Coffee’s Unexpected Role in the French Revolution

The French Revolution not only changed the entire structure of French society, but has influenced politics across the world ever since, paving the way for modern political structures that we take for granted today. What is surprising is the role coffee played in the events of the 18th century.

Many of the ideals and philosphies came out of The Age of Enlightenment, one of the main centres of which was in Paris, the Café Procope. It was here that the symbol of liberty, the Phrygian cap, was first displayed and notable figures such as Robespierre, Danton and Marat met.

Another major turning point in the war was the storming of the Bastille, an event that would never have taken place had the Marquis de Sade not been denied his request for coffee to help his bowels. Not only did the jailer refuse him but they removed his rump cushion. In response he shouted to the street that the Governor was cutting the throats of all the prisoners.

His shout of frustration led the revolutionaries to target the prison and launch a rescue. The sacking of the Bastille is one of the great events of the French Revolution, but there were only a few political prisoners inside and it has often been seen as more of a symbolic event than a great strategic move. Possibly the words of de Sade triggered this event, meaning he had a greater influence on history than giving us the word sadism!

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