Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module HIST3071: Revolution and History

Department: History

HIST3071: Revolution and History

Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • A pass mark in at least ONE level 2 module in History


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None



  • In the 1970s, the controversial historian François Furet wrote ‘The French Revolution is over’. This apparently obvious statement – to English eyes anyway – annoyed many of his fellow countrymen. Only recently, a left-wing politician published a counter-manifesto: ‘La Révolution française n’est pas terminée.’ What is the French Revolution today? How do historians, political thinkers and modern politicians interact with the idea of the French Revolution. Grappling with the meaning of the French Revolution has been a vital challenge for left-wing political thinkers from Marx to Jaurès and Walter Benjamin. But academic history has also been riven with controversy, and the arguments remain vital both in the academy and in the political arena.
  • With seminars that draw students into close reading of some of the major historiographical essays on French revolutionary politics, from Marx and Tocqueville to the Marxists, neo-marxists and revisionists of the last thirty years, this module challenges students to make deeper connections between the political movements that drive modern European political culture and the history of a colourful and dynamic process that, to many French people today, has yet to find its fulfilment.
  • Ultimately, then, the module will open up deeper philosophical questions: what is modernity? What understandings of historical time, political development and social change underpin our own cultural preconceptions? What place do historians have in driving these understandings forward, and are they responsible for perpetuating myths about modernity on the back of their obsession with the French Revolution’s philosophy of rupture? Do historians participate in the process of change; or do they embalm the past, wrapping it in the tissues of commemoration?

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • A broad understanding of the place of the French Revolution in later historical narratives.
  • The ability to reflect on the way in which politics and history have interacted, using the French Revolution as the central example;
  • An advanced grasp of the way histories of the French Revolution have flowed out of left-wing political movements and ideas since 1789.
  • A developing ability to ask deeper questions about the way historians themselves act as mediators between political ideas and the past.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Subject specific skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/History/ugrads/ModuleProformaMap/
Key Skills:
  • Key skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/History/ugrads/ModuleProformaMap/

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Student learning is facilitated by a combination of the following teaching methods:
  • lectures to set the foundations for further study and to provide the basis for the acquisition of subject specific knowledge. Lectures provide a broad framework which defines individual module content, introducing students to themes, debates and interpretations. In this environment, students are given the opportunity to develop skills in listening, selective note-taking and reflection;
  • seminars to allow students to present and critically reflect upon the acquired subject-specific knowledge, methodologies and theories, and to identify and debate a range of issues and differing opinions. The seminar is the forum in which students are given the opportunity to communicate ideas, jointly exploring themes and arguments. Seminars are structured to develop understanding and designed to maximise student participation related to prior independent preparation. Seminars give students the opportunity to develop oral communication skills, encourage critical and tolerant approaches to reasoned argument and historical discussion, build the students' ability to marshal historical evidence, and facilitate the development of the ability to summarise historical arguments, think in a rapidly changing environment and communicate in a persuasive and articulate manner, whilst recognising the value of working with others and, occasionally, towards shared goals.
  • Assessment:
  • Examinations test students' ability to work under pressure under timed conditions, to prepare for examinations and direct their own programme of revision and learning, and develop key time management skills. The examination gives students the opportunity to develop relevant life skills such as the ability to produce coherent, reasoned and supported arguments under pressure. Students will be examined on subject specific knowledge. In addition, seen Examinations (with pre-released paper) are intended to enable Level 3 students to produce more considered and reflective work;
  • Summative essays remain a central component of assessment in history, due to the integrative high-order skills they develop. Essays allow students the opportunity to recognise, represent and critically reflect upon ideas, concepts and problems; students can demonstrate awareness of, and the ability to use and evaluate, a diverse range of resources and identify, represent and debate a range of subject-specific issues and opinions. Through the essay, students can synthesise information, adopt critical appraisals and develop reasoned argument based on individual research; they should be able to communicate ideas in writing, with clarity and coherence; and to show the ability to integrate and critically assess material from a wide range of sources.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 21 Weekly in Terms 1 & 2; 2 in Term 3 1 hour 21
Seminars 7 4 in Term 1, 3 in Term 2 1 hour 7
Film Screenings 2 1.5 hours 3
Preparation and Reading 169
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay max 3000 words not including footnotes or bibliography 100%
Component: Examination Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Seen examination [paper to be made available not less than seventy-two hours before the start of the examination] 2 hours 100%

Formative Assessment:

Written assignment(s) of 1000-2000 words.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University