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Unit information: France in Ferment 1870-1940 in 2020/21

Unit name France in Ferment 1870-1940
Unit code FREN20063
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Hurcombe
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of French
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit explores a key moment in French history and the confrontation between differing ideas of the nation through the study of the social and cultural history of France between 1870 and 1940. Students will begin by examining competing utopian visions that sought to impose themselves on the chaos of France as it emerged from the Franco-Prussian war (1870); these include differing forms of republicanism, but also Catholicism and monarchism. We then go on to study the consolidation of republicanism (through, for example, secularisation of the state and colonial expansion) before examining points of resistance in anticolonial and first-wave feminist movements. Finally, we consider the resurgence of new expressions of utopianism in a range of radical politico-cultural movements of the early twentieth century from internationalism and the Popular Front to the authoritarian conservatism of the National revolution, which put an end to the Third Republic

Intended learning outcomes

Successful students will be able to:

  1. demonstrate knowledge about this period of French social, cultural and political history;
  2. select and synthesise relevant material in both English and French;
  3. evaluate and analyse relevant material from a significant body of source materials in French as appropriate to level I;
  4. respond to questions or problems by presenting their independent judgements in an appropriate style and at a high level of complexity;
  5. articulate an advanced understanding of complex issues and to organise these into a coherent and persuasive whole.

Teaching details

Teaching will be delivered through a combination of synchronous sessions and asynchronous activities, including seminars, lectures, and collaborative as well as self-directed learning opportunities supported by tutor consultation.

Assessment Details

  1. 2000 word essay (50%)
  2. 2000 word press report, written in French (50%)

Both elements assess ILOs 1-5

Reading and References

Mayeur, J-M La Vie politique sous la Troisième République (Seuil, 1994)

Miquel, Pierre, La Troisième République (Fayard, 1997)

Fortesque, William, The Third Republic in France: 1870-1940: Conflicts and Continuities (Routledge: 2000).