“The French Revolution and the World”

Graduate Seminar (100.664)

Professor David A. Bell


Thursdays, 9:00 – 11:20 a.m.

 Maryland Hall 114



Overview: This course will set the French Revolution in a broad geographical context. It has four discreet but related themes: 1) The transnational relations between revolutionary France and other states in the so-called “age of democratic revolutions.” 2) The changing place of revolutionary France in international law, diplomacy and war. 3) The relationships between France and its empires – both the colonial one acquired under the Old Regime and the European one forged in the Revolution itself. 4) The participation of France in the period’s broader “revolutions” in political culture and cultural politics, including the rise of nationalism and the spread of republicanism. After a brief overview of the Revolution, and some “historiographical touchstones” (notably R.R. Palmer’s Age of the Democratic Revolution), the readings will principally be recent books and articles. The course is open to graduate students from the School of Arts and Sciences, and, with permission of the instructor, to advanced undergraduates. While some readings are in French, alternate readings can be arranged if necessary, and French is not necessary for the course.


September 3. Organizational Meeting.


September 10. Overview of the French Revolution.


            Colin Jones, The Great Nation: France from Louis XV to Napoleon (Penguin, 2002),

  pp. 336-580.

François Furet, Interpreting the French Revolution (Cambridge, 1981), pp. 1-131 (first two essays).


September 17. Historiographical Touchstones.


R.R. Palmer, The Age of the Democratic Revolution (Princeton, 1959-64),

vol. I, pp. 3-26, 239-284 (LINK), vol. II, pp. 327-64, 549-76 (LINK).

Philip D. Morgan, “R.R. Palmer’s Democratic Revolutions Revisited,” The Consortium

                        on the Revolutionary Era, 1750-1850: Selected Papers, 2007 (High Point

                        University, 2007), pp. 1-23 (electronic copy to be distributed).

            Franco Venturi, The End of the Old Regime in Europe, 1776-1789 (Princeton, 1991),

                        vol. I, pp. vii-xi; vol.  II, pp. 948-1017.

            Theda Skocpol and Meyer Kestnbaum, “Mars Unshackled: The French Revolution in

                        World-Historical Perspective,” in Ferenc Fehér (ed.), The French Revolution

                        And the Birth of Modernity (California, 1990), pp. 13-29. (LINK).

            Colin Jones and Dror Wahrman, “An Age of Cultural Revolutions?” in The Age of

                        Cultural Revolutions (California, 2002), pp. 1-16.


September 24. No Class Meeting.


October 1. The Revolution and the Western “Self”


            Dror Wahrman, The Making of the Modern Self (Yale, 2004),  pp. xi-6, 157-197,


            Jan Goldstein, The Post-Revolutionary Self (Harvard, 2005), pp. 1-138.

            Gregory Brown, “Am ‘I’ a ‘Post-Revolutionary Self’? Historiography of the Self in

                        the Age of Enlightenment and Revolution,” History and Theory, vol. 47, no. 2

                        (2008), pp. 229-48 (LINK).


October 8.  The American Revolution and France.


Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic (Norton, 1970), pp. 1-124.
Patrice Higonnet, Sister Republics: The Origin of French and American Republicanism

                        (Harvard University Press, 1988), pp. 1-10, 171-280.

            Julia Osman, “Ancient Warriors on Modern Soil: French Military Reform and

                        American Military Images in Eighteenth-Century France,” French History,

                        vol.  22, no. 2 (2008), pp. 175-196 (LINK).

            William Doyle, Aristocracy and its Enemies in the Age of Revolution (Oxford, 2009),

                        pp. 86-167.

            David P. Geggus, “The Effects of the American Revolution on France and its Empire,”

                        In Jack P. Greene and J.R. Pole, eds., A Companion to the American Revolution

                        (Oxford, 2004), pp. 523-30.


October 15. The Revolution and the Colonies.


Laurent Dubois, A Colony of Citizens: Revolution and Slave Emancipation in the

                        French Caribbean, 1787-1804 (University of North Carolina Press, 2004), pp.

                        1-316 (if necessary, skim pp. 30-123).

            Miranda Spieler, “The Legal Structure of Colonial Rule during the French

                        Revolution,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd series, vol. 66, no. 2 (2009),

                        pp. 365-408 (LINK).


October 22. Foreigners and the Revolution.


            Michael Rapport, Nationality and Citizenship in Revolutionary France (Oxford, 2000),

                        pp. 1-30, 189-258.

            Sophie Wahnich, L’impossible citoyen (Albin Michel, 1997), pp. 7-22, 237-362.

            Peter Sahlins, Unnaturally French (Cornell, 2004), pp. 1-18, 215-91.


October 29. The Revolutionary Wars.


            David A. Bell, The First Total War (Houghton Mifflin, 2007), entire – 317 pp..

            Michael Broers, “The Concept of ‘Total War’ in the Revolutionary Napoleonic

                        Period,” War in History, vol. 15, no. 3 (2008), pp. 247-268 (LINK).


November 5. The Revolution and Natural Law.


            Florence Gauthier, “Universal Rights and National Interest in the French

                        Revolution,” in Otto Dann and John Rowland Dinwiddy, Nationalism in the

                        Age of the French Revolution (Hambledon, 1988), pp. 27-52.

Dan Edelstein, The Terror of Natural Right (Stanford, 2009), entire – c. 250 pp.

            Mary Ashburn Miller, “Violence and Nature in the French Revolutionary

                        Imagination” (JHU Ph.D. dissertation, 2008), pp. 1-32, 211-247 (electronic

                        copy to be distributed).


November 12. The Revolution and International Law.


            Richard Tuck, The Rights of War and Peace (Oxford  1999), pp. 1-15, 78-234.

            Marc Belissa, “Fraternité Universelle dans les révolutions de la fin du XVIIIe

                        siècle,” in Raymonde Monnier, ed., Révoltes et Révolutions en Europe et aux

                        Amériques, 1773-1802 (Ellipses, 2004), pp. 147-163 (electronic copy to be


Marc Belissa, "De l'ordre d'Ancien Régime à l'ordre international : approches de

l'histoire des relations internationales" dans J. C. Martin (ed.), La Révolution à

l'œuvre, actes du colloque de janvier 2004 (Presses universitaires de Rennes,

2004), pp. 217-27.

Edward James Kolla, work in progress, Johns Hopkins University (electronic copy to

            be distributed).


November 19. The Revolution and Republicanism.


            J.G.A. Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment (Cambridge, 1975), pp. 3-82, 462-584


Keith Michael Baker, “Transformations of Classical Republicanism in Eighteenth-

                        Century France,” Journal of Modern History, vol. 73 (2001), pp. 32-53. (LINK).

            James Livesey, Making Democracy in the French Revolution (Harvard, 2001),

pp. 1-47, 234-48.

            Andrew Jainchill, Reimagining Politics After the Terror (Cornell , 2008), pp. 1-25,

108-140, 287-308.


December 3. The Revolution and Nationalism


            David A. Bell, The Cult of the Nation in France (Harvard, 2001), pp. 1-49, 140-217.

            Linda Colley, Britons (Yale, 1992), pp. 1-54, 147-194, 364-375 (LINK).

            Helmut Walser Smith, The Continuities of German History (Cambridge, 2008),

pp. 1-73, 211-234.




December 10. Exporting Revolution and Expanding Empire.


            Stuart Woolf, Napoleon’s Integration of Europe (Routledge, 1991), pp. 1-132.

Michael Broers, The Napoleonic Empire in Italy, 1796-1814 (Palgrave MacMillan,

                        2005), pp. 1-28, 175-299.




Course Requirements:


1.      Class Discussion. All students are expected to attend all meetings of the course. All students are expected to have done all the readings carefully, and to participate in discussion of them.


2.      Critical Questions. For each class, each student should write two substantive, critical questions about the readings. These questions should probe and challenge the readings, testing their arguments, evidence, and/or internal coherence. You may wish to model the questions after the ones asked in the weekly History Department research seminar (Monday, 4:00 p.m., Dell House first floor). The questions should be addressed directly to the authors of the works. They do not need to be more than a few sentences, and in no case should they be more than a single double-spaced page each.  Please print them out and hand them in at the start of class.


3.      Responses. Each week, one student should be prepared to stand in for the authors of the readings, and respond to the critical questions, as paper presenters do in the History Department seminar. A schedule will be worked out in the first week.


4.      Bibliographic Essay: Each graduate student in the course should write a 20-30 page essay that starts with the theme of one or more weeks of readings, and takes in all the important and relevant recent scholarship on the subject. The essay should be modeled on the sort of review essays that appear in learned journals (e.g. The Historical Journal). It should ask what the “state of play” is in the particular area under investigation: what sources, methods and theories are being employed in recent research, what the deficiencies of current research are, and how these deficiencies might be addressed. This essay will count as part of the General Exam field, and is due January 15, 2010. Writing requirements for undergraduates will be arranged separately with the instructor.




You are not required to purchase any books. All readings are either linked to here, will be supplied electronically by the instructor, or are on reserve through MSEL. Some of the reserve readings are being scanned and will be available electronically at LINK. The password for the course is BEL664. Please note, however, that for legal reasons MSEL is limited in what it can put online. You will need to go to the library to read some titles. Please note as well that while all the readings from books are on reserve, journal articles can now only be read on line. Some of the books are also available in relatively cheap paperbacks. Below is a list of all the books that have been placed on 24-hour reserve in MSEL, and Amazon links for those books we are reading significant portions of that are available in paperback for less than $25.


Bell, Cult of the Nation,. DC121.3.B45 2001. Amazon

Bell, First Total War, DC202.1.B39 2007. Amazon

Broers, Napoleonic Empire, DC202.5.B763 2005

Colley, Britons. DA 485 .C651 1992. Amazon

Doyle, Aristocracy. On order.

Dann and Dinwiddy, Nationalism. D309 .N381 1988

Dubois, Colony of Citizens.  F2151.D83 2004. Amazon

Edelstein, Terror of Natural Right. On order.

Furet, Interpreting the French Revolution. DC138 .F813 1981

Goldstein, Post-Revolutionary Self. RC450.F7 G655 2005. Amazon

Greene and Pole, Companion to the American Revolution (Oxford, 2004). E208.C67 2000

Higonnet, Sister Republics. E210 .H641 1988

Jainchill, Reimagining Politics After the Terror.  DC192.J35 2008

Jones and Wahrman, Age of Cultural Revolutions.. D295.A44 2002

Jones, Great Nation, DC131.J66 2003. Amazon

Livesey, Making Democracy ,JN2468.L58 2001.

Palmer, Age of the Democratic Revolution, D295.P3 1959

Pocock, Machiavellian Moment.  JC143.M4 P6 1975

Rapport, Nationality and Citizenship, JV7922.R36 2000

Sahlins, Unnaturally French. JN2919.S24 2004

Smith, Continuities of German History. On order. Amazon

Tuck, Rights of War and Peace. KZ3295.T83 A37 1999

Venturi, End of the Old Regime. D289.V4613 1991

Wahnich, L’impossible citoyen. DC 158.8 .W33 1997

Wahrman, Making of the Modern Self.  DA485.W34 2004

Wood, Creation of the American Republic, JA84.U5 W6. Amazon

Woolf, Napoleon’s Integration of Europe. D308 .W661 1991