France and Empire, 1756-1830: Reform, Revolution and Counter-Revolution: Context (HIH3014)

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. Sources
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. This timeframe will allow you to analyse the origins and fractious early development of core elements within France’s modern identity, including revolutionary ideologies, secularization, republican politics, citizenship and democracy, and the contested limits of state authority. You will be asked to 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. The module will 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. 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.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Evaluate the different complex themes in the history of France and Empire between 1756 and 1830, incorporating the shifting dynamics of reform, revolution and counter-revolution.
  • 2. Make close specialist evaluation of the key developments within the period, developed through independent study and seminar work.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Analyse the key developments within France¬ís domestic and imperial trajectory from Enlightenment-era reform through revolutionary upheaval and on to the search for a stable, post-revolutionary society
  • 4. Focus on and comprehend complex issues.
  • 5. Understand and deploy relevant historical terminology in a comprehensible manner.
  • 6. 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¬ís borders.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Independently and autonomously study as well as work within a group, including presentation of material for group discussion, developed through the mode of learning.
  • 8. Digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment
  • 9. 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 2hour 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 course1-7. 9Verbal 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
Essay253,000 words1-8Verbal and Written
Essay253,000 words1-8Verbal and Written
Unseen exam502 questions in 2 hours1-8Verbal and Written

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Two essaysTwo essays1-8Referral/Deferral period
Unseen examUnseen exam1-8Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

Colin Jones and Dror Wahrman eds., The Age of Cultural Revolutions: Britain and France, 1750-1820 (2002)

Roger Chartier, The Cultural Origins of the French Revolution (1991)

William Doyle, The Oxford History of the French Revolution. 2nd edition (2002)

Donald M.G. Sutherland, France, 1789-1815: Revolution and Counterrevolution (1985)

Charles Walton, Policing Public Opinion in the French Revolution (2009)

Hugh Gough, The Terror in the French Revolution (1998)

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)

Philippe Girard, The Slaves who defeated Napoleon: Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian War of Independence (2011)

Michael Broers, Napoleon’s Other War: Bandits, Rebels and their Pursuers in the Age of Revolutions (2010)

Sarah Horowitz, Friendship and Politics in Post-Revolutionary France (2014)

Pamela Pilbeam, Republicanism in Nineteenth-Century France, 1814-1871 (1995)

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: Exploring the French Revolution:

Haiti: An Island Luminous:

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

French Revolution; Napoleon; Saint-Domingue; Haitian Revolution