10th Grade New York

French Revolution

This tenth grade annotated inquiry leads students through an investigation of the French Revolution. Adolescent students are quite concerned with challenging authority and establishing their independence within the world; the concept of revolution brings those two concerns to their most world-altering levels. This inquiry gives students an entry point into thinking like historians about the French Revolution. The question of success invites students into the intellectual space that historians occupy. By investigating the question of the French Revolution’s success, students will need to make decisions about what the problems of the Revolution were, how to give weight to the events of three different periods of the Revolution, and what distance, if any, was between intentions and effects.


Compelling Question:

Was the French Revolution successful?

Staging the Question:

Discuss the concept of revolution through a series of photographs that depict the recent Egyptian uprising.

Supporting Question What were the social, economic, and political problems in prerevolutionary France?

Formative Task List social, economic, and political problems in prerevolutionary France.

Sources Source A: Political cartoon of the Three Estates
Source B: Graph of the Three Estates
Source C: Cahiers de Doléances of 1789


Supporting Question How did the relationship between the French people and the king change in the early stages of the Revolution?

Formative Task Write one or two paragraphs explaining how the relationship between the French people and the king changed between 1789 and 1793.

Sources Source A: Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen
Source B: Declaration of the Rights of Woman and Citizen
Source C: Decree Abolishing the Feudal System


Supporting Question How did Robespierre justify the Reign of Terror?

Formative Task Write a summary of Robespierre’s justification for the Reign of Terror and identify two key details that support his justification.

Sources Source A: Engraving of Robespierre and the guillotine
Source B: Speech by Maximilien Robespierre


Supporting Question Did Napoleon’s rise to power represent a continuation of or an end to revolutionary ideals?

Formative Task Develop a claim supported by evidence about whether Napoleon’s rise to power represents a continuation of or an end to revolutionary ideals.

Sources Source A: Napoleon’s account of his coup d’état
Source B: Painting of the Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon I and Coronation of the Empress Josephine
Source C: Napoleon’s account of the internal situation of France in 1804

Summative Performance Task

Argument: Was the French Revolution successful? Construct an argument (e.g., detailed outline, poster, or essay) that addresses the compelling question, using specific claims and relevant evidence from historical sources while acknowledging competing views.
Extension: Express these arguments in a perspective-taking exercise using the medium of Twitter.

Taking Informed Action

Understand: Investigate a current “unfinished revolution” focusing on a group of people who are currently trying to revolutionize some aspect of society. This could be a political revolution or an economic, social, or even technological revolution.
Assess: Examine the extent to which the current attempt at revolution is successful and state one’s personal stance on the justification for the revolution or whether it is, in fact, a revolution.
Act: Write an editorial for the school or local newspaper on a current “unfinished revolution.” Within the editorial, students could discuss their positions on the efforts of those engaged in revolutionary activity and the extent to which those efforts are currently successful.