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Level 7

7AAH3008 Revolutions & Constitutions in Europe c.1790-1870

Credit value: 20 credits
Module convenor/tutor: Dr Michael Rowe
Teaching pattern: 10 x 2-hour weekly seminars
Availability: Please see module list for relevant year
Assessment: 1 x 4,000-word essay
 
Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.
 

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 French Revolution and triumph of the concept of popular sovereignty can be viewed as representing the political equivalent of splitting the atom. Positively, the immense energies released could be harnessed for a variety of purposes, from waging war to providing welfare. Negatively, they could do immense damage unless contained within political structures. Europeans, from French revolutionaries to the nation builders of the 1860s and 1870s, struggled to find constitutions that would achieve these ends.

This module looks at constitutions of the period. Teaching is organised in ten two-hour seminars. Eight of these are grouped into four pairs, arranged chronologically and illustrating developments over time and in different nations. The first seminar in each pair provides an introduction to the political context in which a particular constitution – whose text is then examined in detail the following week – came into being. The remaining two seminars include an opening seminar that sets out the main themes, and a concluding seminar that returns to these themes and makes comparisons between national traditions and also assesses developments over time.

The overall aim of this module is to analyse, within a comparative international context, the interplay between political ideas, everyday politics, political structures, and political culture. Chronologically, it spans the period from when no European state possessed a constitution to when the vast majority did. The module is centred on a close-reading of European constitutional texts, which are readily available, both in printed form and electronically, and in English translation as well as in their original languages.

Provisional teaching plan

  1. Revolutions and Constitutions in Europe, c. 1790-1870: major themes
  2. The Polish Constitution of 1791: enlightened progress or noble reaction? (1)
  3. The Polish Constitution of 1791: enlightened progress or noble reaction? (2)
  4. The French Constitution of 1791: managing national sovereignty. (1)
  5. The French Constitution of 1791: managing national sovereignty. (2)
  6. The German Constitution of 1849: unity in diversity. (1)
  7. The German Constitution of 1849: unity in diversity. (2)
  8. The German Constitution of 1871: sham democracy, or sham autocracy? (1)
  9. The German Constitution of 1871: sham democracy, or sham autocracy? (2)
  10. Constitutional development in Europe: alternative paths to modernity?

Suggested introductory reading

This is suggested reading and purchase of these texts is not mandatory

Franklin L. Ford, Europe 1780-1830 [electronic resource] (2nd ed.: Taylor and Francis, 2014).

Kelly L. Grotke and Markus J. Prutsch (eds), Constitutionalism, legitimacy, and power: nineteenth-century experiences [online source] (Oxford University Press, 2014).

Michael Rapport, Nineteenth-century Europe (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).

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