The French Revolution: Modern Views

Figure 1.--Here is a scene from the 150th anniversary celebration of the French Revolution at a French school. That would mean 1939. Click on the image to see more of the groyp.

I am not entirely sure what the modern French view is of the Rvolution. Surely this depends in part on the politcal philosophy of each individual. A French reader writes, "French schools teach that the Revolution brought great social progress. Just what that progress was is a matter of conjecture. The constitution was built on the precepts " Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité ". These three words are today written everywhere. Hopefully other French readers will tell us what they were taught in school. We are not sure if the children are taught a definitive view of the Revolution or the teachers encourage the children to assess the Revolution themselbves. Here there may be differences between state and Catholic schools. France of course has assisted American in its Revolutionary War, depite the fact that the country was at the time a monarchy. There was great sympathy in America at first for the Revolution, but as it descenxded into violence and terror, America turned away in horror. Today Historians still debate m,any asoects of the Revolution. The Revolution was of course Europe's first majopr break with monary and first attemp to govern a major country by a republic. The results send shivers through much of Europe for decades. Perhaps the most enduring question flowing from the Revolution was whether Naoleon was the end or continuation of the Revolution.

A French reader provides an ssessment of how history is taught in France. "About teaching history is France. The program is the same everywhere. France has a very centralized system. In Catholic and public school we don't comment too much the crimes committed during the Revolution. In our class work we learn only the facts without commenting much on them. My brother and sister learned several royal chants in their school. My children also. The French monarch is generally critisised because of the privileges attached at the aristocracy. The French conquests are not specialy critised. All the French King are respected and the pupils are taught to speak with respect about them. The French Revolution brought hope to the people. Later France experienced two restorrations with the kings (Charles X) and Louis Phillipe) as well as two Empires. Napoleon is of course considered a major historical figure. Charlemagne is especially loved by the children. His empire in 800 AD was immense. When I was boy, I was taught that the French Revolution brought more problems than benefits, but that was a personal touch of my teacher." This overview of history teaching in France is interesting. It seems qite different than in America. Just teaching the facts is not always as simple as it may seems as historians often disagree about facts and of course who chooses the facts and the context in which they are placed can make a huge difference. HBC also notes the apparent lack of class discussion. As a former teacher I found this the most interesting if not the most important part of history teaching.


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Created: 6:00 AM 9/21/2005
Last updated: 6:00 AM 9/21/2005