1. Bastille Day

Joyeux Quatorze Juillet!

Welcome to The Land of Desire, a French history podcast dedicated to exploring all the weird adventures, mysteries and surprising backstories behind French cultural icons. We’re kicking things off with a bang! Today, France celebrates itself with parades, picnics, and of course, the traditional fireworks. July 14th – “Bastille Day” to Americans –  is the anniversary of the storming of an ancient royal fortress in 1789, which effectively kicked off the French Revolution. But the storming of the Bastille might never have happened if it weren’t for another type of fireworks. For our first episode, let’s learn about the birthplace of the French revolution: Iceland.

Episode 1: Bastille Day

Further Reading:

A Very Present Help in Trouble: The Autobiography of the Fire-Priest (Jón Steingrímsson)

“June 8, 1789: How the ‘Laki-Eruptions’ Changed History” (David Bressan, Scientific American)

“The summer of acid rain” (The Economist)

Local and Global Impacts of the 1783-84 Laki Eruption in Iceland” (Eric Klemetti, Wired)

When Food Changed History: The French Revolution” (Lisa Bramen, Smithsonian)

“Laki: The Forgotten Volcano” (Alexandra Witze) and her guide to visiting Laki



“The eruption that changed Iceland forever” (Tom de Castella, BBC)

Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution (Simon Schama)

A Companion to the French Revolution (Peter McPhee)


The Land of Desire is a French history podcast written, recorded and produced by Diana Stegall. For more information regarding this episode’s production, please contact me and thanks for listening!

Image: Joseph Wright of Derby, Vesuvius in Eruption, with a View over the Islands in the Bay of Naples, circa 1776. Oil on canvas, 122cmx1764cm.

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