From Crisis to Revolution: France 1774-1799 - HIST6012

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


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 Primary Source Critique (2,000 words) (30%)
Essay 2 Historiographical Analysis (3,000 words) (50%)
Presentation 1 (10%)
Presentation 2 (10%)

Reassessment methods:
Reassessment Instrument: 100% coursework

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List:

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

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

1 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. Students will obtain knowledge of the most important relevant episodes of the history of the period, and some of the historiographical debates surrounding the subject.
2 Students will develop their ability to discuss the issues that are raised in the module, and to present their work. 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.
3 Demonstrated a broad conceptual command of the course, and a thorough and systematic understanding of the latest research.
4 Demonstrated their capacity to assess and critically engage with primary sources.
5 Demonstrated independent learning skills by giving two compulsory presentations which will make use of a wide range of high-level resources, including up-to-date research in peer-reviewed journals, secondary literature, information technology, relevant subject bibliographies and other primary and secondary sources.
6 The ability to analyse key texts and other materials critically at a high level, through the production of two compulsory essays.

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

1 Enhanced their ability to express complex ideas and arguments which can be transferred to other areas of study and employment.
2 Enhanced communication, presentational skills and information technology skills.
3 Demonstrate the acquisition of an independent learning style when engaging with the course content, for example in the preparation and presentation of course work, , in compiling, with expert guidance, bibliographies and other lists of research materials, by showing the ability to reflect on their own learning and by mediating complex arguments.
4 Analyse, discuss, and demonstrate cogent understanding of central texts and, subsequently, assemble and present arguments based on this analysis; by virtue of this process, students will demonstrate their understanding of debates which surround the core themes of this module.
5 Approach problem solving creatively, and form critical and evaluative judgments through the delivery of two compulsory presentations about the appropriateness of these approaches and historiographical debates.
6 Present the outcomes of the research and learning in two compulsory essays that synthesize specialist knowledge in cogent fashion in a variety of settings and contexts.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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