M101 | The French Revolution: Upheaval & a Template for the Future 


9:30 am - 11:00 am


9/27, 10/4, 10/18 & 11/1

Four Sessions 

This course is offered online via the easy-to-use Zoom program.

Modern societies are often forged by revolutions. France’s bloody upheaval of 1789 provides a framework for our understanding of social dislocations in history right through our modern era. 18th Century France faced a gathering storm of popular unrest relieved by utopian dreams of a new society. The Terror left society in ruins and paved the way for the unexpected-an imperial state led by an emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte. In addition to contemporary accounts, we will look at how the French Revolution was understood from the perspective of historians, social scientists, and political activists in the 19th and 20th Centuries. 

Seminar participants with special interests in the art, literature, or history of the 18th Century are invited to contact Philip Deely via the OLLI offices in advance as there will be several opportunities for audience participation.

Recommended Reading:

Participants who would like some background might consider the two best surveys in English published in 1989 - the Bicentennial of the storming of the Bastille.  William Doyle’s The Oxford History of the French Revolution is scholarly and details the political intrigues and social forces of the 18th Century.  While Doyle spends twenty pages on the Enlightenment, Simon Schama’s wonderfully discursive Citizens devotes much of the first 370 pages of his 870 page account to the society that spawned the Revolution: beginning with giants like Rousseau, Diderot, and Voltaire, he gives us a slew of journalists, actors, artists, and pornographers who helped strip away the facade of the Ancien Regime.

Philip Deely holds an undergraduate degree in history from Hobart College and an M.A. from the University of Chicago. He taught at Simon’s Rock and Phillips Exeter. He served as the Associate Director of the Norman Rockwell Museum and has been a consultant to nonprofits on fundraising, governance, and strategic planning.

Slides for Session 1, 9/27


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