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FR256 The Right in France from the Dreyfus Affair to the Present

Module Code: FR256
Module Name: The Right in France from the Dreyfus Affair to the Present
Module Coordinator: Dr Jessica Wardhaugh
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 the presidential elections of 2017, Marine Le Pen won 33.9% of the vote: in the upcoming 2022 elections she is likely to win an even larger share. 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and seminars we explore our topics through a rich variety of sources, with opportunities to work on extracts from unpublished archival material, radio broadcasts, film, memoirs, novels, songs, and the press.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 normally 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. 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. View our short film, and 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 2020-21 said:

‘One of the most organised and interesting modules, I am so glad I chose this module!’

‘The curriculum was very interesting – students had a chance to look at the French right in a diverse way, studying many different time periods and historical contexts’

'The resources for this module were very well organised and easily accessible’

‘I was really appreciative of the vast number of resources available for this module, which really helped to get involved with each week’s theme. I also really liked that they were in French, so were were able to immerse ourselves in the language too’

‘A very informative and enjoyable module on an interesting topic’

‘This is a great module and I loved every moment of it!'

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, e.g. J.G.Shields, The Extreme Right in France from Pétain to Le Pen (2007). 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:

One 3,000-word essay (70%) + one 1500-word close analysis (30%). You are also welcome to write on your own choice of question or source for the essay and the analysis, in consultation with the module tutor.