneurial system and the peasants settled down. France’s government and customs, however, had been turned upside down, and the country now had to find a new path toward the future.