Living the French Revolution and the Age of Napoleon

Course No. 8220
Professor Suzanne M. Desan, Ph.D.
University of Wisconsin, Madison
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Course Overview

The 25 years between the onset of the French Revolution in 1789 and the Bourbon Restoration after Napoleon in 1814 is an astonishing period in world history. This era shook the foundations of the old world and marked a 
permanent shift for politics, religion, and society—not just for France, but for all of Europe. An account of the events alone reads like something out of a thrilling novel:
  • France’s oppressed and hungry masses rise up against their government.
  • In Paris, crowds storm the Bastille looking for bread and weaponry.
  • Rumors, panic, and fear grip the nation as it faces an uncertain future.
  • The National Assembly adopts the Declaration of the Rights of Man, the first bold step toward the invention of democratic politics and a republican state.
  • King Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette try to flee the country under cover of darkness.
  • After the king’s execution, the government takes emergency measures that lead to the Terror, when thousands will be put to death by the guillotine.
  • A young Corsican named Napoleon Bonaparte stuns Europe with his military strategy and political boldness.
  • At the end of his empire, Napoleon escapes Elba to confront the Duke of Wellington at the famous Battle of Waterloo.

Living the French Revolution and the Age of Napoleon is your opportunity to learn the full story of this captivating period. Taught by Dr. Suzanne M. Desan, a distinguished professor of history at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, these 48 exciting lectures give you a broad and comprehensive survey of one of the most important eras in modern history.

What makes this course such a rare treat is that Professor Desan introduces you to all sides of the story. A people’s revolution for liberty and equality is an exciting moment in history, and indeed the crowds that rose up against the Old Regime were infused with optimism. Yet there is a darker side of the story as well:

  • The tyranny of Robespierre and his ardent support of the Terror
  • Revolutionary tribunals and the Committee of Public Safety, which were meant to maintain the peace but which exacerbated the fear
  • The tens of thousands who were executed, many without trial

How did the French attempt to create a democratic republic?  How did such an optimistic movement, such an idealistic new government, morph into the Terror? Was an authoritarian regime an inevitable response to the Revolution? There are no easy answers to these questions; yet they speak to some of the same events in our contemporary history, from the quest for civil rights in the United States to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Living the French Revolution and the Age of Napoleon introduces you to the hotly contested invention of modern politics—the oppression, the freedom, the turmoil, the violence, the passion, and the hope of the era. When you complete this course, you’ll have a new appreciation for this history, and you’ll understand how profoundly it changed the rest of Europe.


Learn about the People, the Politics, and the Culture of the Revolution


The French Revolution raised a host of questions that are still with us today: What happens when people living under a traditional monarchy try to invent a democracy and an egalitarian society? How do you wrench the modern world out of the old? How do you secure equality for everyone in society? And how do you maintain the peace and deliver on the promises of the Revolution during the transition?

You’ll study these philosophical questions through the eyes of the people—the leaders and the citizens, the famous and the infamous, the soldiers and the writers, the wealthy and the hungry—as they struggled to advance their cause and come to terms with each new development. For instance, you’ll

  • learn about the brutality of life under the Old Regime, and see how the burden of taxes, tithes to the church, and the unequal distribution of wealth affected ordinary citizens in the Third Estate;
  • examine the political parties, from the Girondins and Jacobins in the government to the sans-culottes in the streets, that jockeyed for control of the direction of France;
  • meet women such as Olympe de Gouges, who struggled for their rights and demanded  divorce and equal inheritance laws; and
  • consider the debates in the international arena, such as those between the conservative Edmund Burke, who defended the aristocracy, and the liberal Thomas Paine, who advocated the rights of man.

You’ll laugh at the absurd hedgehog hairstyles of the aristocratic elites; you’ll marvel at Louis and Marie-Antoinette’s escape coach as they tried to flee France; and you’ll be amazed by Napoleon’s dramatic escape from Elba. From the machinations of the highest officers to the violence of the hungry crowds; from the battles and international treaties to the bedrooms of Versailles and jail cells of the Bastille; Professor Desan takes you into this era from every angle.


A Deep, Immersive Study


Living the French Revolution and the Age of Napoleon covers an impressive amount of ground. You’ll investigate the causes of the Revolution—a perfect storm of famine, war debt, social inequality, and economic downturn; you’ll trace the era’s major events, from the storming of the Bastille in 1789 to the execution of King Louis XVI to Napoleon’s major campaigns; and you’ll learn about the many governments the French people experienced in such a short period—the monarchy, the republic, the empire, and more.

But the true joy of this course lies in the unique insights Professor Desan provides. Fascinating nuggets, small details, and little-known ironies of history bring this era to life:

  • The original ending to “Little Red Riding Hood” provides a bleak look at many people’s constant struggle to survive.
  • The revolutionaries tried hard to remake society after overthrowing the old system—even trying to de-Christianize the nation and create a new calendar.
  • The Revolution shaped events in the rest of the world—including America, which eventually benefited from the Louisiana Purchase.
  • We think of Robespierre as the face of the Terror, but he was a complex figure who argued against the death penalty two years before he called for the king’s head.
  • The Directory is a less-studied yet intriguing wedge between the Terror and Napoleon.
  • Napoleon was thrown from his horse just days before he seized power—nearly putting a halt to the empire before it even existed.

Professor Desan notes that there have been more studies written about Napoleon than there have been days since he died. An examination of this period would not be complete without a thorough look at this engaging figure, the man who paid his soldiers in cash and inspired a wave of “Egypto-mania” after his expedition in Egypt. You’ll explore in detail what made him such a powerful leader—how he was able to combine repression with conciliation at home, and diplomacy with military might abroad.

You’ll be surprised to learn that this man who crowned himself emperor and led France into war against every other major European power also was a child of the Revolution. He kept many of the reforms enacted by the revolutionaries. Despite Napoleon’s reputation as a powerful, nearly invincible figure, Professor Desan presents him as a flesh-and-blood human being with all the requisite contradictions.

You’ll also enjoy learning about the impact of the Revolution beyond the borders of France—particularly in the colony of Saint-Domingue, now known as Haiti. Did the struggle for human rights apply to the slaves in the colonies? You’ll meet such figures as Vincent Ogé and Toussaint Louverture who led uprisings that eventually resulted in a free and independent Haiti.


A Dynamic and Engaging Professor


These are powerful lectures indeed, both for their content and for their presentation. Professor Desan has had a lifelong passion for the subject, and she brings a deeply personal enthusiasm to each lecture. No wooden speaker behind a podium, she has a dynamic stage presence that draws you into the powerful story.

Additionally, for video customers, her lectures are enhanced by an array of maps and illustrations, cartoons, battle movement plans, and other visual elements that help bring the period to life.

This is the very human, very emotional side of the Revolution. You’ll feel the swell of the crowds again and again as they chant and protest. You’ll react to the cauldron of crisis and fear in the months leading up to the Terror. And you’ll come away with a new viewpoint—not just on this era, but on our own.

The next time you open any newspaper, you’ll see headlines that echo the struggles of France between 1789 and 1814. That dramatic period has reverberated through the ages. Freedom, equality, revolution, political factionalism—the hopes and questions of this gripping story have profound implications for us today.

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48 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    Introduction and the Old Regime Monarchy
    Take a first look at the complexities of overthrowing a monarchy and constructing a democracy. This first lecture introduces you to Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette and lays the groundwork for the gripping drama of the French Revolution. x
  • 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 paid taxes (the peasants). This system placed a heavy burden on the peasantry and set the stage for revolution. x
  • 3
    The Enlightenment
    Enter 18th-century salons and cafés 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, and more, the Old Regime cracked down on dissidents and threw writers in jail for criticizing the government. x
  • 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 and Great Britain over colonization—left France weakened and deeply in debt. x
  • 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 trade hit the textile market and caused high unemployment. Finally, years of poor harvests and famine spurred grain riots. x
  • 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 would happen to the system of privilege? Explore how the Third Estate challenged the status quo and created a revolutionary new Assembly to represent all France. x
  • 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 king gathered troops around Versailles, the politics of hunger took over in the streets and the crowds stormed the Bastille, sparking a nationwide revolution. x
  • 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. Amid this “Great Fear of 1789,” the National Assembly met and dismantled the feudal system as the political revolution morphed into a radical social revolution. x
  • 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 king. Who would get these “universal rights”? How would they be implemented? x
  • 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 and queen to move to Paris and revealed the power of popular activism. x
  • 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 of reforms that gave local voting power to the provinces. x
  • 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 were playing with fire as they sought to reform the church, and their actions divided the country. x
  • 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 of the Rights of Man apply to free people of color? Would the Revolution abolish the slave trade? These questions would take several years to answer. x
  • 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 of the era’s key feminists—Condorcet, a male mathematician, and Olympe de Gouges, a female writer—framed the demand for women’s rights, and observe the many ways women engaged in politics. x
  • 15
    The King’s Flight
    On June 20, 1791, King Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette disappeared, having fled into the night. This lecture shows you the king’s secret—and ultimately doomed—attempt to escape France. This act became a significant turning point for the Revolution because it allowed the French to imagine their country without a king. x
  • 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 Thomas Paine’s “Rights of Man,” a response to Burke that lays out an argument for equality and a series of reforms. x
  • 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 could destroy the Revolution and lead to a dictatorship. Study the causes of the war that would transform the Revolution. x
  • 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 Legislative Assembly declared the homeland in danger. See how revolutionary leaders and Parisians took matters into their own hands to press for creation of a republic. x
  • 19
    The King’s Trial
    Experience the stunning trial and execution of King Louis XVI. This lecture begins by surveying the political alignments of the new republic and the debates between the radical Jacobins and the moderate Girondins over what to do with the king—a political division that would only deepen after the king’s execution. x
  • 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 they continue to face their growing list of enemies? You’ll also learn about the French military and what it was like to be a soldier in the revolutionary army. x
  • 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 celebrated the goddesses Liberty and Reason, radicals enacted a fascinating series of changes. x
  • 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 the authority of fathers, and abolished unfair inheritance laws. Families became a microcosm of the Revolution as individuals figured out what liberty meant in everyday life. x
  • 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? Uncover the suspenseful story of Toussaint Louverture’s rise to power, which paved the way for an independent Haiti. x
  • 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 the anarchy of the revolutionaries. Learn about the civil war in western France and the counterrevolutionary efforts to restore the king and the old way of life. x
  • 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. The government took emergency measures and created the Committee of Public Safety, thus sowing the seeds for the Terror. x
  • 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 in Paris. Another dramatic calamity came in July, with the actions of a woman named Charlotte Corday. x
  • 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 lecture shows you how the Jacobins built the Terror, introduces you to some of its victims—including its most famous victim, Marie-Antoinette—and wrestles with the philosophical question of how the Terror emerged from the Revolution. x
  • 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 tried to negotiate a middle path between the extremists who were for or against the Terror. x
  • 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, who would take control of France and dismantle the Terror. x
  • 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. Witness the last great uprising of the Revolution, yet again over bread and politics, and trace the construction of the short-lived government called the Directory. x
  • 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 years. Because this curious moment is wedged between the Terror and Napoleon, it tends to be ignored in historical surveys, but it was a significant time as France expanded and experimented with revolutionary innovations. x
  • 32
    Young Napoleon
    Meet the famous Corsican who would one day crown himself emperor of France. This lecture introduces you to Napoleon as a young man. The context of his early military career will enhance your understanding of the mature general, and it demonstrates his complexity as an outsider striving to gain power. x
  • 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 of Europe. See what made Napoleon such a brilliant military strategist, and learn about Napoleon’s politics and diplomacy as a young leader. x
  • 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 over the next decade. By 1798, they were nearly at war, thanks to U.S. proclamations of neutrality, the Jay Treaty with Great Britain, and the XYZ Affair. x
  • 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 Egypt in an attempt to colonize it and spread French civilization abroad. x
  • 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 drew up yet another constitution for France, bringing the Revolution to an end. x
  • 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 to make peace. At home, he combined repression with conciliation to secure his power, and in 1802 he was elected First Consul for life. x
  • 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 against his life, he declared himself emperor. Despite this shocking seizure of power, he built on some of the Revolution’s better achievements. x
  • 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 to re-establish slavery and the loss of Haiti after the slave revolt. x
  • 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 Armée and learn about Napoleon’s corps system. Then take a look at several key battles, including Trafalgar at sea and the Battle of Austerlitz. x
  • 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 he reached the pinnacle of his power. He concentrated his forces for decisive victories in the Battle of Jena-Auerstädt, and he hammered out a peace with Tsar Alexander of Russia. x
  • 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 nobility. Then see how, needing an heir, he divorced Josephine. x
  • 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 state? Historians debate this even today, and this lecture shows you each side of the Napoleonic legacy. x
  • 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 his empire. x
  • 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, he escaped the island of Elba and regained control of France without firing a single shot. x
  • 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 to secure his reign, but the Battle of Waterloo became his final undoing and reverberated for years to come. x
  • 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 emergence of competing political models of conservatism, liberalism, and Bonapartism during the Bourbon Restoration of King Louis XVIII. x
  • 48
    Revolutionary Legacies
    In this concluding lecture, 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 1848 to the civil rights issues of the 20th and 21st centuries, the questions raised by the French Revolution are still being asked. x

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Your professor

Suzanne M. Desan

About Your Professor

Suzanne M. Desan, Ph.D.
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Professor Suzanne M. Desan is the Vilas-Shinners Distinguished Achievement Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Professor Desan is a historian of early modern Europe, specializing in 18th-century France. She holds a B.A. in History from Princeton University and an M.A. and a Ph.D. in History from the University of California, Berkeley. Professor Desan’s love of teaching has been recognized by...
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Living the French Revolution and the Age of Napoleon is rated 4.8 out of 5 by 143.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another good course An excellent explanation of the confusing events regarding the French Revolution and the age of Napoleon. I have long been interested in the subject and, thanks to this course. I understand it more and better, Thanks again.
Date published: 2020-02-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Held my attention Dr. Desan has a quirky style, and, at first, I was skeptical that I could get through all 48 lectures. However, I found myself binge-watching. I can't tell you why, exactly, but she was very good at holding my attention. I really enjoyed her lectures. I will say that she, like most professors, make value judgments that I find strange. For instance, when discussing positive aspects of the revolution, she mentions that many representatives were chosen from very poor vocational backgrounds with very little education. Intuitively, at least to me, this is a bad thing and probably deleterious to those who were represented. In fact, that probably goes a long way in accounting for the stunning success of the American Revolution and the catastrophe of the French Revolution. The leaders of the American revolution tried to ensure that well educated men would be be chosen as representatives. The same thing happens in the economics lecture from the Teaching Company; the professor cogently explains why economic equality is a disaster for all parties, then continues the lecture explaining various methods of reducing economic inequality.
Date published: 2019-12-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Professor Desan is OUTSTANDING! The French Revolution course is a wonderful adventure in learning! Professor Desan's passion for the events of the French Revolution come through every lecture. After reviewing the course guide book, she expands with exquisite detail every event, person and documents sprinkling in music and literature for good measure. What a joy this series of lectures are!!!
Date published: 2019-11-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Revolution Revealed Dr. Desan is given 48 lectures to discuss the French Revolution and the ensuing Napoleonic Era. I really thought that I knew quite a bit about this subject and even more about Napoleon. But now I know how little I really knew—and how much more there is to learn. The course is largely chronological, beginning with a couple of introductory lectures on the Ancien Regime, with lectures on the Enlightenment and the American Revolution, all setting the stage for the beginnings of the French Revolution. Then begins the heart of the course, with 26 lectures devoted to the various aspects of the Revolution, again the presentation mostly follows an *historical timeline, but there are some individual lectures that focus on specific issues, such as lecture 14 on Women’s Rights and the preceding lecture on the Colonies. Mostly these specific issues are introduced within a timeline when they become important and are revisited to illustrate points being made later in the course and in time. Along the way Dr. Desan presents notables like Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette with whom we are all familiar, to bring into focus the events being portrayed in the streets and alleys of Paris (and other cities), along with the almost anonymous members of the Third Estate who are often driving the tidal wave of things like the storming of the Bastille. In this instance Professor Desan vividly describes how this unfolds and brings several individuals into the spotlight. Throughout the course, there is a mixture of both the “Great Man” approach to history (Louis, Napoleon, Robespierre, Nelson, etc.) along with a sharp focus on how all these events effect the common man and how the common man often is the event driver. Not unsurprisingly the “Great Man” approach is really in the forefront in the 15 lectures devoted to Napoleon from his beginnings to his exile. She presents Napoleon as a complete person, with both his awesome abilities and their attendant weaknesses. Individual battles and campaigns are described in some detail, but not so detailed as a straight military history would do. But of more interest in this course are the lectures on how this all has effected France (lecture 41 and 42) and what it meant for individuals living during and under the Empire (43). The final two lectures are wrap-ups as to how France, and Europe as well, had changed during this era and how they would continue to change. Professor Desan’s presentation is animated and passionate. While there are some reviewers who dislike her voice and speaking style, I found her delivery to be easily understood and loved her obvious love of her subject. The delivery method, using continual movement of both the presenter and cameras, I think is typical of TC courses made around this time. There are some who dislike this style, just as there are some who dislike the earlier lectern approach. I thought that the course (and individual lecture) organization to be outstanding and easy to comprehend. As an aside, I loved her occasional use of stories like the two versions of “Little Red Riding Hood” to illustrate the class differences between the elite and the destitute. For me very effective. I think that those who only listen to the course will miss much. The maps and rich visuals (including representative art) added a great deal for my understanding and enjoyment. And finally I must observe the change in the set that occurred during the lectures around the “Terror”. A model guillotine replaces the globe on the desk. It is just there and never referenced. Nice! Get this course even if the era does not fascinate you. I don’t know about perfect, but I really can’t find a nit to pick.
Date published: 2019-10-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great features Dr. Dezan is wonderful relating this extraordinary period of chaos. I couldn’t wait to listen to the next lecture, I consumed this course at light speed.
Date published: 2019-03-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course This course brought to life not only the history of the Revolution and Napoleon but brought the world impact up to modern times. The professor discussed her personal experiences when studying in France. She really makes a great presentation.
Date published: 2019-03-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Essential to understanding modern western politics I've completed about 100 Great Courses and this was by far the best of those I've completed so far (and there are many good ones in there). I never realized just how far reaching is the impact of the French revolution, and I'm convinced now that it's not really possible understand modern western politics without knowing something about the French revolution. I have a 3 year old son and, as soon as he's old enough, my wife and I will make sure he watches this course to gain this important perspective.
Date published: 2019-03-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I learned a lot... very enthusiastic professor I’ve always had an interest in the French Revolution and it’s effects. Why was it so different than our American Revolution? Well I highly recommended this lecture series... the professor is so enthusiastic about her subject, it’s infectious.
Date published: 2019-03-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved the Teacher... Suzanne and the content she worked with were great...This has been my favorite college course, and my fruit favorite, that is online. Thank you, Suzanne! And anyone else who helped put this together...As a Cuban-Venezuelan of French and Spanish heritage, this has been hugely educational for me. Thank you, again!
Date published: 2019-01-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Really worth listening to the very end! Incredibly germane to current events as well as threading the needle of how Napoleon could fit in right after the Revolution- very very well done.
Date published: 2018-12-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Astonishing! I’ve only watched the first six lectures, all in one day, but the knowledge, perspective, passion, and communication ability of the professor are truly exceptional. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!
Date published: 2018-08-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This superb work .... I cannot give this superb work adequate praise. The professor gives us important, vital, wide and deep details and explanations and embellishments to events as never before, making all understandable and enjoyable to listeners with any level of prior knowledge. Comprehensive, deep, and somewhat stunning. Early on it was clear this course was unparalleled. That opinion only got stronger. Highest recommendation and rating.
Date published: 2018-07-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from In-depth, extensive and interesting This is an extremely interesting and in-depth course with a very wide scope. In her conclusion Prof Desan says, "Today in the popular mind the French Revolution brings popular images of Marie Antionette and the guillotine". That certainly applied to me. The sum total of my extremely basic and sketchy knowledge of the Revolution prior to the studying of this course was the storming of the Bastille, the executed King and (later) Queen, the guillotine, and a "bad guy" called Robespierre. And of course, Napoleon Bonaparte later on, and Waterloo. I like to think that my knowledge is much more extensive now! Prof Desan concludes by saying "I hope this course has shown how it [The Revolution] played a much wider role in ....... the ongoing struggle for human rights and equality". Well for me, it certainly did! I have only one suggestion -- at 48 lectures this is a lengthy course and I sometimes felt a bit overwhelmed by the sheer volume of material. Would there be a case for splitting this into TWO courses, "The Revolution" and "Napoleon"? Just a thought!
Date published: 2018-07-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful Course! Susan Desan is an excellent teacher: clear, entertaining, informative. Is there any chance that she will give a course on 19th and 20 century French history?
Date published: 2018-06-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Served its purpose The course fulfilled my objective, which was to develop a better understanding of this significant era in European and world history, although it was difficult to grasp so many French names and phrases when listening to a CD. What a tumultuous era!
Date published: 2018-06-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The absolute best Professor Desan knows her subject and tells it well. Her presentation is exciting. I knew how the story was going to end, but she presented it in a way that I was excited about what would happen next. I keep checking to see if she has additional courses. I really liked that she made use of a lot of visuals...something that is lacking in a lot of the great courses.
Date published: 2018-05-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Political Left and Right born in Revolution This is a college-level deep dive into the French Revolution and its Napoleonic aftermath...covering in very nice detail the period between (roughly) 1787 to 1815. The subject matter is rich, with detailed discussions of the politics and players of the times...from Louis XVI (and Marie) to Rousseau to Robespierre to finally Napoleon. How France survived these trying times, especially The Terror, all in the name of freedom contrasts sharply with the American Revolution. Any potential listener/watcher of this course should be prepared to do her/his homework by researching further every single won't regret it. Professor Desan's audio style can be just a bit off-putting, but her organization and depth of knowledge certainly makes up for any weakness in presentation. I especially enjoyed the concluding lectures in which she noted some of the consequences of that raging French Revolution (as well as the following Napoleonic Age) that live with us today. BTW, wouldn't 'Talleyrand' be a great name for a dog? Highly recommended, it's one of the best...but you'd deserve to lose your head if you didn't wait for that sale and that coupon.
Date published: 2018-05-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Truly A Great Courses Great Course This course is magnificent. Informative and very well presented. One of the finest the Great Courses has offered. 48 lectures weren't enough.
Date published: 2018-03-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Great Story, a Great Storyteller My wife and I looked forward every evening to the next exciting episode in French history. Prof. Desan presents the tumultuous history of this period like a grand novel, full of twists and turns, unexpected outcomes. With a sense of humor, too. The French Revolution still affects how we think about politics right now. Take the course and see and hear why.
Date published: 2018-03-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Living the French Revolution and the Age of Napole I bought this course within the last year after taking the Western Civilization II and hearing a number of other lectures from other providers. I liked the course. The professor's style was clear and straight forward and I learned a lot.
Date published: 2018-02-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Phenomenal Course - Entertaining Professor This was an enlightening (no pun) course. One of the best I have experienced through The Great Courses. Professor Desan is a wonderful lecturer and not without a bit of humor. I hope she has other courses available.
Date published: 2017-11-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb course I wish my college history professors were as passionate, interesting, and informative as Dr. Desan. She skillfully combines political, personal, religious and other aspects into a fascinating narrative of this most important period of history. I particularly enjoy the quotations she cites from pamphlets, speeches, and historical observations.
Date published: 2017-11-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Splendid Series of Talks - Loved it all Perfect for me was this course.Never having taken even one Euro history course, I sought something that would get me started on the French revolution and Napoleon. Professor Desan's wonderful talks completely hit the bullseye on what I was seeking. A master of the subject matter, she lectures with infectious enthusiasm. Laced with telling anecdotes and excellent scholarly perspective, her talks enthralled me and more than fulfilled my expectations.
Date published: 2017-10-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course! I watched streaming video on The Great Courses Plus. Prof. Desan is very knowledgable and delivered the content clearly. I could feel her enthusiasm through the screen.
Date published: 2017-10-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Supurb Depth I bought this course months ago in spite of the few negative reviews. Once I was a few CD's into the lectures, I was glad that I ignored them. Professor Desan brings an astonishing level of knowledge to her course. I found this course so interesting and informative that I've played it and replayed it as I drive back and forth to work. I know that might sound peculiar, but I live in Atlanta. The traffic is awful, and I don't like the radio stations. Hearing an intelligent person discuss an important era of history is my way of coping with road rage and traffic stress.
Date published: 2017-09-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course! I give Prof. Desan high marks for this course. While I agree with some reviewers that her lecture style is better suited to standing behind a lectern rather than roaming the carpet, her enthusiasm for this subject matter is undeniable and infectious, and she conveys a vast amount of information effectively and with flair. Her academic interest in family and gender in revolutionary France expands the traditional course content effectively. The course is long but compelling, and I think the course works well for the novice and expert alike. While I found the lectures on the French Revolution to be entirely satisfactory, I thought Prof. Desan really hit her stride in covering the Napoleonic era; really first rate. Highly recommended!
Date published: 2017-08-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent overview The professor offers an extremely dynamic and thought provoking exposition of the Revolution and Napoleon. This course is valuable for both those already familiar with the subject as well as those not so informed. I have learned things that I had never even considered about the Revolution. i now have a much better understanding and awareness of the impact of these events.
Date published: 2017-08-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from What a Story! I listened to the CDs in my car. Over and over again, I would get to where I was going and then just sit there for a while and listen, knowing that I could shut it off and restart at the same place, but unwilling to interrupt Dr Desan's captivating presentation.
Date published: 2017-08-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Not sure I would like it, but it is FANTASTIC! Got a bit hooked on France after being there a year or so ago. This course is one of the top 2 or 3 I have watched out of some 20+. I am not a historian. Prof. Desan make this course really great. You get sucked in and almost on the edge of your seat at times. Highly recommend.
Date published: 2017-06-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful course Wonderful course, taught by a stellar and passionate professor. It took us a few lectures to get used to her (vigorous) body language, but we are so glad we persevered! We already knew a great deal about the French Revolution, but learned, or were reminded, of aspects we didn't remember or knew. But you don't need to be a scholar of French history to enjoy the course. The professor puts everything in context and her lectures are spellbinding.
Date published: 2017-04-20
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