IF (and only if) you are doing this course for Hutton Honors College credit, your
Your finished paper should be approximately twelve pages long (double spaced, 1 inch margins, 11- or 12-point font). Papers that are less than ten pages long, or more than sixteen, will be severely penalized. The paper is due in Professor Spang's History Department mailbox (Ballantine 742) by 4:00 p.m. on Friday, 22 April 2011. All work submitted late will be penalized 1/3 of a grade for every day late. This means that if you hand this assignment in on Monday, 25 April, it will be three days late and so you will lose a full grade (for example, a B+ will go down to a C+).
Below you will find some general topic areas for essays, and some bibliographical suggestions. These are big questions, and meant to be thought provoking. In many respects, there is no single "right answer" to any of these questions (though there are certainly wrong ones). It will be easier to address these questions in a structured fashion if you concentrate on a particular case study or two, using specific examples to illuminate and explore generalizations. Please do not construe the questions I have asked around each topic in an overly literal fashion--they are meant to start you thinking, not to limit your analysis. (In other words, having "answered" the questions may not be the best way to write an effective, strongly argued essay, supported with relevant evidence.)
Throughout your paper, you will no doubt draw on historians' works (journal articles, books, perhaps websites). In doing so, remember that the French Revolution has been (and, in some ways, still is) an extremely controversial topic. Historians of the Revolution are not "above" this controversy, so you will need to read carefully and thoughtfully. You do not have to agree with the historians you read! Instead, it would be a good idea to base your paper largely on your own interpretation of primary sources (documents and images from the time). Remember that the first assignment for this course asked you to read and analyze a historian's article, whereas the second required you to work with an eighteenth-century text. For this paper, you should combine those activities. That is, in developing your research topic, posing a specific question, and answering it, make sure that you both:
PLEASE NOTE: When I say "frame your answer with reference to existing historical scholarship," I do not mean "paraphrase Censer and Hunt for five pages and then add a few details from some other source." Rather, I expect you to have read Censer and Hunt (or Cobban, or Jones, or some other survey text) as "background," in order to get a sense of the so-called "basic facts." Then, the books and articles listed under each week's Further Readings should allow you to get a sense of the main debates that historians have about those facts.
DEFINING A TOPIC: Begin by doing some general reading,
and by thinking about the texts we have read (or will read) for discussion. You may write on any topic related to this course even things we have not discussed such as: the slave revolution in Guadeloupe, the retreat of the Monarchiens from the National Assembly, the role of women among the emigrees, or the First Empire's use of aspects of republican political culture. Then try "brainstorming"
ideas: thinking freely about what has most interested you and considering what primary sources might be available. So, for example, if you are interested in revolutionary radicalism, you might start by reading some of the texts by Marat, Robespierre, Hébert, and/or Momoro listed below. Then you need to identify a more specific question to answer on the basis of those readings. Your question might be: "How did they define 'the nation' and 'the people'; did those terms refer to the same thing?" Or "What were the major differences between Robespierre and Hébert?" Remember that Robespierre denounced the "Ultra revolutionaries" (including Hébert and Momoro) in March 1794; you should think about whether the sources you have read really support the idea of a distinction between "the Mountain" and the "Ultras"--if you don't see a real difference, it may be that you have missed something or it may be that the difference was less ideological and more based on political manoeuvering.
For more help with essay writing, see:
• Dr. Spang's guidelines for paper writing