History B357
First Assignment: due in class, Wednesday, 5 September 2012
all work submitted after 12:30 p.m. will be penalized as "late"

Write a 3-4 page paper responding to one of the questions below. In composing your answer, think carefully about how you know the claims you are making: Are you repeating something you have read elsewhere? Are you drawing conclusions on the basis of some textual or visual evidence? Are you pretty much making things up as you go along? Though it could prove an exhausting exercise, you might want to try writing a draft in which you have a reference (footnote or endnote) for every sentence you write. For some sentences, you will not have anything in particular to cite, but if you find that most of your paper is based on "general knowledge" or on "I am making this up but it sounds good to me," then you probably need to do some more reading!

I expect you to base your paper on lectures, on the texts we have read for discussion, and on Popkin (or some other reputable textbook). If you would like to bring in more materials, certainly feel free to do so, but the purpose of this assignment is for you to analyze a text (that is, to think about what it says and how it says it). I want to know your analysis; reading historians' interpretations may help to clarify ideas in your head but it might also mean that you simply repeat what they say.

Especially with a very short paper such as this one, success depends on a clear structure and a coherent analysis. In your first paragraph or two, you need to present a strongly formulated thesis statement (for help with writing thesis statements, see this WTS pamphlet). Statements of the form: "In this paper, I will argue that..." are cumbersome and to be avoided in the final draft but you may find it helpful to write just such a sentence at the top of your document as you are writing. The substantive part of your paper needs to persuade your reader to agree with your analysis. As you introduce new material, try to use it as evidence in support of your argument. (For help with using evidence, see this WTS pamphlet.)
For specific instructions on foot/endnotes and bibliographies, see here. Any paper submitted without proper notes and bibliography will receive a failing grade!

Most people's writing would be improved by observing the following recommendations (from Strunk and White's classic text, Elements of Style):

  • use the active voice!! (VERBS. Verbs are good.)

 • put statements in positive form (Please do NOT write: "It could possibly be argued that..." If you're going to argue it, argue it! If you're not going to, forget about it.)

 • use definite, specific, and concrete language

 • omit needless words!! (Note: "The fact that is an especially debilitating expression and should be revised out of every sentence in which it occurs," Strunk and White, p. 24.)

Whatever you do, remember to give your paper A TITLE!

Paper Topics

1. It is often said the Revolution's ideals were "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity." Does it really make sense to think of the Revolution as having a single set of ideals? Are "liberty," "equality," and "fraternity" necessarily compatible? Remember to answer these questions with reference to specific primary texts (documents written in the period) and/or episodes in the Revolution's history.

2. Attitudes toward the past (the "old regime") are implicit (that is, unstated but present) in many documents produced during the Revolution (such as the Declaration of the Rights of Man, Clermont-Tonnerre's speech on religious minorities, and the Le Chapelier Law). What are these attitudes and how are they significant?

3. We discussed the 1789 Declaration of Rights in class. In 1793, the Convention produced a "new and updated" Declaration (available here). In what ways is the later document more (or less) revolutionary than the earlier one? What do you see as the most important difference between the two documents? How are those differences significant (that is, what do they tell you about what had happened between 1789 and 1793)?

4. The former priest, Jacques Roux, is usually described as the most prominent of the "enraged" revolutionaries. Based on the "Manifesto of the Enragés" (June 1793), at whom do you think he was angry? Why? What is the purpose of his rage? What are its effects?

5. On what grounds did Tocqueville say that the French Revolution resembled a religious revolution? Based on your reading of primary sources (texts produced in the 1790s), do you agree with that assessment?

6. When, for Tocqueville, did the "Old Regime" end?


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