What social, political, and economic conditions led to the end of the Old Regime?
Second edition. December 2019.

The profound effects of the French Revolution stretch across borders and time. In France, it transformed the relationship between the people and the government. It ended an absolute monarchy, and challenged the power of the church and hereditary nobles. Over the next century, these ideas would begin to take root in other parts of Europe and across the world as well. The Revolution also raised profound questions that remain relevant today. Why did the effort to establish a democratic system fail? Why did the new republican government resort to violence and repression? The French Revolution traces the history of France during this epoch. Students explore France’s political and social organization, its competition for empire, its financial crises, and the efforts to reshape French society. An exciting central lesson helps students bring to life the political debate in France in 1789 and 1790.

Preview this unit. Preview includes the Table of Contents for the Student Text and the Teacher Resource Book as well as a student reading excerpt and one lesson plan.


French Society Under the Old Regime

Students explore the idea of social class and take on the roles of various segments of French society in a mock television interview.

The Fall of the Bastille

Students examine the cause and effect relationships leading to the taking of the Bastille.

Role-Playing the Three Options

Students participate in a simulation in which they assume the roles of members of the National Constituent Assembly and the French people debating their future.

Illustrating the French Revolution

Students create a graphic short story by identifying and illustrating critical events of the Revolution.

The Trial of Louis XVI

Students use primary sources to consider the arguments and issues around the trial of Louis XVI.

Assessment Using Documents: The Causes of the French Revolution

Students analyze various conflicting sources on why and how the French Revolution occurred.

Supplemental Resources

Additional reference material for added context and support.


Andress, David. The French Revolution and the People. London: Hambledon and London, 2004.

Doyle, William. The Oxford History of the French Revolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Hunt, Lynn. The French Revolution and Human Rights: A Brief Documentary History. Boston: St. Martin’s Press, 1996.

Mason, Laura and Tracy Rizzo. The French Revolution: A Document Collection. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1999.

Tackett, Timothy. Becoming a Revolutionary: The Deputies of the French National Assembly and the Emergence of a Revolutionary Culture. (1789-1790) Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996.

Walzer, Michael. Regicide and Revolution: Speeches at the Trial of Louis XVI. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992.

The library has an online collection of contemporary prints and political cartoons from the French Revolution.
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