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This free course provides basic historical background to the French Revolution. It will show that the Revolution accelerated intellectual, cultural and psychological change, and opened up new horizons and possibilities. In fact, while much controversy and scepticism remain as to the real extent of underlying change in the social and economic structure of France, it is generally agreed by scholars that the Revolution stimulated a widening of expectations and imaginative awareness: a belief, inherited from the Enlightenment, in the possibility of progress, as well as a conviction that state and society could be reconstituted with a view to realising social and individual aspirations and human happiness generally. As it degenerated into violence and bloodshed, however, the Revolution also provoked scepticism and pessimism about progress and human nature. The two basic types of modern political outlook, progressive and conservative, date from this experience. Which, if any, of these sets of beliefs was true is not at issue here. What matters is that the Revolution gave rise to them and gave them lasting life.
Course learning outcomes
After studying this course, you should be able to:
- understand the main events of the French Revolution 1789–99 and its significance in the shift in European culture from Enlightenment to Romanticism
- appreciate the French Revolution and its significance through exposure to selected contemporary texts, documents and illustrations of the period.
You can start this course right now without signing-up. Click on any of the course content sections below to start at any point in this course.
If you want to be able to track your progress, earn a free Statement of Participation, and access all course quizzes and activities, sign-up.
- Learning outcomes
- 1 Enlightenment, liberty and revolution
- 2 Death of the Old Regime
- 2 Death of the Old Regime
- 2.1 The bankrupt monarchy
- 2.2 The Third Estate as the voice of the nation
- 2.3 Fall of the Bastille, 14 July 1789
- 2.4 Enlightened reformism – dismantling the Old Regime
- 2.5 Declaration of the Rights of Man
- 2.6 Enlightenment, revolution and reform – the departments
- 3 From 1789 to the flight to Varennes
- 4 Europe and the French Revolution
- 5 Enlightenment, universalism and revolution
- 6 The Thermidorian Settlement and the end of the Revolution
- 7 Conclusion
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About this free course
16 hours study
Level 2: Intermediate
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