French Revolution

Course Level 2: Intermediate

Estimated Study Time: 16-20 hours

This course provides basic historical background to the French Revolution. It will show that the Revolution accelerated intellectual, cultural and psychological change, and opened up new horizons and possibilities. In fact, while much controversy and skepticism remain as to the real extent of underlying change in the social and economic structure of France, it is generally agreed by scholars that the Revolution stimulated a widening of expectations and imaginative awareness: a belief, inherited from the Enlightenment, in the possibility of progress, as well as a conviction that state and society could be reconstituted with a view to realizing social and individual aspirations and human happiness generally. As it degenerated into violence and bloodshed, however, the Revolution also provoked skepticism and pessimism about progress and human nature.

The two basic types of modern political outlook, progressive and conservative, date from this experience. Which, if any, of these sets of beliefs was true is not at issue here. What matters is that the Revolution gave rise to them and gave them lasting life.

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Course Content

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