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Level 5

5AAH3017 The Civilising Mission: French Imperialism since 1750

Credit value: 30
Module convenor/tutor: Professor Pierre Singaravélou
Teaching pattern: 20 x 2-hour seminars (weekly)
Availability: Please see module list for relevant year
Assessment: 1 x 3 hour examination (60%), 2 x 2,000 word essays (15% each) & 1 x oral presentation (10%)

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment by the following methods: 1 x 3 hour examination (60%); 2 x 2,000 word essays (15% each); 1 x 1500 word essay (10%)

N.B. This module cannot be taken in conjunction with 5AAH2033 due to overlap of content. 

The modules offered in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand: there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary between years

The module offers an overview of French imperial history from the Old Regime's attempts to project French power on a global scale until the rise and fall of republican imperialism in the twentieth century. Following a comparative and connective approach with the history of the British Empire, it relocates the history of French imperial endeavours, including the Napoleonic empires of the nineteenth century, in a broader European and global context. Key themes include the invention of new "civilising" justifications for empire, French attitudes towards race, the tension between emancipation and exploitation in French imperial practice, the dynamics of rivalry and emulation with the British Empire and the impact of empire on modern France. Special attention is also paid to the active role played by French imperial subjects - in the Caribbean, Continental Europe, the Middle East, Africa and South-East Asia - whose choice to collaborate with or revolt against French rule was crucial to the making and unravelling of France's successive empires. No knowledge of French is required for this module.

Provisional teaching plan

Semester 1

1. Introduction
2. The Bourbon Empire
3. Global disaster: the Seven Years War
4. Race and Slavery
5. The Haitian revolution
6. Egypt: the swing to the Middle East
7. Napoleon’s Continental empire
8. The conquest of Algeria
9. Cultural and economic informal expansion
10. The invention of modern racism

Semester 2

11. Republican imperialism (1): conquest
12. Republican imperialism (2): rule
13. Costs and benefits of overseas expansion
14. An imperial nation-state (1): metropolitan hubris
15. An imperial nation-state (2): colonial resistance and rebellions
16. Towards a democratic empire after 1945
17. The Algerian Revolution
18. Françafrique: the imperialism of French decolonisation
19. Legacies in French politics and culture
20. Conclusion

Suggested introductory reading

This is suggested reading and purchase of these books is not mandatory.

Robert Aldrich, Greater France: a History of French Overseas Expansion (1996)

Alice Conklin, A Mission to Civilize: the Republican Idea of Empire in France and West Africa (1997)

Laurent Dubois, Avengers of the New World: the Story of the Haitian Revolution(2004)

Martin Evans, Algeria: France’s Undeclared War (2011)

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