Thursday, July 16, 2009

References and Lesson Plans: Examination of the French Revolution

I would like to step back a bit from our journey of exploration to inform you of some excellent resources out there in cyberspace. So, please bear with me in this special posting. I hope it will better enable you to maximizing your experience with what I’m trying to present here…

I approached our study of the ideas and key figures of the American Revolution from the perspective of an intellectual analysis rather than learning about this fact or that fact. Many of those facts are taught in our public school curriculums. In California schools, students are supposed to study United States history in the fifth and eighth grades; they study civics in the eleventh grade. Other states, no doubt, follow some sort of similar cycle. The net outcome should be that, by the end of high school, all students should have a basic grasp of key dates and people who made a difference in our country’s history as well as a basic understanding of how our government works.

Today our kids are growing up in a global community. Events no longer take weeks to receive news of battles (and outcomes), as was common in colonial times. Even the advent of radio and (later) television, news coverage of wars in the first half of the twentieth century took sometimes days before they were covered by radio or newsreels. In the latter half of that century, news of Vietnam took hours to reach us, usually during the evening news. This was shortened to hours during the first gulf war in Kuwait and Iraq. News of the fall of the Berlin wall or the conflict in Tiananmen Square in Beijing took some time to transverse the world via fax. Today, with our social media networks like Facebook and Twitter deliver news almost instantaneously, as evidenced by the accounts of the uprisings following the recent elections in Iran!

So what, you might ask? Well we need to obtain an appreciation of important events in today’s world within the context of the histories and cultural traditions in Europe, Africa, and Asia. Our present exploration of the French Revolution is a start of our entry into that need to understand past events within their context. We are trying to bridge our own cultural understanding with that of a set of events in a different historical and cultural context. We are examining those dramatic changes that occurred within one of our traditional allies — France in the latter eighteenth century.

English and French Versions of these Postings…

You might have noticed that I am posting each discussion in both English and French. The French postings are made for two reasons: to communicate with my friends in France and as an attempt to practice my French in hopes of improving my facility in that language. I hope that French teachers and their students will be able to make use of these postings in their classrooms in order to improve their facility with French.

[Note: I do not claim to be an expert in the use of French, but I am trying to improve my facility. French is my third language, behind English and German. Please forgive me for any mistakes that I have made in these translations within this context.]

I have found that reading French literature to be a valuable tool in improving my French facility. This helps me with vocabulary, grammar, and, hopefully, in my speaking competence. So, my challenge to high school and college students who are at an intermediate level will benefit from these French postings in much the same way dual-language books have helped me.

Online Resources…

For my English-speaking readers, I have tried to paint a verbal picture of the French Revolution within a cultural context. I have taken some ‘poetic license’ in creating my narratives, while still remaining factually accurate. However, I realized while writing the first two installments of these postings use terminology that may be unfamiliar to the typical English reader. Therefore, I would recommend that you refer to a glossary of terms on the web site maintained by George Mason University…

Web Site:

Glossary of Terms:

This glossary will be extremely helpful when we deal with the various legislative bodies and factions that shaped the French Revolution. I will attempt to use terms in accordance with these definitions unless otherwise indicated. I encourage you to access and print out these definitions to use while reading these postings.

Lesson Plans for Teachers…

Finally, I have identified a couple of good sets of lesson activities that you, as high school or college teachers, will be able to make use of these resources in conjunction with my blog postings. These two resources are available freely at:

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education, “The French Revolution: ‘Those who have and those who have not’ at and

History Teaching Institute at Ohio State University, “The French Revolution” at

Both of these sites have good suggestions for activities and further research for your students during the study of the French Revolution. As teachers, please take a look at them and I would appreciate any feedback you might have as comments on both these lesson plans and my postings.

I hope that these musings and resources will enrich your lives and studies. I look forward to your comments and suggestions…

Next Time: The French Revolution was not a singular event, but a series of events. To create a new government, the people suffered through the ‘Reign of Terror’ and the use of the guillotine to execute the King, his nobility, and even some of the revolutionaries themselves. We shall explore these topics and more in the coming posts. Join us in this adventure…

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