From Crisis to Revolution: France 1774-1799 - HI6012

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2020 to 2021
Autumn 6 30 (15) DR A Caiani checkmark-circle


The French Revolution continues rightly to be regarded as one the great turning points of modern European History. This course will introduce students to the political, social and economic context of France from the accession of Louis XVI to the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte. It will explore and assess the divergent interpretations for the origins of the revolutionary conflagration of 1789. There will also be an attempt to understand how a revolution based on the triad 'liberty, equally and fraternity,' lost of sight of its humanitarian aspirations and quickly descended into fratricidal political terror and warfare on a trans-European scale. Students will also be encouraged to cast a critical eye on the vexed question of the French Revolution's contribution to modern political culture.


This module appears in the following module collections.

Method of assessment

The module will be assessed by coursework and exam on a 60% coursework and 40% exam ratio.

The coursework component will be assessed by a 2000 word essay based on a primary source (18%), a 3000 word essay (30%), and a presentation based on a primary source and general seminar mark (12%).

The learning outcomes of the module will also be tested in the two–hour exam – which will make up 40% of the final mark for the module.

Indicative reading

Bronislaw Baczko, Ending the Terror: The French Revolution after Robespierre (Cambridge, 1994)
William Doyle, The Oxford History of the French Revolution (any edition)
P.M. Jones, Reform and Revolution in France, The Politics of Transition, 1774–1791 (Cambridge, 1995)
William Doyle, The Origins of the French Revolution (any edition)
Martyn Lyons, France under the Directory (Cambridge, 1975)
R.R. Palmer, Twelve Who Ruled, The Year of the Terror in the French Revolution (any edition)
Munro Price, The Fall of the French Monarchy (London, 2006)
Timothy Tackett, Becoming Revolutionary, The Deputies of the French National Assembly and the Emergence of a Revolutionary Culture 1789 - 1790 (Pennsylvania, 1996)
Simon Schama, Citizens (any edition)
David Andress, The Terror, The Merciless War for Freedom in Revolutionary France (any edition)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

Students will gain the knowledge and conceptual tools to understand and interpret the origins of the French Revolution, and how and why the revolution developed as it did from 1789-1799. They will further obtain a knowledge of the most important relevant episodes of the history of the period, and some of the historiographical debates surrounding the subject. Those taking this module will develop their ability to discuss the issues that are raised in the module, and to present their work in written and oral form. Through exposure to the distinctive nature of late 18th century France, students will gain an enhanced understanding of the diversity of human cultures, and the different situations in which revolutions occur. Through a diversity of sources, students will be exposed to a variety of outlooks and learn about the importance of using a diversity of sources in their research into the past.


  1. Credit level 6. Higher level module usually taken in Stage 3 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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