Living the French Revolution and the Age of Napoleon Course

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48 episodes in this series

Episode 1 Introduction and the Old Regime Monarchy
Take a first look at the complexities of overthrowing a monarchy and constructing a democracy. This first episode introduces you to Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette and lays the groundwork…
Episode 2 Privilege—Old Regime Society
Look at the hierarchical society of France in the 1780s, which was divided into three estates--those who prayed (the clergy), those who fought (the nobles), and those who worked and…
Episode 3 The Enlightenment
Enter 18th-century salons and cafes to join the debates over modernity and politics. While writers such as Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau argued over natural rights, political reform, the social contract,…
Episode 4 France, Global Commerce, and Colonization
See how global trade, the mercantilist system, and the slave trade disrupted traditional notions of societal hierarchy as non-nobles benefited greatly from the new economy. Additionally, global warfare--especially between France…
Episode 5 American Revolution and the Economic Crisis
Explore the economic problems of France in the 1780s. The nation was deeply in debt, due to war with Britain and participating in the American Revolution. The opening of free…
Episode 6 The Political Awakening of 1789
When the Estates-General met in 1789 to tackle the nation's woes, several questions were on the table: Who would have political power? How could France reform its tax system? What…
Episode 7 July 14th—Storming the Bastille
Unpack the story of one of the most famous days in French history. In the wake of the Estates-General crisis, hungry crowds gathered in the streets of Paris. As the…
Episode 8 Peasant Revolt and the Abolition of Feudalism
In the weeks after the storming of the Bastille, panic gripped the countryside. Peasants revolted against their lords, and rumors about grain hoarding, bandits, and foreign invasion swirled around France.…
Episode 9 The Declaration of the Rights of Man
Study the origins and significance of this shocking declaration, from its influences in the Enlightenment and American rights declarations to its implications for religious liberty and the role of the…
Episode 10 Paris Commands Its King
March to Versailles with thousands of women and National Guardsmen to protest the price of bread and to lobby the king for political changes. This huge demonstration compelled the king…
Episode 11 Political Apprenticeship in Democracy
The press, political clubs, and elections--these three pillars of democratic, revolutionary politics set the agenda for the nation as France redistributed power, redrew its administrative map, and instituted a host…
Episode 12 Religion and the Early Revolution
Shift your attention from politics to the Catholic Church, which was at the heart of local communities throughout France. Despite an overall decline in religion in the 18th century, revolutionaries…
Episode 13 The Revolution and the Colonies
Turn to the French colonies and ask what the Revolution meant in places such as Saint-Domingue, the colony that would soon become the independent nation of Haiti. Did the Declaration…
Episode 14 Women’s Rights in the Early Revolution
Women had no official political role in the Old Regime, but the Revolution raised the question of women's rights and their place in the public sphere. Find out how two…
Episode 15 The King’s Flight
On June 20, 1791, King Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette disappeared, having fled into the night. This episodes hows you the king's secret--and ultimately doomed--attempt to escape France. This act became…
Episode 16 Foreign Reactions—A Divided Europe
Travel to Great Britain to explore the foreign reactions to the French Revolution. Professor Desan walks you through Edmund Burke's defense of tradition and the aristocratic system, as well as…
Episode 17 The Path to War with Europe
Discover why France went to war with Austria and Prussia in 1792, and meet some of the key players in that decision--including the Jacobin Maximilien Robespierre who, ironically, feared war…
Episode 18 Overthrowing the Monarchy
Turn to ordinary citizens as they overthrow their king and embark on a bold political experiment. With France losing the war with Austria and angry crowds in the streets, the…
Episode 19 The King’s Trial
Experience the stunning trial and execution of King Louis XVI. This episode begins by surveying the political alignments of the new republic and the debates between the radical Jacobins and…
Episode 20 The Republic at War
Consider the international issues while France was at war. How did the French army save the republic at the battle of Valmy? Could the French spread the Revolution abroad? Could…
Episode 21 Revolutionary Culture and Festivals
Step back and explore the culture of France as revolutionary leaders tried to stamp out the power of religion and the monarchy. From a new republican calendar to festivals that…
Episode 22 Family and Marriage
Look beyond the larger issues of politics and economics and reflect on how the Revolution introduced new ideas of liberty and equality into family relationships. The revolutionaries legalized divorce, challenged…
Episode 23 Slave Revolt and the Abolition of Slavery
The largest slave revolt in history took place in Saint-Domingue in the early 1790s. What made the revolt possible? How did insurgent slaves convince France that slavery should be abolished?…
Episode 24 Counterrevolution and the Vendée
Not everyone was on board with the Revolution. In fact, tens of thousands of peasants and artisans in the provinces were dissatisfied with what they saw as the atheism and…
Episode 25 The Pressure Cooker of Politics
Return to Paris during the crisis months of spring 1793 as the leading revolutionaries wrestled with the ongoing economic crisis, war losses, and the growing fear of conspiracy and counterrevolution.…
Episode 26 Revolution in Crisis—Summer 1793
Witness the Jacobins' struggle to hold the republic together. French Federalists wanted local power, especially in the south and in Normandy. Although their revolt never gained traction, it stunned Jacobins…
Episode 27 Terror Is the Order of the Day
The beginning of the Terror is difficult to pinpoint, but by the fall of 1793, all the institutions of the Terror were in place. This episodes hows you how the…
Episode 28 The Revolution Devours Her Children
Continue your study of the Terror and explore the fundamental contradiction of using brutal means to create an egalitarian republic. Delve into the clandestine political plots and see how Robespierre…
Episode 29 The Overthrow of Robespierre
How was Robespierre overthrown? As the Terror intensifies, you will follow an exhausted Robespierre as he battles to maintain control, and you will meet a group known as the Thermidorians,…
Episode 30 The Thermidorian Reaction
After the fall of Robespierre, France shifted to the right as the Thermidorians struggled to save the republic and create a social order free from the violence of the Terror.…
Episode 31 The Directory—An Experimental Republic
Examine the moderate new republic and its attempts to find a middle way to carry out the promise of the Enlightenment and the Revolution without the disorder of the preceding…
Episode 32 Young Napoleon
Meet the famous Corsican who would one day crown himself emperor of France. This episode introduces you to Napoleon as a young man. The context of his early military career…
Episode 33 The Italian Campaign and the Sister Republics
As commander of the French army in Italy in 1796, Napoleon marched into Milan, drove Austria to its knees, and set up a sister republic in Italy, astonishing the rest…
Episode 34 Sister Republics? France and America
Review the relationship between France and the United States. Coming off the heels of the American Revolution, the two nations had a cozy relationship in 1789, but the friendship soured…
Episode 35 Bonaparte in Egypt
Return to Napoleon's military conquests--this time in Egypt, which was then part of the Ottoman Empire. After his Italian campaign, he grew restless in Paris and led an expedition to…
Episode 36 Bonaparte Seizes Power
How did Napoleon seize power in France in 1799? Tensions were high between the royalists and the neo-Jacobins, and in this climate of crisis, Napoleon led a military coup and…
Episode 37 Building Power—General and First Consul
Trace the early years of Napoleon's rule and see how he built his power step by step. At war, he maneuvered boldly against the Austrians and had an uncanny ability…
Episode 38 Napoleon Becomes Emperor
As his power grew, Napoleon's ties to the Revolution shifted. He spoke of the "nation" rather than the "republic," and he became more formal and remote. After a failed plot…
Episode 39 Napoleon’s Ambitions in the New World
In 1803, despite Napoleon's colonial ambitions, France sold 800,000 square miles of the Louisiana territory to the United States. Find out why by considering the international situation, especially Napoleon's attempt…
Episode 40 Taking on the Great Powers
While Napoleon's ambitions in the Americas had been thwarted, he was ready in 1805 to take on the great powers of Europe. Go inside the Grande Armee and learn about…
Episode 41 Expanding the Empire
From 1806 to 1808, Napoleon pushed his empire beyond the limits of what he could actually rule, from Poland to Spain. Take a closer look at his military strategy as…
Episode 42 France during the Empire
Perhaps because Napoleon rose to power so unexpectedly, his legitimacy was always fragile. Survey the ways in which he built his own glory by transforming Paris and creating a new…
Episode 43 Living under the Empire
Was Napoleon a modernizer who brought efficient and liberal reforms throughout his European empire, or was he a cultural imperialist who tried to export his vision of a centralized, authoritarian…
Episode 44 The Russian Campaign
Follow Napoleon's harrowing march across Russia in 1812, and witness his doomed campaign from the viewpoint of his soldiers. Napoleon's fateful decision to invade Russia marked a turning point for…
Episode 45 Napoleon’s Fall and the Hundred Days
Experience the drama that followed the disastrous Russian campaign, where several European nations formed an alliance against France and forced Napoleon into exile. But in a surprising turn of events,…
Episode 46 Waterloo and Beyond
Against all odds, Napoleon struggled to hang onto power, but in the spring of 1815, all the major European powers had declared war against him. He needed one great victory…
Episode 47 Emerging Political Models
Take a look at the politics of France after Napoleon. The nation had changed too much over the preceding 25 years to simply return to a stable monarchy. See the…
Episode 48 Revolutionary Legacies
In this concluding episode, you'll look at how the ideas, symbols, and practices of the Revolution had far-ranging consequences that are still being debated today. From the European uprisings of…

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