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2018/19 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

HIST3891 Sweet Enemies? Britain and France from Waterloo to the Present

20 creditsClass Size: 14

Module manager: Dr Rachel Utley

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2018/19

Module replaces


This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

Britain and France have been at peace with one another for more than two centuries. Since 1815 they have been allies in three major wars and have co-operated extensively to meet a wide array of security challenges. Yet this long history of peace and co-operation is commonly overshadowed in both official and public discourse by representations of Britain and France as historic and even 'natural' rivals. As British Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon observed just after the First World War, 'We have been brought, for reasons of national safety, into an alliance with the French, but history shows that their national character is different from ours… I am afraid that the Great Power from whom we have most to fear in the future is France'. Or as the talismanic French leader Charles de Gaulle suggested after the Second, 'Our greatest hereditary enemy was not Germany, it was England.' As UK ties with European partners continue to dominate contemporary political debates, this module will consider the historical and contemporary significance of the crucial - and frequently contested - UK-French bilateral relationship.


On completion of this module, students will be able to:

- To identify the principal developments in relations between Britain and France from 1815 to the present
- To explore the factors bearing on these relations, and the significance of national, European and global trends which have influenced them
- To engage with a range of conceptual questions underpinning the empirical investigation of issues at hand
- To evaluate key historiographical and methodological developments in the study of relations between Britain and France in the modern period
- To analyse a range of primary sources salient the study of this topic across an extended time frame
- To use the knowledge and understanding gained in this module to develop students’ skills in formulating nuanced and sophisticated arguments, in a number of forms
- To develop students’ skills in respect of independent and collaborative learning, and in a broader range of time management, project management and other transferable skills

Learning outcomes
By the end of this module, students will be able to:
- Demonstrate awareness of the course and development of British-French relations over a period spanning more than two centuries
- Identify and assess factors underlying cooperation and contention in relations between Britain and France at different times, and evaluate the relative impacts of national, European and global considerations on their trajectory
- Appraise the interplay of empirical and conceptual frameworks in explaining developments in British-French relations, and use these frameworks to analyse of change over time
- Evaluate the principal historiographical interpretations regarding this topic, in relation to a range of relevant primary source materials
- Demonstrate high-level critical and analytical skills in the formulation and communication of students’ own arguments, both verbally and in writing
- Demonstrate the capacity to work effectively both independently and in wider group contexts, and other essential transferable skills


Indicative seminar list:
1. Introduction and historical context
2. Waterloo, aftermath and implications
3. Entente, revolution and war
4. Empire, espionage and the end of splendid isolation
5. Entente cordiale and wartime alliance
6. The Treaty of Versailles and the inter-war period
7. 'Finest hours, darkest years': Britain, France and the Second World War
8. Decline from Victory
9. Britain, France and Europe
10. Conclusions: Amity, enmity, rivalry?

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
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 secondary texts and primary sources as directed by the tutor. They will be expected to undertake further self-directed reading for each class, and to evaluate such materials for discussion in seminars. A significant component of each seminar will be a collaborative task, requiring students to apply knowledge and insights from preparatory reading in new ways. Students will prepare and deliver a collaborative verbal presentation (10%). They will independently research and write an assessed essay of 2000 words (30%) and another of 4000 words (60%), in completion of the assessment requirements of this module.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Informal monitoring through students’ contributions to seminars. An informal progress and feedback meeting will be offered to all students at the mid-module point.
Formal monitoring through individual feedback on student presentations, and assessed essays.
It is anticipated that feedback on the first assessed essay will inform the completion of the second, allowing any weaknesses to be addressed.

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay1x2,000-word essay due Monday of week 9, semester 130.00
Essay1x4,000-word essay due Monday of Exam week 1, semester 160.00
PresentationIndividual oral presentation, to be held at a time during the semester as directed by tutor10.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

In the case of the verbal presentation, any resit will entail the submission of a written equivalent (1000 words) on a title to be determined by the tutor.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 30/04/2018


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