Institutions and Individuals: Challenging Authority in Revolutionary France

Archie Livingston, Jr., Social Studies, Alexander Graham Middle School

Final Unit (PDF)  Implementing Common Core Standards (PDF)


The unit is designed for adolescent students as a diluted instructional
sequence of the French Revolution and will consist of seven lessons with various
assessment pieces. It will focus on five icons for students to process the causes, events,
and lasting effects of this challenge to absolutism including: the nobility, the
disenfranchised French subject, enlightened member of the middle class, the guillotine,
and Code Napoleon. Beginning by examining the egregious spending by Louis XIV and
life at the royal court in comparison to the peasant, students will begin to build a
framework of the alienated masses, and how centuries of political disenfranchisement led
to dissatisfaction for many. Then, by using an intellectual as the representation of the
middle class, students will study political philosophy and how the Enlightenment ideals
of natural rights and a social contract existing between citizen and state gave rise to
violence. The final piece examines the reform efforts instituted by Napoleon Bonaparte
as a product of the revolutionary idealism of equality for all men. The goal is not only
content mastery, but for students to develop concrete images of select icons which can be
used as a model for understanding subsequent studies of social revolution.