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Study information

France and Empire, 1756-1830: Reform, Revolution and Counter-Revolution: Sources

Module titleFrance and Empire, 1756-1830: Reform, Revolution and Counter-Revolution: Sources
Module codeHIH3013
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Alex Fairfax-Cholmeley (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

The French Revolution was a pivotal moment in modern history, both within France and beyond her borders in an interconnected world of competing empires, ideas and technologies. This module gives you the opportunity to examine a wide range of primary sources from this complex period in French history, beginning with the build up to revolution across the second half of the eighteenth century and culminating in the study of material concerning the legacies of reform, revolution and counter-revolution during the Napoleonic Empire and Bourbon Restoration. In keeping with its co-requisite module, the geographic origins of these sources will also range well beyond France to encompass Saint-Domingue/Haiti, America and Britain. No knowledge of French is required for this module, although anyone with such language skills will be given the opportunity to use them.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to:

  • Track and interrogate France’s domestic journey through reform, revolution and counter-revolution between 1756 and 1830
  • Examine the inter-linked processes of reform, revolution and counter-revolution alongside the related tensions and opportunities brought about by France’s involvement in a global system of imperial expansion, exploitation and confrontation
  • Examine colonial perspectives on France’s journey through Revolution, in particular through study of Saint-Domingue’s contemporaneous change from slave plantation into the independent nation of Haiti
  • Study a range of other international reactions to – and influences on – France’s development between 1756 and 1830, especially the roles played by America and Britain
  • Evaluate and compare the reliability and value of sources such as memoirs and diaries, correspondence, printed pamphlets, political speeches, caricatures and other images, legal records and newspapers
  • Use primary sources to develop your own engagement with the historiography of the period

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Identify the different sources available for the study of reform, revolution and counter-revolution in France between 1756 and 1830 (including both domestic and international perspectives), and be able to describe in detail those sources which you focus upon in your seminar presentations and written work.
  • 2. Analyse a range of diverse and complex sources relating to the period of reform, revolution, and counter-revolution in France between 1756 and 1830.
  • 3. Describe the changing causes of and responses to reform, revolution and counter-revolution across French domestic and colonial society, and in comparison with reaction from beyond France’s borders

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Analyse closely original sources and to assess their reliability as historical evidence.
  • 5. Comprehend complex historical texts and debates.
  • 6. Understand and deploy relevant historical terminology in a comprehensible and sophisticated manner.

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Select, organise and analyse material for written work and/or oral presentations of different prescribed lengths and formats.
  • 8. Present complex arguments orally.
  • 9. Present an argument in a written form in a clear and organised manner, with appropriate use of correct English
  • 10. Through essay development process, demonstrate ability to reflect critically on your own work, to respond constructively to feedback, and to implement suggestions and improve work on this basis

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Revolutionary origins: Enlightened reform, public opinion and cultural revolution
  • France’s transatlantic links with the Caribbean, America and Britain
  • America: an eighteenth-century model for Revolution?
  • Elite and popular revolution in France in 1789
  • The French Terror (1793-1794)
  • The Haitian Revolution (1791-1804) and France’s colonial legacy in the Caribbean
  • Domestic and international counter-revolution
  • British reaction to the French Revolution and Napoleon
  • Legal revolutions, including the 1791 Penal Code and the 1804 Napoleonic Code
  • Republicanism in Restoration-era France, 1815-1830

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching4422 x 2 hour seminars
Guided independent study256Reading and preparation for seminars, coursework and presentations

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Portfolio702 assignments totalling 4000 words1-7, 9-10 Oral and written
Individual presentation3025 minutes1-8Oral and written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
PortfolioPortfolio1-7Referral/Deferral period
Individual presentation2,500 word written transcript equivalent to 25 minute presentation1-7, 9-10Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

The re-assessment consists of a 4000 word portfolio of source work, as in the original assessment, but replaces the individual presentation with a written script that could be delivered in such a presentation and which is the equivalent of 25 minutes of speech (2,500 words).

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790).
  • Eric Foner, Voices of Freedom: A Documentary HistoryVolume 1 (2010).
  • L. Hunt, The French Revolution and Human Rights: A Brief Documentary History (1996).
  • L.Mason and Tracey Rizzo (eds), The French Revolution: A Document Collection (1998).
  • Georges Pernoud and Sabine Flaissier eds., The French Revolution (1961) (document collection).
  • Jeremy D. Popkin, Facing Racial Revolution: Eyewitness Accounts of the Haitian Insurrection (2007).
  • Michael Walzer (ed.) Regicide and Revolution: Speeches at the Trial of Louis XVI (1974).
  • Karina Williamson (ed.) Contrary Voices: Representations of West Indian Slavery, 1657-1834 (2008).

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

French Revolution; Napoleon; Saint-Domingue; Haitian Revolution

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

At least 90 credits of History at Stage 1 (NQF Level Four) and/or Stage 2 (NQF Level Five).

Module co-requisites

HIH3014 Reform, Revolution and Counter-Revolution: France and Empire, 1756-1830

NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date