From Crisis to Revolution: France 1774-1799 - HIST6011

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2024 to 2025
Spring Term 5 30 (15) Ambrogio Caiani checkmark-circle


The French Revolution was one of the great turning points of European history. Indeed the deputies of the National Assembly claimed that the year 1789 marked the beginning of a new modernity. They consciously rejected the past by dismissing it as an 'ancien régime' or old order. This module will seek to understand and question this claim. It will examine critically the last decades of the Bourbon monarchy and ask if the term 'crisis' is an adequate description of this period. It will then turn to the revolutionaries' ambitious programme of reform which sought to remould not only the institutional and governmental landscape of France but the very underpinnings of daily life. The Revolution deployed rapidly a new armoury of political concepts such as: national sovereignty, secular state and rights of man. Such innovations threw political legitimacy, deference towards social elites and the relationship between church & state into a dangerous state of flux. The module will examine the process by which an initially liberal agenda of freedom, tolerance and pluralism succumbed quickly to factional expediency, international warfare and political terror. It will also introduce students to some of the historiographic battlegrounds and stakes which have divided scholars of the French Revolution during the past two centuries.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 30
Private study hours: 270
Total study hours: 300

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods:
Essay 1 Thematic (2,000 words) (30%)
Essay 2 Analytical Case Based (3,000 words) (50%)
Presentation 1 (10%)
Presentation 2 (10%)

Reassessment methods:
Reassessment Instrument: 100% coursework

Indicative reading

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The most up to date reading list for each module can be found on the university's reading list pages (

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge of the political, intellectual, cultural and social developments in Revolutionary France from 1774 to 1799
2 Understand the utility and importance of assessing the specific historical developments in political thought in France during the late eighteenth century.
3 Confidently evaluate, with a variety of interpretations and perspectives pertaining to the module topic
4 Build an understanding of the themes and key achievements of the French Revolution.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Construct analytical arguments based on an evaluation of reviews and secondary literature so as to communicate and understand these clearly.
2 Manage their own learning with both expert guidance and own initiative by reading the most relevant scholarly materials and understanding pertinent historical interpretations.
3 Identify a range of solutions involving different types of secondary literature and abstract concepts in order to make evaluations about complex issues in different contexts
4 Analyse and assimilate significant and pertinent quantities of data, enabling them to undertake appropriate further training of an academic nature


  1. Credit level 5. Intermediate level module usually taken in Stage 2 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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