University of Notre Dame

The American and French Revolutions

Course Number: POLS 13181-4
Instructor: Benjamin Radcliff

The Revolutions in the United States and France are among the most studied of all events in human history. They collectively mark the emergence and ultimate dominance of democratic ideals in the modern world (though in radically different ways). We examine both revolutions from a variety of perspectives: as historical events, as milestones in the development of modern democracy, and as case studies of the wider issue of revolutions in general. We will read not only conventional historical accounts, but also study (political) literature they inspired (e.g. the Federalist Papers, the Declaration of the Rights of Man). We will also study the revolutions as they are represented in contemporary fiction (e.g. Mantel’s novel A Place of Greater Safety) and cinema (e.g. the films Danton, La Révolution Française, Les Adieux à la reine). Given its greater historical significance and complexity, we devote somewhat more attention to the French case.