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Unit information: France and the Great War: A Cultural and Political History in 2017/18

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Unit name France and the Great War: A Cultural and Political History
Unit code FREN20055
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Hassett
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of French
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This course explores the multi-faceted nature of France’s participation in the Great War. Over the course of twelve thematic lectures, students will be introduced to and engage with the different aspects that shaped the wartime experience of French citizens and subjects on the frontlines and the Home Front. In particular, the course stresses those often overlooked elements of France’s participation in the Great War by examining in detail the contribution made by women, colonial soldiers, trade unions and religious organisations to the war effort. It also considers the many legacies, cultural and political, of the war by engaging with the postwar experience of veterans, postwar cultures of commemoration and the art produced during and immediately after the conflict. Through a variety of primary sources, textual, visual, audio-visual and material culture, students will gain an in-depth knowledge of the transformative effect of the ‘total mobilisation’ of French society during the war.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the unit, students will demonstrate:

  1. In depth knowledge of the principal events and processes that shaped France’s wartime experience.
  2. Skills of comparative historical analysis and knowledge of the contrast and commonalities that mark the comparison between France’s wartime experience and that of other belligerent countries.
  3. Ability to read critically French-language primary sources, whether in textual, visual, audio or material culture form, and to place these in their historical context.
  4. Broad knowledge of the variety of historiographical trends that informed the writing of the history of France’s participation in the Great War.

Teaching details

A mixture of ‘open’ lectures and seminars with student participation in both formats.

2 hours per week: 1 lecture, 1 seminar

Assessment Details

One 2000-word essay (50%) and one 2-hour exam testing ILO’s 1-4.

Reading and References

Audoin-Rouzeau, Stéphane and Becker, Annette, 14-18, retrouver la Guerre, (Gallimard, Paris, 2003)

State, Society and Mobilisation in Europe during the First World War, (ed.) Horne, John, (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2002), Chapters 1, 3, 5, 9 and 12.

Winter, Jay, Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning: The Great War in European Cultural History, (Cambridge University Press, New York, 1995).