Vive la Re´volution! What Bastille Day Can Teach Your History Class

If you’re looking to make history lessons more interactive, why not organise a school trip to Paris in July? It’s the perfect opportunity to teach your class about the history and cultural significance of Bastille Day.
Bastille Day and its History

A French national holiday since 1880, July 14th is known as Bastille Day. It celebrates the storming of the Bastille prison and the start of the 1789 revolution. Prior to the revolution, resentment brewed in France. The bankrupt monarchy was weak and Parisians resented the high taxes that were imposed on them. Over the course of two years, tensions increased until a bid to further raise taxes in May 1789 became the breaking point. The French no longer wanted to live under an absolute power. In a revolutionary act, Parisians stormed the Bastille prison, freeing the political dissidents held there. This was the first step towards dissolving the monarchy and creating the modern French Republic.

Things to do in Paris on Bastille Day

You can make your school trip to Paris an unforgettable experience for your students by taking part in any of these typical Bastille Day rituals.

• Military Parade on Champs-Elysées This traditional march makes it way down the Champs-Elysées to honour the French military. The parade – which includes large tanks, mounted regiments, Air Force planes and artillery units – begins at the Arc de Triomphe and ends in Place de la Concorde. The whole of Paris comes to life, as the festive spirit creates a fantastic atmosphere.

• Fireworks at the Eiffel Tower Another option is to watch the brilliant firework display at the Eiffel Tower. It wouldn’t really be a school trip to Paris without seeing the light show around the capital’s most iconic structure. Most people watch the show from the Champ de Mars, but this can get very crowded. A safer alternative is to gather at the Centre Georges Pompidou viewpoint. The view is equally good, and your students will be able to admire the spectacle more peacefully.

• Visit the Place de la Bastille No school trip to Paris is complete without a stop at the Place de la Bastille. As your students who study the French Revolution in History already know, this is the infamous square where the 1789 revolution took place and the fortress-made-prison was stormed and destroyed. If you head over to the western side of the square, you can see even the ground plan of the Bastille’s tower and fortification on the pavement.

Whichever activity you choose, make sure your class stays together throughout. It might be worth having the children wear distinctive colours or form a buddy system. These areas can get very busy and you don’t want anyone getting lost.

Booking your School Trip to Paris

Organising a class trip is a time-consuming task, but with the expert help of a specialised educational travel tour operator planning an itinerary couldn’t be simpler. They’ll sort out all the logistics, so you can focus on making the experience as beneficial for your students as possible.

John Gardiner is the Managing Director of The School Travel Company, a tour operator specialising in educational travel for school and youth groups. Whether you’re planning a school trip to Paris, New York or India’s Golden Triangle, you can trust both the educational and economic value of their itineraries, whether ready-made or specifically designed to suit the needs of your group.