France in the Age of Revolution, 1789-1871
The French Revolution has long been considered a foundational event in modern world history. But 1789 was only the beginning of France’s long revolutionary experience. From the outbreak of revolution in the summer of 1789 to the end of the bloody Paris Commune in May 1871, the French brought about at least four revolutionary changes of government. In this course, we will explore why this period in French history was so incredibly tumultuous, following France and its colonial empire through three different republics, three monarchies, and two Napoleonic empires between 1789 and 1871.
We will begin with the crises of the Old Regime in the eighteenth century and the unfolding of the Revolution itself, and then examine the legacies of 1789 through the nineteenth-century “age of revolution.” Social and cultural change was no less dramatic than political life in this period, as France saw profound shifts in relationships between men and women, wealthy and poor, urban and rural dwellers, Parisians and provincials, artists and audiences, and metropolitan and colonized peoples. As we trace changing political ideas and practices from the fall of the Bastille to the last convulsions of the Paris Commune, we will consider the ways that industrialization, urbanization, the rise of mass culture, and colonial expansion helped to reshape French conceptions of national identity, rights and citizenship, and democracy itself.
Our main work for the semester will consist of interactive bi-weekly class meetings that combine lecture with discussion of readings, films, and other activities. We will use Tyler Stovall’s Transnational France as our guiding text, but spend a great deal of our time analyzing primary source documents, novels (Honoré de Balzac’s Eugénie Grandet, and Claire Duras’s Ourika), works by historians (including Alain Corbin, The Village of Cannibals), and films (Les Misérables, Gérminal). In addition to class participation, graded assignments will include weekly reading response posts, a group research project and short (4-5 page) individual essay on the French Revolution, three hourly tests, and a take-home final exam.