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2019/20 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

HIST2079 The Republic in Crisis: Conflict and Identity in France since 1870

20 creditsClass Size: 28

Module manager: Dr Claire Eldridge

Taught: Semester 1 View Timetable

Year running 2019/20

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

The Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris in January 2015 generated a lot of debate about free speech, secularism, the integration of minorities and even the durability of the Republic itself. As this module will demonstrate, these are not new themes in French history. In the modern era, France has undergone a series of crises that have repeatedly tested the strength of the republican model of government at the same time as posing important questions about who belongs to the nation and what it means to be French. This module will explore these critical moments starting with the founding of the Third Republic in 1870, amidst humiliating military defeat to Prussia and the civil unrest of the Commune, moving through the Dreyfus Affair, which exemplified the religious tensions that the formal separation of church and state in 1905 did little to resolve, through two World Wars and into recent decades where the rise of the far right has helped fuel fierce debates concerning urban violence, anti-Semitism, immigration and the place of Islam. Students will be encouraged to think about common themes over time such as political polarisation, religious conflict, processes of integration and exclusion, and the implications of all of these for contemporary French identity.


The objectives of this module are:
1. To assess the nature of religious, social, cultural and political change in nineteenth and twentieth century France
2. To explore notions of French identity and French republicanism, including how these have changed over time
3. To evaluate key historiographical debates in relation to the history of modern France
4. To critically analyse a range of primary sources, both written and visual, relating to these issues
5. To formulate sophisticated and nuanced arguments in relation to these issues, in written and verbal form
6. To further develop generic, transferable and subject specific skills.

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module, students will be able to:
1. demonstrate a good awareness of the key events, people and themes relating to the social, cultural, political and religious history of modern France
2. demonstrate an ability to think critically about the relationship between contemporary debates about French identity and their historical context
3. demonstrate proficiency in assessing and evaluating a range of primary sources in relation to the study of modern France
4. read critically and engage with secondary sources and historiographical debates, using these to develop rigorous historical analysis
5. show analytical and critical skills in oral presentations and written work


Topics to be covered:

From Revolution to Republic
1870-71: The "Terrible Year"
The Dreyfus Affair
The First World War: A Moment of Consensus?
Politics in the Streets: From the Far Right Leagues to the Popular Front
World War Two: Occupation, Collaboration and Resistance
1968: A New Society?
Fractured France? The End of Empire, Immigration and Integration
The Rise of the Far Right
Debating Identity in Postcolonial France

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Film Screenings12.002.00
Private study hours178.00
Total Contact hours22.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Students will prepare for each seminar by reading texts and primary sources supplied by the Module Leader. They will also be expected to undertake further, self-directed reading for each class using the module bibliographies. Students will additionally research and prepare an oral presentation (10% of module assessment), research and write a 2000 word assessed essay (30%) and prepare for the final exam (60%).

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Participation in class discussions to build subject knowledge and analytical skills that will feed into the written assessments.
Individual consultations prior to the submission of the essay and the first source commentary.
Oral and written feedback on all written assessments. In particular, feedback on the first source commentary prior to the submission of the second and third commentaries.
Students submit x3 source commentaries but only the highest two marks go forward to build additional formative feedback into the assessment process.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay1 x 3,000-word essay, due by 12 noon Monday week 1 of exam period60.00
Portfolio3x source commentaries of 500 words each, First commentary due 12 noon Monday week 5; second and third due by 12 noon Monday week 940.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Having three short commentaries, of which only the two highest marks go forward, builds additional support and formative assessment into the assessment process. This is also the reason for the staggered deadlines for the three portfolio tasks. Students are therefore able to submit and receive feedback, both written and oral, on their first commentary, which can be used to inform the preparation and writing of their second and third commentaries. Although only the highest two marks go forward, students must complete and pass all three commentaries in order to be awarded credit for the assessment. This assessment is also designed to prepare students for the kind of intensive gobbet work that usually forms part of Special Subject modules in the School of History.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 19/08/2019


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