Skip to main content Skip to navigation


The module is organized chronologically but a series of themes cut across it. One of its main aims is to introduce students to key episodes and turning points in modern French history, from the Enlightenment through to the end of the 20th century. Topics include the origins and course of the French Revolution of 1789, the Napoleonic Empire, chronic upheaval and regime changes across the 19th century, the 'terrible year' of 1870-71, the Dreyfus Affair, World War I, military defeat in 1940 and the period of occupation and resistance, the strains of decolonisation and Algerian War and the protests of May 1968. A series of themes will be discussed throughout the lectures and seminars. Amongst them are the origins and legacies of the French Revolution; contested ideas of French republicanism; shifting social relations (class and gender); the trajectory of nationalism in a globalizing world; the impact of war on politics, society, and culture; decolonization and its legacy; the place of memory in culture and politics; and the legacy of the Revolution of 1789.

The module encourages consideration of changing historiographical and methodological approaches to the study and research of French history. Alongside addressing historiography, students will also gain experience of working with a variety of primary sources.

Students are not required to understand French to take this module.


By the end of the course the student should be able to:

  • demonstrate enhanced study, writing and communication skills - both in written work and group discussion
  • exhibit a capacity for independent study skills , clear/concise expression, critical analysis
  • show a familiarity with key issues and debates in modern French history
  • show some capacity to engage with historiographical debates
  • exhibit sufficient self-confidence to articulate and defend his/her own point of view