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FR256 The Right in France from the Dreyfus Affair to Le Pen

Module Code: FR256
Module Name: The Right in France from the Dreyfus Affair to Le Pen
Module Coordinator: Dr Jessica Wardhaugh
Date and Time TBC
Module Credits: 15

Module Description

France is a country of revolution, deeply and powerfully associated with left-wing political ideals and activism. And yet the right is often in power, and the extreme right exceptionally strong. In 2002, Jean-Marie Le Pen broke into the second round of the presidential elections, and in the presidential elections of 2017 his daughter Marine won 33.9% of the vote. How is this possible?

This module offers a fascinating journey into the development of the ideas, culture, and engagement of the French right, and an opportunity to analyse and debate some of the most controversial aspects of modern French history and politics.

  • Was there a French fascism in the twentieth century, and if so, where did it come from?
  • Why has anti-Semitism been so strong in a country committed to liberty and equality?
  • How has the French right defined itself on the European stage?
  • Why are the French apparently so drawn to strong right-wing leaders such as Pétain and de Gaulle?
  • Why has the extreme right remained so vigorous, and how can we explain the increasing success of Marine Le Pen?

This module develops key research and analytical skills through our critical study of a wide range of textual and audio-visual material. In lectures and seminars we explore our topics through a rich variety of sources, with opportunities to work on extracts from unpublished archival material, radio broadcasts, film, memoirs, novels, songs, and the press.

One week of the module includes a visit to the Modern Records Centre to learn about archival work with hands-on experience with their collections on Vichy and the Occupation. This year, in February 2020, students from FR 256 curated their own exhibition at the MRC on 'Occupied France: Collaboration, Resistance, Remembrance'. Texts and artefacts include not only resistance flyers from the MRC but also precious items from private collections, such as cardboard cutouts of liberated Paris in 1944, and a photo of Franco-British resistor Kathleen Woods, who befriended a stranded British airman and looked after a Jewish family just next to the demarcation line. Read more about the exhibition on the SMLC blog.

Advice and support is always available from the module tutor on carrying out original research through formative and summative work, especially via online resources such as Gallica and the Institut National de l'Audiovisuel.

Students taking the module in 2018-19 said they most enjoyed:

'The relevance of the figures to France’s politics today'
'Well structured, engaging and interesting lectures and seminars'
'Consistent engagement with primary sources'
'In-class videos and analysis'
'Lots of resources available — reading list on moodle is useful as well as recordings of lectures'

Preparatory/vacation reading

  • In preparation for the course, it would be helpful to study at least one general textbook or overview of the history of the right, especially J.G.Shields, The Extreme Right in France from Pétain to Le Pen (2007) [recommended for purchase/download]. Other textbooks include Nicholas Atkin and Frank Tallett (eds), The Right in France, 1789-1997 (1997) and Peter Davies, The Extreme Right in France, from 1789 to the Present (2002). Please see the further reading tab and the lectures and seminars page for detailed further reading and specific recommended reading for each week.


Assessment Method:

2019-20: 50% exam + 50% assessed coursework (one 2,250 - 2,500 word essay or commentary)

From 2020-21, the assessment method will be one 3,000-word essay (70%) + one 1500-word close analysis (30%)