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The University of Southampton

HIST6108 France and the World since 1789

Module Overview

The module introduces you to modern French history via its transnational dimensions. You are invited to develop a healthy scepticism towards the stock scholarly narratives of French ‘modernisation’ and the emergence of a stable national identity under the Third Republic (1870-1940). Instead, the module focuses on the ways in which developments in France were intricately bound up with the elsewhere, so that the story of modern France becomes the story of dialogue, display and encounters – among tourists and other kinds of traveller, between coloniser and colonised –, from the Grand Tour and European experience of Napoleonic conquest through the creation of a popular imperialism at the end of the nineteenth century to the jazz clubs of interwar Paris.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • a grasp of the broad outline of French political, cultural and social history since the 1789 French Revolution;
  • a deeper understanding of the kinds of encounters across national boundaries that have shaped French society in that period;
  • a working knowledge of French imperial history and the relationship between ‘metropole’ and colonies;
  • developed your skills in handling different kinds of primary source material;
  • honed your oral and written communication skills, in particular your ability to argue persuasively.


The long nineteenth century has often been characterised in scholarship as a period of nation building and modernisation in France. The Third Republic (1870-1940), which brought enduring democracy after generations of political instability, was famed as the regime that divided the French least, and that by imposing a uniform system of education, conscription and communications managed to turn ‘peasants into Frenchmen’ by 1914. This national historical narrative has been challenged by recent scholars in a number of ways. The revival of the idea of ‘Atlantic revolution’, encompassing late 18th-century developments in the Americas as well as France, has led scholars to consider the importance of the imperial dimension (especially concerning the Caribbean) for our understanding of the 1789 Revolution. Social histories of Napoleonic war and occupation have reminded us of the Europe-wide grassroots experience and transnational legacies of that conflict. And perhaps most fundamentally, historians of empire have pointed to the under-acknowledged multidirectional traffic of peoples, ideas and goods circulating between ‘metropole’ and ‘colonies’ across the modern age. This is to say nothing of the long history of cultural exchange brought about by tourism, print culture and international exhibitions. The module invites you to think about the transnational dimension in modern French history along these lines. Doing so will destabilise the idea that national histories can ever be fixed inside national boundaries. Instead, what we understand as French history has involved a range of encounters and border crossings. Topics are likely to include: • Introduction: contexts • Responses to Revolution • Experiencing and remembering the Napoleonic wars • Travellers in Paris • Empire and popular imperialism • International exhibitions • Gastronomy • Leisure and tourism from the Grand Tour to Club Med • Jazz Age Paris • Asylum and refugees

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

10 weekly double seminars led by student presentations and facilitated by the tutor. Attention will be paid in each seminar to identifying key scholarship and debates, as well as engaging with some primary source material in preparation for the research essay summative assessment.

Preparation for scheduled sessions100
Completion of assessment task26
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Blanchard, Pascal et al (2008). Human Zoos: Science and Spectacle in the Age of Colonial Empires. 

Boittin, Jennifer Anne (2010). Colonial Metropolis: The Urban Grounds of Anti-Imperialism and Feminism in Interwar Paris. 

Dubois, Laurent (2006). Slave revolution in the Caribbean, 1789-1804: a brief history with documents. 

Jennings, Eric T (2006). Curing the colonizers: hydrotherapy, climatology, and French colonial spas. 

Aldrich, R (1996). Greater France: a history of French overseas expansion. 

Sackur, A., and T. Chafer (eds.) (2002). Promoting the colonial idea: propaganda and visions of empire in France. 

Evans, Martin (2004). Empire and culture: the French experience, 1830-1940. 

Forrest, Alan, Karen Hagemann and Jane Rendall, eds (2008). Soldiers, Citizens and Civilians: Experiences and Perceptions of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, 1790-1820. 

Stovall, Tyler (1996). Paris Noir: African Americans in the city of light. 

Everest, K., (ed.) (1991). Revolution in writing: British literary responses to the French Revolution. 

Endy, Christopher (2004). Cold War holidays: American tourism in France. 

Conklin, Alice (2013). In the Museum of Man: Race, Anthropology and Empire in France, 1850-1950. 

Forrest, Alan, et al (eds.) (2012). War Memories: The Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars in Modern European Culture. 

Peer, Shanny (1998). France on display: peasants, provincials, and folklore in the 1937 Paris World’s Fair. 

Jackson, Jeffrey H (2003). Making jazz French: music and modern life in interwar Paris. 

Spang, Rebecca (2000). The Invention of the restaurant: Paris and the modern gastronomic culture. 

Black, Jeremy (2003). France and the grand tour. 

Thomas, Martin (2011). The French colonial mind. Volume 1, Mental maps of empire and colonial encounters. 

Burgess, Greg (2008). Refuge in the land of liberty: France and its refugees, from the revolution to the end of asylum, 1787-1939. 

Harp, Stephen L (2001). Marketing Michelin: advertising and cultural identity in twentieth-century France. 



Seminar presentation


MethodPercentage contribution
Research essay  (4000 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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