Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Fall 2017

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

History

First Advisor

David Gross

Second Advisor

Masano Yamashita

Third Advisor

Matthew Gerber

Abstract

On 14 July 1789, a Parisian crowd stormed the Bastille prison in an act of popular violence that is now remembered as one of the most significant events of the French Revolution. During the ensuing five years, the French national memory of the storming of the Bastille was interpreted, guided, and contested by each dominating faction of the Revolution, and gradually came to manifest the central ideals and ironies of the Revolution itself. However, in the historiography of the French Revolution, the formation of this cultural memory has been strangely overlooked. This thesis seeks to fill the gap in the existing scholarship by drawing on a historiographical base that spans both French Revolution and cultural memory studies, as well as a diverse range of primary sources, to explore the cultural memory of the storming of the Bastille as a new vantage point in the study of the Revolution. It covers the years between 1789 and 1794, focusing primarily on the annual anniversary celebrations, in order to illuminate both official and non-official interpretations and influences on this societal memory during the Revolution’s major ideological and political phases. In the process, this thesis reveals the complex nature of the cultural memory of the storming of the Bastille, its crucial role in the ideological developments of the Revolution in the years 1789–1794, and its unique centrality to the French Revolution as a whole.

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