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Judith G. Coffin

Associate ProfessorPh.D., 1985, Yale University

Judith G. Coffin



College: Liberal Arts

Home Department: History

Education: Ph.D., Yale

Research interests:European social and cultural history, especially 20th-century France; gender, sexuality and history of feminism, early twentieth-century consumption; French imperialism and race relations; the "sexual revolution" in post-war France .

Courses taught:
WGS 393 European Gender History and Theory

HIS 323L Europe Since 1919

Awards/Honors: 2006-2007 William David Blunk Memorial Professor


EUS 346 • French Revolution And Napoleon

35415 • Fall 2015
Meets TTH 200pm-330pm JGB 2.218
(also listed as CTI 375, HIS 353)

Please check back for updates.

EUS 346 • French Revolution And Napoleon

36602 • Fall 2014
Meets MW 400pm-530pm JGB 2.216
(also listed as HIS 353)

Please check back for updates.

EUS 346 • French Revolution And Napoleon

36390 • Fall 2012
Meets MW 330pm-500pm WEL 2.308
(also listed as HIS 353)

Please check back for updates.

EUS 346 • French Revolution And Napoleon

36275 • Fall 2011
Meets TTH 930am-1100am UTC 4.134
(also listed as HIS 353)

In the 1950s, the Chinese Premier Zhou En-Lai was asked what he thought about the French revolution of 1789. He answered that was “too soon to tell.”  Historians, social scientists, and politicians have studied and debated this extraordinary event for two centuries, and they still not answered the many questions it poses. Why does a regime collapse? How is a new state built? Are revolutions necessarily protracted and violent? Writers and artists, too, have been captivated by the human drama of this tumultuous decade and a half. How did ordinary people survive? How were extraordinary careers made – and lost?

In this course we’ll use the French revolution to think about all these questions concretely. We have three aims. The first is to help you master the major events of the revolution itself. The second is to introduce issues of interpretation and historical methods, for the French revolution has long been a forcing ground for new theories of history and new approaches to the past. The required readings represent some of those approaches. Third, we hope you will learn how the revolution has become one of the defining points of modern history, and how it has shaped the world we inhabit today.


The following books are REQUIRED reading:

William Doyle, The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction

David Andress, The Terror: The Merciless War for Freedom in Revolutionary France

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract (any edition)

David Bell, The First Total War

Robert Darnton, The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History. You do not have to buy this book. The two required chapters are on e-reserve. I recommend a third chapter. If you prefer having a book to reading one on line, or if you just like social and cultural history, by all means buy it.

Additional required reading will be on Blackboard, and on the excellent George Mason University website: “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity:” (LEF) Required documents are noted on the syllabus. You may be able to access them directly, by clicking on the URL. You will probably have to search for the document by name.  This site has lots of additional material that you will find useful: essays, time lines, and glossaries.

If you have any questions about assignments or the material, please ask.

Note the timelines in Doyle and Andress.

Optional reading:

For the Napoleon followers among you, I have ordered Englund, Napoleon: A Political Life (analytic and appreciative) and Schom, Napoleon Bonaparte (narrative and critical). If you would like more detail on the revolution, I recommend Simon Schama’s Citizens. I have ordered a few copies of Tolstoy’s War and Peace (the Peaver and Volokhonsky translation) in case a few of you would like to organize a W&P reading group.



**->This is an upper division course and a challenging one. You do have to learn names and dates; you need them to “reach” the broader and more interesting issues, such as the origins of the terror, the problems of forging a state and nation, or what the revolutionaries meant by “democracy.”

** àLearning the basic material will be more difficult if you skip lectures. So if you miss a class, get the notes from a fellow student, and do the reading with those notes in mind. I reserve the right to take attendance on any given day. Missing more than 2 classes on a T-TH schedule may well jeopardize your performance in the class.

We expect you to keep up with the reading, which is marked on the syllabus, and to be prepared to discuss it. We will have small and large group discussions, and we expect respectful, informed, and intelligent participation in those discussions. We will have informal writing assignments in class. Those cannot be made up if you miss class.

I adjust the schedule over the course of the semester, partly in response to student requests. I assume you are present, paying attention to announcements, consulting with fellow students, and checking **your Blackboard email.** (See the legal notice on this.) àKeep track of changes in assignments, lectures, and discussions.


Your grade in the course will be based on:

3 4-page take home papers (30% each)

various in-class assignments and quizzes. (10%)

** Historians care about writing. It is impossible to separate form from content, and both count in your grade. Check your grammar, sentence structure, and word usage. Go to the writing center. Have someone read and comment on your paper. Give yourself time to revise.

We evaluate the paper's argument, clarity, and thoroughness, how well you have synthesized the material in lectures, and how well you have understood the reading.

All papers and take-home exams must be typed, double spaced, with regular fonts and margins and your name on each page. They must be handed in, not emailed.

Graduate students *Graduate students taking the course (even for undergraduate credit) will have additional readings and different requirements. Please see me.



1) NO LAPTOPS, cell phones, or texting in the classroom.

2) PLEASE DO NOT disrupt class by talking, wandering in late, or leaving early. If for some reason you have to leave class early, do so quietly and let me know beforehand.

3) All the assignments are required, even if you are taking the course pass-fail.

4) You cannot Q drop the course after the deadline if you are failing it -- if, for instance, you have missed quizzes or forgotten to hand in papers. Please bear this in mind.

5) It is easy to buy papers on the Web and to copy from websites. You will get a 0 for the assignment, from which it is hard to recover.

6) All federal, state, and university laws apply. These are spelled out at the end of the syllabus.



Curriculum Vitae

Profile Pages

External Links

  • Center for European Studies

    University of Texas at Austin
    158 W 21st Street
    Austin, Texas 78712