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Unit information: Challenging the Republic: France 1929-2009 in 2015/16

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Unit name Challenging the Republic: France 1929-2009
Unit code FREN30103
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Hurcombe
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of French
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit examines groups, political organisations and movements, and individuals who have challenged Republican orthodoxy during the period under examination. It begins by examining the French far right and left of the 1930s, particularly during the Popular Front era and principally the monarchist Action Française, the fascist Parti Populaire Français and the Parti Communiste Français. It then considers further developments within the far right and revolutionary left in post-war France before considering the dismantling of the Fourth and the emergence of the Fifth Republic under de Gaulle. It then studies challenges to the latter posed by the rebellion of army officers in the 1960s and then by the events of May 1968. It concludes by considering the apparent triumph of the Fifth Republican model in relation to more recent calls for a Sixth Republic. There are no set texts for this unit. Students will be supplied with a dossier of material at the beginning of the unit. However, they will be expected to demonstrate, through class discussions and their assessed work, a thorough knowledge of the recommended reading texts listed below.


The unit aims to further students' existing knowledge of the social, political and intellectual history of modern France, focusing particularly on those counter-models embraced by radicals and intellectuals since the early twentieth century. It aims to respect the chronology of events, but also to provide a detailed study of the major recurrent challenges laid before the Republic by both the far-left and far-right both in France and abroad. In particular, it aims to supply students with a detailed understanding of French monarchism, communism, nationalist and separatist movements.

Intended learning outcomes

By studying this unit, students will equip themselves with a thorough knowledge of the challenges faced by the French Republic since the early twentieth century. In order to achieve this, the unit aims to foster key transferable skills in students. The close study of historical documentation (to be provided through a dossier of such material distributed to students) will encourage analytical skills enabling students to decode the underlying discourse of such material. The extensive secondary reading essential to such a unit will foster students' research skills enabling them to synthesise large amounts of information. The coursework essays will serve to develop the students' ability to convey this in concise form.

Teaching details

Weekly lecture plus one-hour seminar.

Assessment Details

Two 3000-word essays (50%/50%)

Reading and References

  • Milza, Pierre: Fascisme Français: passé et present
  • Dell, Simon, The Image of the Popular Front: the masses and the media in interwar France
  • Weber, Eugen, The Hollow years: France in the 1930s