Course syllabus

The full course syllabus is available for download here


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HISTORY 224: Old Regime and Revolution in France c.1750-1815

SEMESTER 2, 2019

15 points

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 1:30-3:30pm and by appointment


Lecture and Tutorial Times

Each week, Hist 224 students are expected to attend one 2-hour lecture and one 50-minute tutorial. Times and locations are subject to change and should be confirmed via SSO

All lectures will be recorded and made available to students, with the option to download in both video and audio formats.  Barring exceptional circumstances, all recordings will be released within 48 hours of the lecture. 

Introduction and Objectives

            More than 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 tutorial 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 nature of revolutionary violence and war, and the legacies and disputed meanings left to us by revolutionaries and their opponents.

            History 224 is taught in tandem with the Stage III version of this course (History 324), but it is different in both its reading load and its assessment schedule. History 224 students will nevertheless be introduced to some of the key historiographical challenges in the field—the ‘social history of ideas’, public opinion, political culture, and gender politics, rights theory—and will learn how different methods and approaches have influenced our understanding of the French Revolution.      

The key learning objectives for History 224 are:

  • to provide a basic introduction to major issues in French history c. 1750-1815
  • to provide an introduction to different kinds of historical interpretation in the scholarship on the ‘Old Regime’ and the Revolution
  • to help students improve the oral and written expression of their historical work

Information Literacy

In accordance with the University of Auckland’s ‘Information Literacy’ policy, the workload in History 224 is designed to enhance your ability to assimilate, assess, and present information and to construct independent arguments. History 224 seeks to improve students’ information literacy by:

  • introducing you to the range of resources available in a major research library and familiarising you with the use of online databases as well as printed sources
  • enhancing your note-taking and research skills in diverse settings (lectures, class discussions, assigned readings)
  • setting diverse assignments to enable your exploration and evaluation of primary as well as secondary materials



Assessment Summary

  1. Marks distribution and due dates

Evaluation is based upon four (4) online tests, one coursework Essay, and a two-hour Exam. 

Grades (as percentage of total mark in course) are distributed as follows:

•    20% - Canvas Tests (4 Tests, each worth 5% of final mark)

                    Test 1 (covers weeks 1-3) available from 9 to 16 August

                    Test 2 (covers weeks 4-6) available from 30 August to 6 September

                    Test 3 (covers weeks 7-9) available from 4 to 11 October

                    Test 4 (covers weeks 10-12) available from 24 to 31 October

•    40% - Essay (2,000 words) due at 11:59pm on Friday 27 September

•    40% - 2-hour, essay-type Exam held during Examination Period


Information on grading standards, essays, and referencing can be found in the ‘History Coursework Guide’ that is available on the School of Humanities website (under the 'History' section of the ‘For Current Students’ page):


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)

Mid-Semester Break

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. Tutorial Readings and Textbook

All required course readings are available via Talis. Update: This course does not have a hardcopy course packet (in other words, you do not need to purchase anything for the class). History 224 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 lecture recordings will be generally be available with 48 hours for download via Canvas; please keep in mind that recorded lectures are a resource for learning reinforcement rather than a substitute for in-person attendance. Regular lecture attendance remains the best way to build and improve your note-taking skills and to practice mastering the live flow of information and argument. Similarly, because in-person attendance and discussion in tutorials is a crucial part of the course experience, certain materials that are distributed in tutorials (weekly worksheets, handouts) will not be available via Canvas. To receive tutorial handouts you must attend the relevant tutorials, except in the case of a justified absence (illness, compassionate circumstances, unanticipated work or family obligations) when you are eligible to receive the handout via email from the instructor.

If you are unable to attend any particular class session, it remains each student's responsibility to understand what has been covered in periods of absence. Canvas is designed to help in this process by providing  access to lost or misplaced handouts and by providing lecture recordings. But because an important part of your University education involves building connections with your classmates, we encourage you to create networks that will allow you to ‘cover’ for one another in case of missed classes. Lecture recording technology remains fallible; although we make every effort to ensure quality recording, occasionally there are audio or video dropouts or glitches due to human error.

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