Age of the French Revolution and Napoleon

Gregory S. Brown
CDC 306, 895-4181
Office Hours: Tu & Th, 1 - 2pm and by appt.

History 462/662; Fall 2003
Tu, Thu 8:30 - 9:45; CBC C316


September 2 - 4

1. Why Study the French Revolution

September 9 -11

2. Old Regime Society: Land, Wealth, Status

September 16 - 18

3. The Enlightenment and Old Regime "Political Culture"

September 23 - 25

4. 1789: The Outbreak of Revolution

Sept. 30 - Oct 2

5. On the "Causes" and "Origins" of the Revolution

October 7 - 9

6. The New Politics: Individual Rights and Social Representation

October 14 -16

7. The Crisis of the Constitutional Monarchy

October 21 - 23

8. Revolutionary Government: Resistence and Terror

October 28 - 30

9. Whose Liberty, Equality, Fraternity?

Nov 4 - 6

10, The Search for a Stable Center

Nov 13, 18

11. The Napoleonic Regime

Nov 20, 25

12. Empire and War

Dec 2 - 4

13. The Aftermath and Legacies: Is the Revolution Over?

Introduction and Texts

The French Revolution remains one of the crucial events of modern European and world history; for over 200 years, it has been celebrated, commemorated, and debated. This class will introduce students to the dramatic events which saw the end of Old Regime Europe through the displacement of the Church as the source of moral authority; the dismantling of the feudal social system; and the overthrow of a 1000-year old monarchy. We will discuss in detail the Revolutionary debates over how to enshrine new principles of human rights, individual liberty, representative democracy and social equality in law and to establish the largest republic in history to that time. We will consider the relationship between political reform and warfare, since throughout the period of the Revolution, France was at war internally and with much of the rest of Europe. We will also analyze the ways in which the Revolution transformed culture, so that men and women came to think of themselves in new ways. Finally, we will seek to understand the unexpected culmination of these epic struggles in a powerful, central government in France under Napoleon.

This course proposes not merely a narration of the events of the Revolution but also an in-depth exposure to primary sources - texts, images, and songs of the period. Furthermore, we will engage with the rich and sophisticated historiography of the Revolution, which has made the topic a matter of contemporary debate around the world. This course then will give students not only a greater understanding of a crucial transformation in world history, but also of why that event remains relevant and crucial, even in twenty-first century America.

Undergraduates should acquire the following required books, available for purchase at the bookstore:

  • Jeremy Popkin, A Short History of the French Revolution (3rd ed.)

  • Jack Censer & Lynn Hunt, ed, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity

  • William Doyle, Origins of the French Revolution (3rd ed.)

  • R. R. Palmer, Twelve Who Ruled

  • Isser Woloch, Napoleon and His Collaborators

Graduate students are required and undergraduates recommended to acqurie the following books:

  • David Garrioch, Neighborhood and Community in Paris, 1740 - 1790

  • Joan Landes, Visualizing the Nation: Gender, Representation and Revolution

  • James Livesey, Making Democracy in the French Revolution

  • Isser Woloch, The New Regime

Note that Liberty, Equality, Fraternityincludes a Cd-Rom that includes primary source documents, maps, images, songs and other multi-media materials that will be the basis for much of our class discussions and for your papers. Some of this material is also available on the web at <> and via links from the course webpage, <>

The course requirements, in addition to regular class attendance and participation in discussions (10% of semester grade), will include three short (3-5 page) papers based on the course readings (25% of semester grade each), and a final examination (15% of semester grade).