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Level 7

7AAH5004 French Empires, 1750-1914

Credit value: 20
Module convenor/tutor: Dr David Todd
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.

This module offers an overview of French imperial ventures between 1750 and 1914, from France’s American empire in the early modern period to the Napoleonic empires of the nineteenth century and its African and Indochinese empire after 1870. Recent years have seen a reappraisal of both the French contribution to the development of European imperialism and the impact of imperial expansion on France and continental Europe. Comparisons between the French and other European empires, especially Britain’s, have played a significant part in the surge of interest in world and imperial history. The time span covered by the module encourages students to analyse political, economic, and cultural change and continuity from a long term perspective. A simultaneously comparative and connective approach introduces students to several core concepts of world history, including reciprocal interactions between centres and their peripheries and the invention of new exploitative techniques by European empires after 1800. Special attention is paid to colonial revolutions in a French imperial context such as in Haiti in the eighteenth century, Germany under Napoleon, and the rise of Arab nationalism in North Africa. Knowledge of French is not required.

Provisional teaching plan

  1. Introduction: historical and historiographical transitions
  2. The Bourbon empire in America and India
  3. Enlightenment and slavery
  4. The global revolution of 1789
  5. The Napoleonic empire
  6. Algeria
  7. Informal empire
  8. The Republican empire (1): conquest
  9. The Republican empire (2): civilizing mission
  10. Conclusion: the French imperial nation-state in the twentieth century

Suggested introductory reading

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

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

Ian Coller, Arab France: Islam and the Making of Modern Europe, 1798-1831 (2011)

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)

Jennifer Sessions, By Sword and Plow: France and the Conquest of Algeria (2011)

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