Old Regime and Revolution: France, 1750-1815


More than two centuries after the collapse and destruction of what revolutionaries called the "Old Regime", the French Revolution continues to be recognised as one of the founding events of modern history. Yet it remains a deeply enigmatic and controversial event.

Revolutionaries seemingly invented (or reinvented) political liberty and civic equality, democratic suffrage and human rights; but they also invented (or reinvented) gender discrimination and political terror, ideological war and modern dictatorship. Given this rich blend of tragedy and farce, it is no surprise that the Revolution continues to feature in our discussions of politics, society and culture as well as our understanding of the "modern" world.

This course offers an introduction to the French Revolution as both European crisis and world-historical event. A background in European or French history, while helpful, is not required. The weekly lectures offer basic historical orientation, while tutorial readings, discussions and coursework go beyond the lectures to explore major problems of interpretation.

Topics for the semester include the origins of the Revolution, the collapse of the "absolute" monarchy, the radical experiment of mass democracy, the nature of revolutionary violence and war and the legacies and disputed meanings left to us by revolutionaries and their opponents. This Stage II course also features a modest historiographical component, and students will have the opportunity to explore how influential approaches—the "social history of ideas", public opinion, political culture, gender politics, rights theory—have changed and enriched our understanding of the French Revolution.



Coursework + exam

For full course information see the Digital Course Outline.

Digital Course Outlines are refreshed in November for the following year. Digital Course Outlines for courses to be offered for the first time may be published slightly later.

Availability 2024

Not taught in 2024




Readings provided via Canvas.

Recommended Reading

Jeremy D. Popkin, A Short History of the French Revolution, 5th ed., Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2009 [previous editions also acceptable]


Coursework + exam


HISTORY 224: 15 points


15 points at Stage I in History and 30 points passed