Course syllabus

The full course syllabus may be downloaded here

HISTORY 324: Old Regime and Revolution in France c.1750-1815

SEMESTER 1, 2018

15 points

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Course Convenor

Dr Joseph Zizek

Phone: (09) 923-8852 or ext 88852 (on campus)

Room 735, Humanities Building (formerly known as Arts 1)


Office Hours: Wed 1:30-3:30 and by appointment


Lecture and Seminar Times

Each week, Hist 324 students are expected to attend one 2-hour lecture and one 50-minute seminar. Times and locations are subject to change and should be confirmed via SSO


Introduction and Objectives

            Two centuries after the collapse and destruction of what revolutionaries called the ‘Old Regime’, the French Revolution continues to be recognised as one of the founding events of modern history. Yet it remains a deeply enigmatic and controversial event. Revolutionaries seemingly invented (or re-invented) political liberty and civic equality, democratic suffrage and human rights; but they also invented (or re-invented) gender discrimination and political terror, ideological war and modern dictatorship. Given this rich blend of tragedy and farce, it is no surprise that the Revolution continues to feature in our discussions of politics, society, and culture as well as our understanding of the ‘modern’ world.

            This course offers an introduction to the French Revolution as both European crisis and world-historical event. A background in European or French history, while helpful, is not required. The weekly lectures offer basic historical orientation, while seminar readings, discussions, and coursework go beyond the lectures to explore major problems of interpretation. Topics for the semester include the origins of the Revolution, the collapse of the ‘absolute’ monarchy, the radical experiment of mass democracy, the global contexts of slavery and emancipation, and the Revolution’s modern legacies and disputed meanings. The course will explore various approaches—the ‘social history of ideas’, gender analysis, political culture, public opinion, universal rights theory—that have influenced the historiography of the French Revolution and are relevant to other fields of history.

            Hist 324 shares lecture time with the Stage II version of this course (Hist 224), but the assessment schedule, reading load, and participation expectations for Hist 324 are considerably more rigorous. This is because Stage III courses are designed to provide an in-depth exposure to current historiographical and research issues. Accordingly, the specific aims of Hist 324 include the following:

  • to familiarise students with key issues in French history c. 1750-1815
  • to provide students with advanced exposure to current historiographical debates concerning the origins, course, and consequences of the French Revolution
  • to expose students to a selected range of primary source material in translation
  • to assist students in advancing coherent, reasoned arguments—both oral and written—concerning historical issues and problems of interpretation


Information Literacy

In accordance with the University of Auckland’s ‘Information Literacy’ policy, the workload in History 324 is designed to build your ability to assimilate, assess, and present information at an advanced level. History 324 seeks to improve students’ information literacy by:

  • encouraging independent work in our research library
  • cultivating broad bibliographical and investigatory skills, including the advanced use of online databases and resources
  • enhancing note-taking and research skills in diverse settings (lectures, class discussions, assigned readings, independent research)
  • setting diverse coursework assignments, which are designed to heighten a battery of interpretive, analytic, and synthetic skills.

Assessment Summary

As with most History Stage III courses, assessment in Hist 324 is entirely based on coursework (there is no Examination during the University Exam period). Grades as a percentage of total course mark are distributed as follows:

  • 10% = Seminar Participation (based on entire semester)
  • 15% = Online Tests (3 Tests @ 5% each, 20 questions per test, spaced at 4-week intervals)
  • 25% = Primary Source Essay (1,500 words) or Film Review Essay (1,500 words), due 4pm, Friday, 27 April
  • 50% = Final Essay (3,000 words), due 4 pm, Friday, 8 June

Information on grading standards, essays, and referencing can be found in the ‘History Coursework Guide’ that is available on the History Website (under the ‘Disciplinary Area Forms’ section):



Weekly Topics and Lecture schedule (provisional)

Week 1-Introduction to the Course: Myths of Revolution

Week 2-Eighteenth Century Society and Enlightenment 

Week 3-Politics of Public Opinion: An ‘Information Society’?

Week 4-Revolutionary Origins: Social or Political?

Week 5-From Crisis to Revolution: Inventing 1789

Week 6-Rural France and its Revolution(s)

Week 7-Cultural Revolution(s)

Week 8-Gender Relations in the Revolutionary Era

Week 9-Violence and Terror: Why?

Week 10-The Revolution in the Colonies: Liberty and Slavery

Week 11-Napoleon’s Revolution: End, or New Beginning?

Week 12-Myths of Revolution: Is the French Revolution Over?


Course Resources and Canvas

  1. Seminar Readings and Textbook

All required course readings are available via Talis. For those who prefer to work from hardcopies, a course packet with all required readings will be available for purchase from the bookstore. History 324 also has a recommended (but not required) textbook:

  • Jeremy D. Popkin, A Short History of the French Revolution, 6th edition, Routledge, 2014. ISBN-13: 978-0205968459 [but any edition is acceptable]

This text is available in Short Loan and may also be available for purchase at the University Bookstore. You are not required to purchase the text or read it, but it remains the best brief treatment for those who wish more detailed chronological coverage of the course themes. Any of the earlier editions of this textbook are also acceptable, in case you would prefer to purchase it second-hand.

2. Canvas access to course materials: Everything distributed, shown, or discussed in lecture—syllabus, lecture outlines, PowerPoint presentations, and miscellaneous handouts—will be made available on Canvas. All lectures will be recorded and each week an audio-only recording will be posted. Full lecture notes are not posted to Canvas; this is intentional, and is meant as an incentive to regular lecture attendance. Similarly, certain materials that are exclusive to seminars will not be posted to Canvas; to secure those handouts you must attend seminar, or (in case of justified absence) make arrangements to pick up the handouts from the instructor.

If you miss class, it becomes your responsibility to understand what has been covered in your absence. Canvas is designed to help by making access to lost or misplaced material easier, and by providing an audio recording of lectures, but you should also make arrangements with friends to ‘cover’ for one another in case of missed classes. Please be aware that lecture recording technology sometimes falls short in either audio quality or reliability, so do not assume that recorded lectures will substitute for physical attendance. 


Workload and deadlines for submission of coursework:            

The University of Auckland's expectation is that students spend 10 hours per week on a 15-point course, including time in class and personal study. Students should manage their academic workload and other commitments accordingly. Deadlines for coursework are set by course convenors and will be advertised in course material. You should submit your work on time. In extreme circumstances, such as illness, you may seek an extension but you may be required to provide supporting information before the assignment is due. Late assignments without a pre-approved extension may be penalised by loss of marks as indicated in the course syllabus.



Course summary:

Date Details