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Between Empire and Republic: A History of 20th-Century France - HIS00133I

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Venus Bivar
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24

Module summary

In this module we will explore the history of France from the founding of the Third Republic and the expansion of imperialist power in the 1870s, to the remapping of the Republic’s postcolonial boundaries in the decades following the Algerian War. Toggling back and forth between the larger context of the colonies and the more limited borders of the hexagon, we will examine the conflict that has persisted between the heterogenous qualities of the empire and the imagined homogeneous qualities of the nation. From French involvement in the Holocaust to the headscarf ban, we will study how the boundaries of belonging have (or have not) shifted over time.

In addition to thinking about how France fits into this wider imperial context, we will also study several key moments in domestic history, from the gender trouble that followed the First World War to the student protests of 1968. Just as the boundaries of belonging were informed by race and religion, so too were they altered by changing family structures, the emergence of mass politics, and the rise of consumer capitalism.

Primary sources will likely include the following: popular music, private correspondence, legal codes, posters, memoirs, political manifestos, and film.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2023-24

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To provide students with the opportunity to study particular historical topics in depth
  • To develop students’ ability to examine a topic from a range of perspectives and to strengthen their ability to work critically and reflectively with secondary and primary material

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Have acquired a deep knowledge of the specific topic studied
  • Have developed their ability to use and synthesise a range of primary and secondary sources
  • Be able to evaluate the arguments that historians have made about the topic studied
  • Have developed their ability to study independently through seminar-based teaching

Module content

Students will attend a 1-hour briefing in week 1. Students will then attend a 1-hour plenary/lecture and a 2-hour seminar in weeks 2-4, 6-8 and 10-11 of semester 1. Weeks 5 & 9 are Reading and Writing Weeks (RAW) during which there are no seminars. Students prepare for and participate in eight 1-hour plenaries/lectures and eight 2-hour seminars in all.

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

  1. The French Empire
  2. Gender and the Great War
  3. Mass Politics, Mass Culture
  4. France and the Holocaust
  5. Thirty Glorious Years
  6. The Battle for Algiers
  7. The Children of Marx and Coca-Cola
  8. Postcolonial France


Task Length % of module mark
Assessed Essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

For formative assessment, students will complete a referenced 1200 to 1500-word essay relating to the themes and issues of the module. This will be submitted in either the Week 5 or Week 9 RAW week (on the day of the weekly seminar).

For summative assessment, students will complete an Assessed Essay (2000 words, footnoted). This will comprise 100% of the overall module mark.

Summative assessments will be due in the assessment period.


Task Length % of module mark
Assessed 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 seminars 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 formative work during their tutor’s 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 25 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:

  • Fanon, Frantz. The Wretched of the Earth. Trans. Constance Farrington. New York: Grove Press, 1963.
  • Hanna, Martha. Your Death Would Be Mine: Paul and Marie Pireaud in the Great War. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2008.
  • Day Moore, Celeste. Soundscapes of Liberation: African American Music in Postwar France. Durham: Duke University Press, 2021

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.