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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

In 2022–23, this module will run with face-to-face lectures and seminars.

Module Description

France is a country of revolution, deeply associated with left-wing political ideals and activism. Yet the right is often in power, and the extreme right exceptionally strong. In April 2022, Marine Le Pen secured a spectacular 41.4% of the vote in the second round of the presidential elections, coming closer to power than ever before. How is this possible?

This module takes a fascinating journey through the development of the ideas, culture, and popular politics of the French right, tracing its importance from the late nineteenth century to the present day. With opportunities to explore a rich variety of written, visual, and audio-visual material, the module enhances historical awareness and develops key skills for the critical analysis of contemporary politics.

  • How does the French right imagine society and politics, nation and Empire? How does this change?
  • What role has the right played in moments of crisis and controversy, such the Dreyfus Affair, the Great Depression, Vichy France, the Algerian War of Independence, and May 1968?
  • How does the right target specific categories of supporters, such as workers, women, and young people?
  • In what ways have charismatic leaders such as Pierre Poujade, Charles de Gaulle, and Marine Le Pen used the media to seek power, legitimacy, and support?
  • Why has the extreme right remained so vigorous, and how can we explain the increasing success of figures such as Marine Le Pen?

One week of the module normally includes a visit to the Modern Records Centre for hands-on experience with their archival 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 included resistance flyers from the MRC alongside precious items from private collections, such as cardboard cutouts of liberated Paris in 1944, and a photo of Franco-British resister 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 are always available from the module tutor on carrying out original research for your formative and summative work (or for a future dissertation or independent research project), especially via online resources such as Gallica and the Institut National de l'Audiovisuel.

Students taking the module in 2021–22 said:

'Jessica Wardhaugh's enthusiasm for the module has really helped and inspired!'

'Teaching is excellent — many opportunities to receive feedback, and helpful model essay and commentary.’

'Work preparation alongside the lectures each week very easily accessible and organised.'

‘I found it really interesting to combine source analysis with learning about the topic.'

‘I really enjoyed the group work — seeing other people’s ideas.’

‘Very engaging and interesting course, my favourite module so far!'

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. Chris Millington, A History of Fascism in France, from the First World War to the National Front (2020), or J.G.Shields, The Extreme Right in France from Pétain to Le Pen (2007). Please see the further reading tab and the lectures and seminars page for detailed further reading and specific recommendations for each week.
  • All primary material for the module is made available through Moodle and (for written and visual texts) in the Module Sourcebook.

Assessment Method:

One 3,000-word essay (70%) + one 1500-word close analysis (30%). You are welcome to write on your own choice of question or source, provided that you agree your choice with the module tutor.

Seminars include group work on strategies for writing essays and close analyses. Sample essays and analyses from previous years are also available for consultation on the Moodle page.