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Archive for the 'World Civ-French Rev & Napoleon' Category

Danton in Film

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Made in 1982 by the Polish director, Andrzej Wadja, Danton is based on a Polish play of 1931 called the “Danton Affair.” Begun in Poland during a high point of the Solidarity liberation movement, it was eventually filmed in France after the movement was outlawed and martial law was instituted in 1981 under General Jarulszelski—a coup directed by the Soviet Union.  After the coup, Wadja and his crew moved to France as émigrés.  There they completed the film with a cast of Polish and French actors.  Danton was played by the French Gérard Depardieu and Robespierre, by the Pole Wojciech Pszoniak.  The  film reflects Wadja’s opposition to the return of a Stalinist regime in his homeland.


Our objectives are to compare Andrzej Wadja’s portrayal of the Danton Affair with history while also assessing the film itself as an historical artifact. As a means to this end, your assignment is to:

1. Read this Wikipedia entry on Danton. This should offer a decent foundation.
2. Read Robespierre’s Justification for the Use of Terror and The National Convention’s decision that “Terror is the order of the day
3. Read these film reviews from Mary Ashburn Miller of Reed College and Vincent Canby of the New York Times.

Then write 1000-1500 word film review which considers the objectives above and which clearly demonstrates that you have read and thought about the given readings. To do so, consider these questions:

  • Some critiques claim that historical films reveal more about the period in which they were made than about the period they portray.  To what extent and in what specific ways do you think this is true of Danton?
  • However flawed it may be, what does Danton contribute to your understanding of the French Revolution?
  • What does Danton illustrate about the possibility of film as form of good history?

Be prepared to discuss your film reviews in class.

The Execution of Louis XVI and the End of the French Monarchy

Sunday, March 11th, 2012

But how had this come about? The question began to be asked almost before Louis XVI’s headless corpse was cold. How could the French, the most monarchical of people, have turned so suddenly against a ruler whom they had proclaimed, as recently as 1789, the ‘Restorer of French Liberty’?

William Doyle discusses traditional and revisionist interpretations of the downfall of the Kings of France, arguing that notions of a ‘desacralised monarchy’ are inadequate to explain what happened. (History Today)

The Kiss of Lamourette

Sunday, March 11th, 2012

To celebrate the bicentennial anniversary of the French Revolution (1989), Robert Darnton was asked by the New York Times to write an essay giving an overview of the French Revolution’s significance. It is a perfect introduction to the subject. The New York Times, however, rejected Darnton’s article because the editors thought it too difficult for their readership. You judge.

The Kiss of Lamourette

Response questions


Fifty Years of Rewriting the French Revolution

Sunday, March 11th, 2012

Each age, we are often told, rewrites the past in its own image. In the case of the French Revolution, this is an understatement. In the second half of this century the scholarship has seemed to be in a state of almost permanent revolution as historians have taken up one interpretative or methodological approach after another. My main concern in this essay is to draw attention to important developments which have occurred in the scholarship on the Revolution as a whole.

John Dunne signposts main landmarks and current directions in the historiographical debate. (History Today)

The French Revolution: Ideas and Ideologies

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

The philosophe may have laid the egg, but was the bird hatched of a different breed? Maurice Cranston discusses the intellectual origins and development of the French Revolution. (History Today)

How Good Was Napoleon?

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

Serving general and military historian Jonathon Riley uses his personal knowledge of command to assess Napoleon’s qualities as a strategist, operational commander and battlefield tactician. (History Today)

France 1709: Le Crunch

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

Already rocked by defeats in the War of the Spanish Succession, Louis XIV’s France faced economic meltdown as the chaotic nature of its finances became apparent. Guy Rowlands discovers striking parallels with the current credit crunch as he charts the crisis that was to lead, ultimately, to the French Revolution. (History Today)

Power Point: Anatomy of a Revolution

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

Thinking in Analogies: The Fever Model of Revolution