France has faced many difficult problems in recent years. Like every other country in Europe, its economy was hit hard by the credit crunch of 2008, but it was hit harder still in the middle years of the decade by a series of Islamic state terrorist attacks. The worst of these attacks was the massacre in November 2015 of 130 people in various parts of the north Parisian suburbs. As a result, social tensions increased; public opinion became polarised and the extreme right-wing National Front party led by Marine Le Pen gained in popularity. She came close to winning the presidential elections of 2017, but was defeated by a newly formed populist pro European party La République En Marche led by Emmanuel Macron. Since coming to power Macron has tried to apply radical reforms to the French economy but has been met by popular opposition. In 2019 the yellow vest protests sprang up though the length and breadth of the country railing against a rise in petrol prices.
These events have deep roots in the history of modern France. They can be traced back to the revolution of 1789. It was a turning point not only in the history of France but in the history of the modern word itself. The old system of government was overthrown and was replaced by a new system based on the sovereignty of the people, highlighted by the battle cry of the revolution liberté, égalité, fraternité. These ideals were carried to every country in mainland Europe during the wars that engulfed the continent from 1792 to 1815. Ten years after the beginning of the revolution Napoleon Bonaparte seized power. He went on to create an empire that covered the whole of Central and Western Europe. He consolidated the gains of the revolution both in France and in Europe. Undoubtedly he is the outstanding statesman in the history of France and of modern Europe. The aim of this course of study is to explore the French Revolution; why it happened, what happened, what changed when Napoleon came to power in 1799 and what led to his eventual defeat.
Lecturer: Hefin Mathias
November 4th – December 2nd
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