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HYM4740 - The French Revolution: Issues and debates

12 points, SCA Band 1, 0.250 EFTSL

Postgraduate Faculty of Arts

Leader: David Garrioch


Not offered in 2008


The French Revolution is one of the most extensively researched periods in modern history and one of the most debated. This unit will examine the origins and course of the Revolution up to 1795, with a focus on current historical debates. Were the events of 1789 a political crisis like many others in the history of the Old Regime, or were they a product of changes in French society? What was the relationship between the Enlightenment and the Revolution? How far did the Revolution represent a radical break with the past and to what extent was it continuing earlier trends and conflicts? Why did events take the course they did in the 1790s? The unit will give particular attention to the French Revolution as a testing ground for theories of history and as an area of experimentation in historical writing.


In addition to the general objectives of fourth year study in History, students are expected to

  1. Acquire a good grasp of the period of the French Revolution;
  2. Develop a sound understanding of the principal debates on the origins and course of the Revolution;
  3. Be able to analyse critically the different approaches to the Revolution;
  4. Appreciate the main types of sources available and the methodological issues raised by different historical approaches to the Revolution;
  5. Devise their own general interpretation of the Revolution;
  6. Be able to link the historiography of the Revolution with more general trends in recent historical writing.


Seminar presentation/short essay (2000 words) : 20%
Research essay (5000 words) : 55%
Colloquium presentation (2000 words) 25%

Contact hours

2 contact hours and 22 hours of private study and research


A BA or related degree with a major in History


HYM4740, HYM5740

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