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Ancien Régime France, 1500-1787 - HIS00103I

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Stuart Carroll
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23
    • See module specification for other years: 2021-22

Module summary

Ancien Régime France was Europe’s most important state. It was also the most diverse, encompassing some of Europe’s most economically and culturally advanced regions, as well as some of its most backward. This diversity makes fascinating for history in itself. But this was also a period of immense upheaval. The module examines the long term causes and consequences of this. We will explore why France descended into civil and religious conflict (1559-1660) and how it emerged to build a new type of state that made it Europe’s dominant power. We investigate why the state proved so incapable of reform in the eighteenth century and what led to its eventual collapse.

We explore the role of social change and religious conflict in generating new ideas about politics and society. These ideas were a direct consequence of the experience of civil conflict. The impact of these ideas can be gauged by the fact that by the mid-seventeenth century France had replaced Italy as the centre of the civilized world. During the eighteenth century civilized French manners and its culture conquered the rest of Europe.

The lectures will address the history of France thematically, addressing key issues over long time periods and also chronologically, showing how beliefs, institutions and social groups developed and changed over time. The discussion groups will allow us to explore major themes in greater depth by analysing primary sources. The module assumes no prior knowledge of French history, or of the French language.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Autumn Term 2022-23

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To introduce students to important specific historical themes and topics with a clear chronological or geographical focus;
  • To enable them to work on those topics by combining access to the specialised expertise of staff through lectures with their own close study and discussion of issues and reading;
  • To deepen students’ understanding and appreciation of a range of historical subjects and issues; and
  • To support students’ progression from the broad chronological and conceptual work undertaken at Stage 1 of their programme to more detailed and rigorous study of particular topics.

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Have a broad overview of specific historical themes and topics with a clear chronological and geographical focus;
  • Be able to evaluate different interpretations of the subject matter and approaches to it;
  • Gain a critical awareness of the primary material and secondary works used in these interpretations and approaches; and
  • Be able to synthesise information from lectures, discussion groups and reading to make evidence-based arguments both orally and in writing.

Module content

Teaching Programme:

This 20-credit module consists of sixteen twice weekly lectures delivered in weeks 2-9, plus one round-up session in week 10 and eight 90 minute discussion groups.

Seminar topics are subject to variation, but are likely to include the following:


1. Time-Travelling i: A Tour de France

2. Time-Travelling ii: Navigating the Historiographical Minefield

Social and Political Communities

3. Towns

4. Nobility

5. Monarchy


6. Protestantism

7. The Counter-Reformation

The State

8. The Crisis of the Wars of Religion

9. Reform and its Discontents, 1620-1660

10. Louis XIV and Creation of a Mature System

11. Growth, Deadlock and Collapse

Civil Society

12. Humanism and Scepticism

13. Culture Wars

14. Civility, the Court and the Salon

15. Enlightenment and the Public Sphere


Task Length % of module mark
2,000 word essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Students will be required to write a 2,000-word procedural essay for formative assessment, due in either week 5 or week 7 of the autumn term. They will then complete a 2,000-word essay for summative assessment, due in week 1 of the spring term.


Task Length % of module mark
2,000 word essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

Following their formative assessment task, students will typically receive written feedback that will include comments and a mark within 10 working days of submission.

Work will be returned to students in their discussion groups and may be supplemented by the tutor giving some oral feedback to the whole group. All students are encouraged, if they wish, to discuss the feedback on their procedural work with their tutor (or module convenor) during student hours. For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

For the summative assessment task, students will receive their provisional mark and written feedback within 20 working days of the submission deadline. The tutor will then be available during student hours for follow-up guidance if required. For more information, see the Statement of Assessment.

Indicative reading

For term time reading, please refer to the module VLE site. Before the course starts, we encourage you to look at the following items of preliminary reading:

Collins, James B. The State in Early Modern France. 2nd ed, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Beik, William. A social and cultural history of early modern France. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Briggs, Robin. Early modern France, 1560-1715. 2nd ed, Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.