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

StaffDr Alex Fairfax-Cholmeley - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Pre-requisitesAt least 90 credits of History at Level 1 and/or Level 2
Co-requisitesReform, Revolution and Counter-Revolution: France and Empire, 1756-1830. Context
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks; Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module will give you the opportunity to track and interrogate France’s domestic journey through reform, revolution and counter-revolution between 1756 and 1830. These developments will be set alongside the related tensions and opportunities brought about by France’s involvement in a global system of imperial expansion, exploitation and confrontation. You will be encouraged to 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. You will also be asked to 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. 


A wide range of sources are available for this purpose, including memoirs and diaries, correspondence, printed pamphlets, political speeches, caricatures and other images, legal records and newspapers. The module encourages you to evaluate and compare the reliability and value of such sources, and to set them analytically within the broader context provided by this module’s co-requisite. You will also use these sources to develop their own personal engagement with the historiography of the period.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Have a detailed knowledge of the different sources for the study of reform, revolution and counter-revolution in France between 1756 and 1830 (including both domestic and international perspectives), together with a very close specialist knowledge of those sources which the students focus upon in their seminar presentations and written work.
  • 2. Analyse the complex diversity of the sources studied.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Analyse closely original sources and to assess their reliability as historical evidence. Focus on and comprehend complex texts.
  • 4. Understand and deploy relevant historical terminology in a comprehensible manner.
  • 5. Follow 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: Personal and key skills

  • 6. Independently and autonomously study and also work within a group, including presentation of material for group discussion, developed through the mode of learning.
  • 7. Digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment
  • 8. Present complex arguments orally

Syllabus plan

The following list is indicative of the range of topics covered in this module:

-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 teaching activities4422 x 2 hour seminars
Guided Independent Study256Reading and preparation for seminars, coursework and presentations

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Seminar discussionOngoing through course1-6. 8Oral from tutor and fellow students

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 4,000 words1-7Verbal and Written
Individual Presentation3020-30 minutes1-8Verbal 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
PresentationWritten transcript of 20 minute presentation1-8Referral/Deferral

Re-assessment notes

The re-assessment consists of a 4,000 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 20 minutes of speech.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Published primary sources – Indicative Examples:


Laura Mason and Tracey Rizzo eds., The French Revolution: A Document Collection (1998)

Lynn Hunt, The French Revolution and Human Rights: A Brief Documentary History (1996)

Michael Walzer ed., Regicide and Revolution: Speeches at the Trial of Louis XVI (1974)

Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790)

Eric Foner, Voices of Freedom: A Documentary History. Volume 1 (2010)

Karina Williamson ed., Contrary Voices: Representations of West Indian Slavery, 1657-1834 (2008)

Jeremy D. Popkin, Facing Racial Revolution: Eyewitness Accounts of the Haitian Insurrection (2007)

Georges Pernoud and Sabine Flaissier eds., The French Revolution (1961) (document collection)

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Web based resources – indicative examples:


The Encyclopedia of Diderot and d’Alembert. Collaborative Translation Project:

Eighteenth-Century Collection Online [ECCO]

Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: Exploring the French Revolution:

Prints from the Curzon Collection: Images of Napoleon:

A Colony in Crisis: The Saint-Domingue Grain Shortage of 1789:

Haiti: An Island Luminous:

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

French Revolution; Napoleon; Saint-Domingue; Haitian Revolution