The Revolutionary Century: France, 1789-1900

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Fall 2007

The Revolutionary Century: France, 1789-1900

Joshua Cole

1640 Haven Hall


Office hours: Thurs, 1-2:30


The revolution of 1789 in France announced the beginning of a new age, in which established social and political traditions were swept away in the name of cultural novelty and political experimentation. Armed with a powerful new model of citizenship and national identity, France’s revolutionaries sought to export their allegedly universal model of modern civilization to the rest of the world, beginning somewhat fitfully in the first half of the nineteenth century with Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt and the conquest of Algeria, and then much more rapidly with French expansion in to Africa and Indochina in the period after 1850. Meanwhile, at home in metropolitan France, repeated attempts across the nineteenth century to create a new revolutionary political order failed, although a stable and relatively conservative form of republican government was established after 1870. Using a variety of sources—auto-biography, historical documents, novels, and recent studies—this class will explore the social and political history of France’s revolutionary century, paying special attention to its resonance beyond France’s European borders, and to the unexpected transformations produced within France as result of these political and social innovations.


The following books are available for purchase at Shaman Drum bookshop:

Jeremy Popkin, A History of Modern France.

George Lefebvre, The Coming of the French Revolution.

Lynn Hunt, ed. The French Revolution and Human Rights.

Alexis de Tocqueville, The Old Regime and the French Revolution.

Laurent Dubois, Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution.

Juan Cole, Napoleon’s Egypt.

Honoré de Balzac, Père Goriot.

Muhammad as-Safar, Disorienting Encounters: Travels of a Moroccan Scholar in France, 1845-1846.

Gustave Flaubert, Flaubert in Egypt: A Sensibility on Tour.

Gay Gullickson, The Unruly Women of Paris.

Emile Zola, The Ladies Paradise.


1. Exams (50 percent of total grade): There will be a mid-term and a final exam. They are each worth 25 percent of the final grade. Each exam will follow the same format, with a mix of True/False, Short Answer, and one longer in-class essay. The final is not cumulative and will cover only material from the second half of the course, though the final exam’s essay question may invite you to reflect on the major themes of the course from the beginning.


2. Final Paper (25 percent of total grade): Every student will be expected to write a 10 page paper on a topic that brings together the readings from at least 2 weeks during the semester. You are free to supplement these readings with research of your own, although this is not a requirement for the assignment. The paper should be double-spaced, paginated, and either typed or printed from a computer. It should have a title-page, a complete bibliography, and all references to the ideas of other scholars should be clearly documented in either footnotes or endnotes. In addition, there are several requirements that every student must fulfill in completing this assignment:

  • Every student will keep a “Work Diary” on a weekly basis, in which they respond to the readings for the week, sketch out possible questions that might be treated in the final paper, and suggest ways in which these questions might be answered. Each weekly diary entry need not be too long (a solid paragraph or two should be sufficient), but it should contain a thoughtful reflection on the material we read for the week, and pose a few good questions that might be pursued later in your final essay. Once you decide which weeks you will use as your point of departure for the final essay, you should continue to respond to subsequent readings, using the same format.

  • You will hand in your Work Diary twice during the semester: once along with your Mid-Term Exam, and again on the last day of class. The Work Diary will only be graded on a “Check-Plus”, “Check”, “Check-Minus” basis, but it will weigh heavily in the determination of your grade for Attendance and Participation. The Work Diary should be typed (NOTE: handwritten diaries will receive no credit).

  • If you are unsure about bibliographic form for the final paper, please consult a reference work such as The Chicago Manual of Style.

  • When you hand in the final paper, please place it in a thick manila envelope together with all your notes and rough drafts. I want to see EVERYTHING, including references to books you decided not to use, library computer printouts, note cards, jotted outlines, revised outlines, final outlines. PLEASE NOTE: THOSE WHO HAND IN A PAPER WITHOUT NOTES WILL RECEIVE NO CREDIT FOR THE ASSIGNMENT. The purpose of this requirement is to prevent academic dishonesty, so document your work carefully, and keep all the evidence! If you want your paper returned to you after the end of the semester, put your address and the appropriate postage on the envelope before handing it in.

3. Attendance and Participation (25 percent of final grade): The study of history is based upon the frank exchange of ideas and opinions, and cannot be reduced to the mere recitation of memorized facts. For this reason, I expect all students to attend all lectures and participate actively in discussion. If you are shy or uncertain about speaking in public, please come speak to me in my office hours about ways to overcome this reluctance. Remember, too, that one of the best ways you can contribute to a seminar is to ask a good question. Try and think of one or two questions to ask each day we have discussion, and don’t worry if you can’t answer them yourself. In addition, bring your Work Diary to class, as you may be asked to read your entry for the previous week aloud.
5. Surprise Quizzes on Readings: At any given point during the semester, I might give a surprise quiz on the readings for that day. These will not be difficult for anybody who has completed the reading assignment. Along with your Work Diary, the grades on these quizzes will play a significant role in determining your grade for attendance and participation.


Week 1. Introduction: The Old Regime (Sept. 4-7)

Reading: Popkin, chs. 1-5, pp. 1-35.

Lynn Hunt, “Introduction: the Revolutionary Origins of Human Rights,” The French Revolution and Human Rights, pp. 1-33.
Wednesday Lecture: France and the Old Regime.
Week 2 The Origins of the French Revolution in 1789 (Sept. 10-14)

Reading: Georges Lefebvre, The Coming of the French Revolution.

Hunt (documents), “The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, 1789, ” pp. 71-79.

Popkin, ch. 6, pp. 36-41.

Monday Lecture: The Origins of the French Revolution

Wednesday Discussion: Lefebvre and Hunt documents.

Week 3 From Constitutional Monarchy to Democratic Revolution (Sept. 17-21)

Reading: Alexis de Toqueville, The Old Regime and the French Revolution, (Part 1, chs. 1-5 and Part 2, chs. 1-9).

Hunt (documents), “The Poor and the Propertied,” pp. 80-3; “Religious Minorities and Questionable Professions,” pp. 84-101.

Popkin, ch. 7, pp. 42-51.

Monday Lecture: The Constitutional Phase of the Revolution, 1789-1792.

Wednesday Discussion: Tocqueville, Hunt.

Week 4 The Contradictions of Revolutionary Citizenship (Sept. 24-28)

Reading: Alexis de Toqueville, The Old Regime and the French Revolution, (Part 2, chs. 10-12 and Part 3, chs. 1-8).

Hunt (documents), “Women,” pp. 119-139.

Popkin, chs. 8-9, pp. 52-69.

Monday Lecture: The Terror and Citizenship under Jacobin Rule

Wednesday Discussion: Tocqueville, Hunt.

Week 5. The Haitian Revolution, Part I (Oct. 1-5)

Reading: Laurent Dubois, Avengers of the New World, pp. 1-151.

Hunt (documents), “Free Blacks and Slaves,” pp. 101-118.
Monday Lecture: The Revolution in Haiti, Part I.

Wednesday Discussion: Dubois, Hunt.

Week 6. The Haitian Revolution, Part II (Oct. 8-12)

Reading: Laurent Dubois, Avengers of the New World, pp. 152-301 .

Monday Lecture: The Revolution in Haiti, Part II.

Wednesday Discussion: Dubois.

Week 7. Fall Break/ Midterm Exam (Oct. 15-19)
Wednesday MIDTERM EXAM. BYOBB (Bring your own bluebook).
Week 8. Napoleon’s Empire (Oct. 22-26)

Reading: Juan Cole, Napoleon’s Egypt.

Popkin, ch. 10, pp. 70-82.
Monday Lecture: Napoleon’s Empire.

Wednesday Discussion: Cole.

Week 9. The Restoration (Oct. 29-Nov. 2)

Reading: Honoré de Balzac, Père Goriot.

Popkin, ch. 11, pp. 82-92.
Monday Lecture: Restoration Society.

Wednesday Discussion: Balzac.

Week 10. The July Monarchy (Nov. 5-9)

Reading: Muhammad as-Safar, Disorienting Encounters: Travels of a Moroccan Scholar in France, 1845-1846.

Popkin, ch. 12, pp. 93-101.
Monday Lecture: The July Monarchy and the Invasion of Algeria

Wednesday Discussion: as-Safar.

Week 11. The Second Republic (Nov. 12-16)

Reading: Gustave Flaubert, Flaubert in Egypt: A Sensibility on Tour.

Popkin, chs. 13-14, pp. 102-124.
Monday Lecture: 1848 and the Second Republic

Wednesday Discussion: Flaubert.

Week 12. The Second Empire (Nov. 19-21, Thanksgiving Break)

Reading: Gay Gullickson, The Unruly Women of Paris, pp. 1-119.

Popkin, chs. 15-16, pp. 125-141.
Monday Lecture: The Second Empire of Napoleon II.

Wednesday Discussion: Gullickson.

Week 13. The Commune of Paris (Nov. 26-30)

Reading: Gay Gullickson, The Unruly Women of Paris, pp. 120-228

Popkin, ch. 17, pp. 142-150.
Monday Lecture: The Paris Commune

Wednesday Discussion: Gullickson.

Week 14. The Third Republic (Dec. 3-7)

Reading: Emile Zola, The Ladies Paradise.

Popkin, chs. 18-19, pp. 151-178.
Monday Lecture: The Third Republic.

Wednesday Discussion: Zola.

Week 15. Conclusion and Review (Dec. 10)
Monday Last Discussion and Review for Final Exam. Final Paper Due at 4 pm.
FINAL PAPER: Due on the last day of class, by 4 pm, in the box with my name on it
in the History Dept Mailroom opposite 1029 Tisch Hall. Remember to include all notes and documentation of your work. PLEASE NOTE: LATE PAPERS WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED.

FINAL EXAM: Please check the University Calendar for our officially scheduled final exam period. BYOBB (Bring your own bluebooks).

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