The French Revolution and Napoleon

Professor:  Joseph F. Byrnes, 116 Murray, 744-5679


The following texts will be read by all members of the seminar and should be purchased from the bookstore:

Jeremy D. Popkin, A Short History of the French Revolution, 5th ed. (New York: Prentice-Hall, 2010).

Keith Michael Baker, ed., The Old Regime and the French Revolution, vol. 7, The University of Chicago Readings in Western Civilization (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987).

The Agenda:

            1.  Mastery of the conventional range of data: events and personalities, chronology and geography.

            2.  Analysis of the historiography of the Revolution, classical and especially contemporary.

            3.  Exploration of immediate and remote causes of the Revolution; the development of the Terror and Counter-Revolution; the formation of governments, clubs, and armies; social differences and the dynamics of the economy; influence of religion and culture.

            4.  Mastery of bibliographical and research tools.  Acquaintance with archival resources.

Requirements and Grades:

            1.  Attendance and discussion participation.

            2.  Weekly summary and evaluation of a reading: each student is responsible for one book each week; though there will be occasional readings in common.  A 10-15-minute report will be required from each seminar participant each week; a typed version of the report should be available for distribution: 3-5 pages for the individual readings.  This summary/evaluation should spell out (1) major theses, (2) types of argument and evidence, (3) values and liabilities of the book/articles, (4) the reader's criteria for assessing values and liabilities; students should use as many page references as possible in writing this report.

            3.  A term paper that explores an important aspect of the French Revolution or the Napoleonic era.  Students should explore the possibility of a topic relevant to primary research interests.

            4.  Grades are the standard: A=90-100, B=80-89, etc.  Grades will be based on the following elements: Class participation, 20%; weekly summary/evaluation, 30%; term paper and presentation, 50%. 

Schedule of Readings:


Topics and sources, teaching and research issues.  Evaluating the major syntheses/interpretations of revolutionary history: Thiers, Michelet, DeTocqueville, Taine, Jaurès; Burke and Carlyle; Marxist and “revisionist” historians [see P. Davies, The Debate on the French Revolution (2006), available in MUR 101A].  Evaluating memoirs, chronicles, and interpretations from the Napoleonic era [see “Bibliographical Comments” in S. Englund, Napoleon: A Political Life (2005), available in MUR 101A].  Example of an undergraduate class presentation.


J. Popkin,  A Short History of the French Revolution (2010).

K. Baker, ed., The Old Regime and the French Revolution (1987). 


ORFR, nos. 16,17–“Dispatches from Paris,” “Deliberations of the Estates General.”

D. Bell, Cult of the Nation in France: Inventing Nationalism, 1680-1800 (2001)

P. Campbell, ed., The Origins of the French Revolution (2006).

W. Doyle, Origins of the French Revolution (1980).

J. Egret, The French Prerevolution, 1787-1788 (1977).

M. Fitzsimmons, The Night the Old Regime Ended (2003).

G. Lefebvre, The Coming of the French Revolution (1947).

J. Markoff, The Abolition of Feudalism: Peasants, Lords, and Legislators in the French Revolution (1996)

J. Shovlin, The Political Economy of Virtue: Luxury, Patriotism, and the Origins of the French Revolution (2006).

[Daniel Mornet, Les Origines intellectuelles de la Révolution française (1933).]


ORFR, no. 26–“The Constitution of 1791.”

M. Crook, Elections in the French Revolution: An Apprenticeship in Democracy, 1789-1799 (1996).

M. Fitzsimmons, The Remaking of France: the National Assembly and the Constitutional Assembly of 1791 (1994).

P. Higonnet, Goodness beyond Virtue: Jacobins during the French Revolution (1998).

G. Kates, The Cercle Social: The Girondins and the French Revolution (1985).

M. Kennedy, The Jacobin Clubs of the French Revolution: The First Years (1982); M. Kennedy, The Jacobin Clubs in the French Revolution: The Middle Years (1988).

E. Lemay and A. Patrick, Revolutionaries at Work: The Constituent Assembly, 1789-1791 (1996).

M. Lyons, France under the Directory (1975).   

T. Tackett, Becoming a Revolutionary: The Deputies of the French National Assembly and the Emergence of a Revolutionary Culture (1789-1790) (1996).

D. Woronoff, The Thermidorean Regime and the Directory, 1794-1799 (1984).

[François Furet and Ran Halévy, La Monarchie républicaine: La Constitution de 1791 (1996).]


ORFR, nos. 36, 38–“Documents of the Sans-Culottes,” “Make Terror the Order of the Day.”

B. Baczko, Ending the Terror: the French Revolution after Robespierre (1994).

H Brown, Ending the French Revolution: Violence, Justice, and Repression from the terror to Napoleon (2006).

P. Campbell, T. Kaiser, and M. Linton, eds.,  Conspiracy in the French Revolution (2007).

D. Edelstein, The Terror of Natural Right (2009).        

J. Godechot, The Counter-Revolution: Doctrine and Action, 1789-1793 (1971).

N. Hampson, The Life and Opinions of Maximilien Robespierre (1988)

N. Hampson, Danton (1991).

C. Lucas, The Structure of the Terror (1973).

P. McPhee, Robespierre: A Revolutionary Life (2012).          

R. Palmer, Twelve Who Ruled: The Committee of Public Safety During the Terror (1941).

R. Rose, The Making of the Sans-Culottes, 1789-1792 (1983).

B. Shapiro, Revolutionary Justice in Paris, 1789-1790 (1993).

A. Soboul, The Parisian Sans-Culottes and the French Revolution, 1793-94 (1964).

[P. Gueniffey, La Politique de la Terreur, Essai sur la violence révolutionnaire (2001). Recent works of Jean-Clément Martin]


F. Aftalion, The French Revolution: An Economic Interpretation (1990).

D. Andress, the French Revolution and the People (2004).

G. Bossenga, The Politics of Privilege: The Old Regime and the Revolution in Lille (1991).

A. Forrest, The French Revolution and the Poor (1981).

D. Guerin, Class Struggle in the First French Republic (1977).

P.  Jones, The Peasantry in the French Revolution (1988).

G. Lefebvre, The Great Fear of 1789: Rural Panic in Revolutionary France (1982).

G. Rudé,  The Crowd in the French Revolution (1987).


ORFR, no. 18–“Peasant Grievances.”

Jean-Paul Bertaud, The Army of the French Revolution: From Citizen-Soldiers to Instrument of Power (1988).

T. Blanning, The Origins of the French Revolutionary Wars (2002).

H. Brown, War, Revolution, and the Bureaucratic State (1995).

R. Cobb, The People's Armies (1987).

R. Cobb, The Police and the People (1970).

W. Cormack, Revolution and Political Conflict in the French Navy, 1789-1794 (1995).

A. Forrest, Napoleon’s Men: the Soldiers of the French Revolution and Napoleon (2002).

A. Forrest, Soldiers of the French Revolution (1990).


A. Forrest, The Revolution in Provincial France : Aquitaine, 1789-1799 (1996)

D. Garrioch, The Making of Revolutionary Paris (2003).

P. Hanson, The Jacobin Republic Under Fire: The Federalist Revolt in the French Revolution (2003).

P. Hanson, Provincial Politics in the French Revolution: Caen and Limoges, 1789-1794 (1989).

H. Johnson, The Midi in Revolution: A Study in Regional Contrasts, 1789-1793 (1986).

P. Jones, Liberty and Locality in Revolutionary France: Six Villages Compared, 1760-1820 (2003).

T. Margadant, Urban Rivalries in the French Revolution (1992).

M. Slavin, The French Revolution in Miniature: Section Droits-de-l’homme (1984).

M. Slavin, The Meaning of an Insurrection: Paris Sections and the Gironde (1986).

[Augustin Cochin, Les Sociétés de pensée et la Révolution en Bretagne, 1788-1789.  2 vols. (1925).]


ORFR, nos. 23, 41, 43–“The Civil Constitution of the Clergy,” “The Revolutionary Calendar,” “The Festival of the Supreme Being.” [for this week and next]

T. Crow, Emulation: Making Artists for Revolutionary France (1995).

C. Gillispie, Science and Polity in France: the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Years (2004).

C. Hesse, Publishing and Cultural Politics in Revolutionary Paris (1991).

L. Hunt, Politics, Culture, and Class in the French Revolution (2004).

E. Kennedy, A Cultural History of the French Revolution (1989).

H. Lüsebrink and R. Reich, The Bastille: A History of a Symbol of Despotism and Freedom (1997).

G. May, Madame Roland and the Age of Revolution (1970).

S. Melzer and L. Rabine (eds.), Rebel Daughters: Women and the French Revolution (1992).

J. Popkin, Revolutionary News: The Press in France, 1789-1799 (1990).

M. Staum, Minerva’s Message: Stabilizing the French Revolution (1996).

[Philippe Bordes,  Le Serment du jeu de Paume de Jacques-Louis David (1983)]


[Discussion of selections from page proof version of Priests of the French Revolution]

N. Aston, Religion and Revolution in France, 1780-1804 (2000).

S. Desan, Reclaiming the Sacred: Lay Religion and Popular Politics in Revolutionary France (1990).

J. McManners, The French Revolution and the Church (1969).

M. Ozouf, Festivals and the French Revolution (1988).

A. Sepinwall, The Abbé Grégoire and the French Revolution (1992).

T. Tackett, Religion, Revolution, and Regional Culture in Eighteenth-Century France: The Ecclesiastical Oath of 1791 (1986).

D. Van Kley, The Religious Origins of the French Revolution: From Calvin to the Civil Constitution (1996). [Revolutionary-era sections only]

E. Woell, Small Town Martyrs and Murderers: Religious Revolution and Counter Revolution in Western France (2006).

[P. Chopelin, Ville patriote et ville martyre: Un histoire religieuse de Lyon pendant la Révolution (2010)]


ORFR, no. 45–“Napoleonic Ideas.”

D. Bell, First Total War: Napoleon’s Europe and the Birth of Warfare as We Know It (2007).

O. Connelly, Blundering to Glory: Napoleon’s Military Campaigns (1987).

M. Crook, Napoleon Comes to Power: Democracy and Dictatorship in Revolutionary France, 1795-1804 (1998).

G. Ellis, Napoleon (1997)

G. Ellis,  Napoleon’s Continental Blockade: the Case of Alsace (1981).

C. Esdaile, The Peninsular War: A New History (2003).

S. Englund, Napoleon: A Political Life (2005).

V. Esposito and J. Elting, A Military History and Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars (1999).

A. Forrest, Napoleon’s Men: The Soldiers of the Revolution and Empire (2002).

J. Walter, The Diary of a Napoleonic Foot Soldier (1991).

I. Woloch, Napoleon and his Collaborators: the Making of a Dictatorship (2001).

A. Zamoyski, 1812: Napoleon’s Fatal March on Moscow (2004).

[Recent editions of soldier journals]


L. Bergeron,  France Under Napoleon (1981).

M. Broers, Europe Under Napoleon, 1799-1815 (1996).

A. Grab, Napoleon and the Transformation of Europe (2003).

J. Klaits, Global Ramifications of the French Revolution (1994).

W. Lawday, Napoleon’s Master A Life of Prince Talleyrand (2007).

M. Lyons, Napoleon Bonaparte and the Legacy of the French Revolution (1994).

R. Palmer, The World of the French Revolution (1971).

S. Woolf, Napoleon's Integration of Europe (1991).

A. Zamoyski, Rites of Peace: The Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna (2007)

[Jacques Olivier Boudon, Histoire du Consulat et de l’Empire (2000)]