In answering any of the questions below, make sure that you both:
1. frame your answer with reference to existing historical scholarship
2. develop your answer by analyzing texts, images, and/or objects from the time, which you present as evidence in support of your over-arching argument.
PLEASE NOTE: When I say "frame your answer with reference to existing historical scholarship," I do not mean "paraphrase Popkin for four pages and then add a few details from some other source." Rather, I expect you to have read Popkin (or Cobban or Wright, or some other survey text) as "background," in order to get a sense of the so-called "basic facts."
The links under each question take you to the weeks of this course that will probably be especially relevant. (You may, of course, draw on other parts of the course--and if you do it well, you will get extra points for creativity!)
Use the books and articles listed under each week's "Further Readings" to get a sense of the main debates that historians have about those facts. [Example: everybody admits that the German armies took six weeks to invade France in spring 1940, but some would see this as a failure of the French political system whereas others might term it a strictly military defeat and still others would point to the slow pace of French industrial recovery after the First World War. You need to decide which one of those arguments you find most compelling and you need to indicate why you find it persuasive.] The suggested readings, as well as the links to on-line materials, should help guide you to relevant sources. Feel free to use primary or secondary sources other than those I have listed--but remember that Wikipedia (for instance) is an encyclopedia, not a work of serious scholarship. (Some of the articles are good places to start if you know nothing about a subject; others are not.) The topics listed below all ask specific questions: you should try to answer the question, not narrate or describe events.
For good pointers on how to assess a website's reliability, see here.
For further guidance on writing, see here.
For specific instructions on foot/endnotes and bibliographies, see here.
You may also want to consult the History Department’s writing guidelines for J-300 and J-400 courses.
As a general "rule of thumb," you should aim to consult at least 3-4 secondary sources (history books or articles) and an equal number of primary sources (texts or images produced at the time) in writing your paper.
Please stick to the stated page limits (8-10 pages, not including notes; double spaced, standard margins); papers of less than 7.5 pages or more than 12 (not counting notes) risk being severely penalized.
If you have your own idea for a paper topic, I would be happy to talk with you about it.
You must let me know in advance if you are planning to write on something other than the questions below.
Whatever you do, remember to give your paper A TITLE!
IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT ANY OF THIS--please come talk with me or send me an e-mail. I try to answer my e-mail within twenty-four hours but please do not expect me to write the paper for you (that is, answer questions of the form "What should my paper say?") or deal with last minute crises caused by poor planning on your part.
Policy on Academic Honesty: Every paper must include consistently formatted endnotes or footnotes and a full bibliography. Ignorance of scholarly reference form is no excuse and papers submitted without full references will be returned unmarked. Plagiarism and misuse of sources constitute intellectual theft and will not be tolerated under any circumstances. If you have any doubts or concerns, consult the College website's page on avoiding plagiarism. REMEMBER: You must provide a reference for anything in your essay that is neither "common knowledge" nor your OWN original argument.
Policy on Deadlines and Extensions: Extensions to the deadline will only be granted in the case of serious illness (with medical documentation), bereavement, or other grave personal circumstances. Students facing such circumstances should notify me as soon as possible. In the absence of any valid excuse, late papers will be marked down 1/3 of a letter grade for each day late (e.g., submitted one day late, a “B” paper will receive a “B-“). I am always willing to accept papers early, if that helps you to manage your overall workload.
1. In the 1930s, the German Jewish critic, Walter Benjamin, wrote an essay in which he called Paris the "Capital of the Nineteenth Century" (available in the volume of his writing entitled, Reflections, and in his Arcades Project). What did he mean by this, and do you think it tells us more about the nineteenth century or about the 1930s?
Capital of the Nineteenth Century Great War and Interwar
2. In what ways has the legal status and/or cultural significance of women in European France been comparable to that of men from the overseas colonies and departments? How have their experiences been different?
State and Nation, Subjects and Citizens
Third Republic and Republicanism Fourth Republic and Last Empire Algeria, Intellectuals, and 1968
3. It is often said that "intellectuals" play a distinctive role in the political life of Modern France. Do you agree with this assessment? If so, on what has the intellectual's status been based? Has it changed across time? If you disagree with this statement, explain how other groups and/or individuals have played the role often attributed to intellectuals.
Science, Religion, Dreyfus Algeria, Intellectuals, and 1968
4.Charles de Gaulle is sometimes called "Napoleon IV"--do you agree with this assessment? Why or why not?
Empire the Third Napoleon Vichy and World War Two Fourth Republic and Last Empire
5. In what ways did the experience and memory of the First World War contribute to the French experience of World War Two?
Great War Vichy and World War Two
6. For decades, the French government officially referred to the Algerian War as "the events in Algeria" or as "peacekeeping." Why, and with what consequences?
Fourth Republic and Last Empire Algeria, Intellectuals, and 1968
7. Based on some of the texts we have read for discussion, what are the strengths and weaknesses of using novels or memoirs as historical sources? (Be careful! This looks like an easy question and, in a sense, it is. That means it will be easy to think of all sorts of quite simplistic and banal things to say in response, much more difficult to turn those into a coherent analysis supported with evidence.)
Martin Nadaud, "Memoirs of a French Mason..." Balzac, Colonel Chabert Barbusse, Under Fire Aubrac, Outwitting the Gestapo Begag, Shantytown Kid