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HIST1020 The French Revolution

Module Overview

It can be difficult to reconcile the two most famous achievements of the French Revolution - the declaration of the rights of man and citizen of 1789 and the use of the guillotine to crush dissent in 1793-4. This module offers you an introduction to the complexities of this subject. First, we seek to grasp the eighteenth-century world in which the revolution took place; then we consider the principal features of the Revolution up to 1794 and identify the challenges that led to its radicalisation. The rest of the module invites you to think about three questions: 1) how committed were the revolutionaries to the idea of equality; 2) what explains the slide into Terror and execution in 1793; and 3) how deeply did the Revolution shape the daily life of French people?

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• introduce you to the social and political reality of late eighteenth-century France • enable you to consider the merits of various historical approaches to that past • provide an opportunity for you to study a detailed topic, which will complement your learning in the spine modules of the first year of study – Historiography, History and its Sources, and Uses and Abuses of History – which seek to introduce you to the study and writing of history.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • the social and political reality of late eighteenth-century France.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • describe and assess various historical approaches to the period
  • display and utilise the historiographical skills necessary to proceed to a study of History at level 2 of the undergraduate degree.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • present an effective argument orally and defend a reasoned point of view
  • synthesise a wide variety of material and present the synthesis in written form
  • prepare for an unseen test of your understanding of a restricted body of material and present that understanding in written form
  • recover, digest and to make use of information drawn from a wide variety of sources.


On this module, we will consider:  the nature of the ancien régime and its final collapse in spring 1789  the passage from constitutional monarchy to republic and the public figures involved in that process  the inevitability of the Terror of 1793  changing notions of citizenship and the question of its inclusivity or exclusivity  the place of ideas and culture in the 'new regime'  religion and the Church  war and foreign policy  counter-revolution and the civil war in the Vendée. Historiographically, you will be invited to consider the relative merits of ‘orthodox’ and ‘revisionist’ positions on the causes and nature of the Revolution, and thus to discuss the primary motors of revolutionary change in eighteenth-century France.

Special Features

Lectures will provide you with a narrative structure and introduce key debates and approaches to the topic. Seminars will encourage you to discuss these ideas, and the sources on which they are based, in more depth, as well as developing your oral communication skills through whole group discussions, and your group-work skills through sub-group work. The use of small ‘buzz’ groups in each tutorial will increase the level of participation available to all students and will provide a context in which you must express and defend opinions based on reading of primary and secondary sources. The inclusion of a 2000 word essay and written examination as formal assessment will test and measure your ability to  synthesize large amounts of material  express yourself in written form  construct a convincing argument using the available evidence, in coherent prose and with close attention to the presentation of your work. The written assignments also enable you to receive feedback from your tutor. The examination will test, under the pressure of time, the skills and knowledge you have developed.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • lecture • tutorials The module consists of 20 contact hours involving (subject to timetabling constraints) 10 plenary double sessions in which the first hour takes the form of a lecture and the second hour the form of a tutorial discussion, usually involving an analysis of one or more primary sources. The lecture component will take the traditional monologue form, complemented by the use of images and structured readings of primary source material. Discussion in tutorials will be facilitated by the breaking down of the plenary group into study cells, each comprising no more than six students. Analysis of documents and understanding of secondary source material will proceed from small group discussion in the study cells to a whole group feedback session, thus maximizing your participation in the teaching and learning process.

Independent Study126
Total study time150



MethodPercentage contribution
Commentary exercise  (1000 words) 20%
Essay  (2000 words) 40%
Examination  (1 hours) 40%


MethodPercentage contribution
Analytical essay 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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