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Study information

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

Module titleFrance and Empire, 1756-1830: Reform, Revolution and Counter-Revolution: Context
Module codeHIH3014
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. After close study of the build up to revolution across the second half of the eighteenth century, this module tracks the reforming zeal, violent repression and armed counter-revolution that swept across France during the revolutionary decade of 1789-1799. The module will then consider the complex legacies of reform, revolution and counter-revolution that continued to shape France’s domestic and international development, first during the Napoleonic Empire and then under the Restoration of the Bourbon monarchy from 1815 until the July Revolution of 1830. 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
  • Analyse the origins and fractious early development of core elements within France’s modern identity, including revolutionary ideologies, secularisation, republican politics, citizenship and democracy, and the contested limits of state authority
  • Analyse not only the origins and course of this Revolution, but also the country’s complex transition to a post-revolutionary society – first during the Napoleonic Empire and then with the Bourbon Restoration of 1815-1830
  • Set this complex domestic history alongside the related tensions and opportunities brought about by France’s involvement in a global system of imperial expansion, exploitation and confrontation
  • Integrate 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

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Identify and analyse the complex themes in the history of France and Empire between 1756 and 1830, incorporating the shifting dynamics of reform, revolution and counter-revolution
  • 2. Understand and explain the key developments within the period, developed through independent study and seminar work

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 3. Analyse the key developments within a particular historical environment
  • 4. Comprehend and explain complex historical issues
  • 5. 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...

  • 6. Select, organise and analyse material for written work and/or oral presentations of different prescribed lengths and formats.
  • 7. Present an argument in a written form in a clear and organised manner, with appropriate use of correct English
  • 8. 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 x Assignments totalling 4000 words1-8Oral and written
Written assignment302,500 words1-8Oral and written

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
PortfolioPortfolio of assignments totalling 4,000 words1-8Referral/Deferral period
Written assignmentWritten assignment (2500 words)1-8Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

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

  • Michael Broers, Napoleon’s Other War: Bandits, Rebels and their Pursuers in the Age of Revolutions (2010).
  • Roger Chartier, The Cultural Origins of the French Revolution (1991).
  • William Doyle, The Oxford History of the French Revolution . 2nd edition (2002).
  • Philippe Girard, The Slaves who defeated Napoleon: Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian War of Independence (2011).
  • Hugh Gough, The Terror in the French Revolution (1998).
  • Sarah Horowitz, Friendship and Politics in Post-Revolutionary France (2014).
  • Colin Jones and Dror Wahrman (eds) The Age of Cultural Revolutions: Britain and France, 1750-1820 (2002).
  • Marisa Linton, Choosing Terror: Virtue, Friendship, and Authenticity in the French Revolution (2013).
  • Jeremy D. Popkin, You are all Free: the Haitian Revolution and the Abolition of Slavery (2010).
  • Donald M.G. Sutherland, France, 1789-1815: Revolution and Counterrevolution (1985).
  • Charles Walton, Policing Public Opinion in the French Revolution (2009)
  • Pamela Pilbeam, Republicanism in Nineteenth-Century France, 1814-1871 (1995).

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

HIH3013 Reform, Revolution and Counter-Revolution: France and Empire, 1756-1830: Sources

NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date