History 125

The Nation-State: Early Modern France

and Policies
Useful Links
"Paris vaut bien une messe" --Henri IV, King of France

"L'Etat c'est moi." --Louis XIV, King of France

"The sword is drawn, the scabbard thrown away. It is even as Danton said, in one of his all-too gigantic figures: 'The coalised Kings threaten us; we hurl at their feet as gage of battle, the Head of a King.'" --Thomas Carlyle, The French Revolution


1. Robin Briggs, Early Modern France.

2. W. H. Lewis, The Splendid Century.

3. Georges Lefebvre, The Coming of the French Revolution.

4. Natalie Zemon Davis, The Return of Martin Guerre.

5. Snippets from: Bodin, Pascal, Descart, Rousseau, Diderot, Montaigne, and Castellion.

6. Snippets from: Allen, Political Thought in the Sixteenth Century.


Assignments and Policies:

  • Examinations. There will be three examinations, one of which will be a take home exam. The two in-class exams will contain a map component. There is no comprehensive final exam in this course; each exam counts for the same percentage in calculating the final grade. Be advised that turning in the take home exam late will result in a one-third reduction in the grade of the exam. (An "A" exam turned in one day late will receive an "A-," two days late, a "B+," three, a "B," and so on.)
  • Quizzes. Two short (20-point) quizzes on French and European geography.
  • Participation. Students will be expected to attend class and to have prepared for lectures and for discussion sessions by having read and thought about the assigned readings. Unexcused absences will lower the participation component of student grades.


    1. The final grade will be determined according to the following breakdown:

    Midterm I: 25%
    Midterm II (take home): 25%
    Midterm III: 25%
    Quizzes: 15%
    Participation: 10%

    2. Grades will be assigned according to the follow numerical equivalencies:

    93-100 A
    90-92 A-
    87-89 B+
    83-86 B
    80-82 B-, .....Etc.

    Course Schedule:

    Week I.

    February 5: Europe in the Sixteenth Century
    February 7: France in the Sixteenth Century
    Readings: Briggs, Introduction, pp. ix-xi, Ch. 1, pp. 1-34.
    It is recommended you read the Britannica article on French History, from medieval times to the French Rev.


    Week II.

    February 10: The Protestant Reformation in Europe and in France
    February 12: The Wars of Religion, I
    February 14 No Class
    Readings: Briggs, Ch. 2, pp. 35-76.
    Allen, Ch. 1, "Lutherism and Calvinism," pp. 1-14; Ch. 4, "The Huguenots and their Allies," pp. 302-31 [on reserve].


    Week III.

    February 17: The Wars of Religion, II
    February 19: Henry of Navarre
    February 21: Discussion
    Readings: Allen, Ch. 6, "The Catholic League and its Allies," pp. 343- -66; Ch. 7, "The Divine Right of Kings," pp. 367-93; Ch. 8, "Jean Bodin," pp. 394-444 [on reserve].


    Week IV.

    February 24: French Society in the Age of Louis XIII
    February 26: Film
    February 28: Richelieu and the Power of the Crown
    Readings: Briggs, Ch. 3, pp. 77-128.
    Other: TBA.


    Week V.

    March 3: France in Europe
    March 5: The Fronde
    March 7: Discussion
    Readings: Briggs, Ch. 3, pp. 128-44.
    Other: TBA.


    Week VI.

    March 10: Louis XIV
    March 12: Descart and Pascal
    March 14: Midterm Examination
    Readings: Briggs, Ch. 3, pp. 144-65.
    Other: TBA.


    Week VII.

    March 17: Versailles and Royal Authority
    March 19: Bossuet
    March 21: Discussion
    Readings: Briggs, Ch. 4, pp. 166-211; Lewis, Splendid Century.


    Week VIII.

    March 22-30, Spring Vacation


    Week IX.

    March 31: At War with Europe
    April 2: Guest Lecture by Dr. Jess Mann, "Literature of the Grand Siecle"
    April 4: The Colonial Riddle
    Readings: Lewis, Splendid Century


    Week X.

    April 7: Chroniclers and Critics of the Reign
    April 9: Government and Society as Louis left it
    April 11: Discussion
    Readings: Lewis, Splendid Century


    Week XI.

    April 14: Bourbon Politics: The Reign of Louis XV
    April 16: European Perspectives
    April 18: The Age of Reason, I
    Readings: TBA.


    Week XII.

    April 21: The Age of Reason, II
    April 23: Enlightenment and Enlightened Despots
    April 25: Discussion
    Readings: TBA.


    Week XIII.

    April 28: The American Revolution
    April 30: The Crisis of the Old Regime
    May 2: Film
    Readings: Lefebvre, Introduction, pp. 1-3, Chs. 1-4, pp. 7-75.


    Week XIV.

    May 5: The Fall of the Monarchy
    May 7: The French Revolution
    May 9: Discussion
    Readings: Lefebvre, Chs. 5-10, pp. 76-151.


    Week XV.

    May 12: Looking Forward and Backward from 1789.
    Readings: Lefebvre, Chs. 11-15 (plus Conclusion), pp. 155-220.