The Fourteenth of July

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The Fourteenth of July: And the Taking of the Bastille
By Christopher Prendergast
Profile Books £15.99, 205 pages
FT Bookshop price: £12.79

July 14, the day of the storming of the Bastille, has become a symbol of the birth of a certain type of liberty and democracy in western Europe. Of course, as Prendergast points out, the Bastille was never stormed – it surrendered. And it was being attacked in order to gain the valuable gunpowder it stored and to prevent its cannon being fired, rather than to liberate the seven prisoners within its walls.

Part of a series analysing famous moments in history, Prendergast’s detailed exploration of this event has multiple lines of inquiry. He provides brief but stimulating accounts of the day itself, its causes, aftermath, and memorialisation, ranging from eyewitness narratives to scholarly discussion of the role of the newly reformed Estates-General in provoking the crisis. This is a neat and thought-provoking introduction to a key event in European history.

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