Study questions

Questions on Primary Source Readings

These are the questions on the primary source readings for the semester.


Pillars of the Ancien Régime

Charles Loyseau, A Treatise on Orders (1610)

1.  What was an “order,” as Loyseau defined it?

2.  What were the three orders of France and what were their functions?

3.  In what ways were the three orders differentiated from each other?


Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, Politics Derived from the Words of Holy Scripture (1709)

1.  According to Bossuet, what were the fundamental rights and obligations of royal authority?

2.  How does he justify the power of royal authority?  What texts does he use?

3.  Describe the relationship of church and state in Bossuet’s ideal description of monarchical rule.


English Civil War and Revolution

Thomas Hobbes, The Behemoth (1668)

1.  What were the causes of the Civil War, according to Hobbes?

2.  Who were the various “seducers” and what did they do that hurt the political order, according to Hobbes?

3.  In Hobbes’s opinion, what would be the ideal relationship of church and state?

4.  What is Hobbes’s opinion of the common people?


John Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration (1685)

1. Into what two main spheres does Locke divide the world?  Name 2-3 examples of the responsibilities and duties he assigns to each sphere.

2. In what ways is the Magistrate supposed to be tolerant of religious groups?

3. In what ways are religious groups supposed to be tolerant of people who are not members of their groups?

4. For what reasons can a religious group cease to be tolerant toward an individual in their group?  What can the religious group do to the individual?

5. For what reasons can the Magistrate justifiably interfere in the rites and rituals of a religious group?

6. What is the great uncertainty about religion and religious groups that Locke embraces?  How does he exploit this uncertainty in discussing the rights of individuals in society?


The Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment, and Capitalism

Denis Diderot, The Definition of an Encyclopedia

1. According to Diderot, what are the purposes of an encyclopedia?

2. Why is it better to accumulate knowledge in a collaborative way rather than as separate individuals?

3. What aspects of Diderot’s project threatened the social and political order of the ancien regime?  In thinking about this question, consider what Loyseau and Bossuet would have said had they read Diderot’s definition of an encyclopedia.

4. What kinds of people did Diderot believe would actually use the Encyclopedia?


Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equinao or Gustavus Vassa the African (1789)

1. What strikes Equiano now in 1789 as he reflects on his memory of first arriving in Barbados in 1756?

2. According to Equiano, why do the buyers of slaves inflict family separation on them?

3. In what ways is this excerpt an example of an Enlightenment text?


Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776)

1. According to Smith, how does a society as a whole benefit when individuals are allowed to pursue their own economic self-interest?

2. What is the “invisible hand” and what does it direct individuals to do?

3. Why is it good that individuals are not aware of the benefits to society that pursuing their own gain produces?

4. What would Hobbes say about Smith’s ideas regarding self-interest?

5. What are the advantages and disadvantages for a country that seeks freer trade with other countries?


The French Revolution

A Royal Tongue-Lashing (3 March 1766)

1. What were the “parlements” and what functions did they traditionally serve?

2. What had the parlements been doing in the 1750s and 1760s that threatened the king’s authority?

3. According to the king, in what ways have the parlements’ recent actions upset the order of things? What does he want them to do?


Protests of the Parlement of Paris (March 1776)

1.  On what grounds does the Parlement argue that the corvée not be replaced by a land tax?

2.  In what ways does the Parlement’s argument reflect Loyseau’s description and defense of France’s social order in A Treatise on Orders?


Regulations for the Convocation of the Estates General (24 January 1789)

1. What questions about representation in the Estates-General did the Regulations resolve?

2. What questions did the Regulations leave unresolved?

3. How was the election of deputies supposed to work and what were the cahiers de doléances?


Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès, What is the Third Estate? (1789)

1. How does Sieyès define the nation?

2. What are the concrete political goals of the nation?

3. According to Sieyès, what roles do the clergy and the nobility have in the nation, and what will happen to their privileges?

4. In what ways does Sieyès discuss the general will of the people and its relationship to law?


Decrees of the National Assembly (10-11 August 1789)

1. According to the August 10 decree, what are the greatest threats to the Revolution?

2. What measures does the National Assembly call for to combat these threats?

3. In the decree of August 11, what aspects of the old regime does the National Assembly dismantle?

4. In what ways does the decree of August 11 confirm what the French nobility before 1789 had feared would be the social repercussions of a radical reform of taxes?

5. As reflected in the decree of August 11, what does the National Assembly presently think about the king and his role in the Revolution?


The October Days (1789)

1. What were the main demands of the women who went to Versailles?

2. What do the depositions reveal about popular attitudes toward the king and toward the queen?

3. How might have the nature of these documents—as depositions in an investigation—influenced their content?


Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (August 26, 1789)

1. According to its preamble, what are the three stated aims of the Declaration?

2. What are the rights and obligations of a French citizen?

3. In what ways are men declared to be equal?

4. On what grounds can social distinctions be allowed?

5. In what ways does the Declaration reflect what Sieyès had been calling for?


The Civil Constitution of the Clergy (12 July 1790)

1. What aspects of the Church does the National Assembly wish to control?

2. Is this document in line with Locke’s understanding of the separation of church and state, or does it overstep his vision of that concept?

3. What would Hobbes think of the measures outlined in this document?


Viefville des Essars, On the Emancipation of the Negroes (1790)

1. What arguments does des Essars make for emancipation?

2. Under what terms should France’s slaves be freed and how much time must pass before this happens?

3. According to des Essars, how will emancipation affect France’s possession of overseas colonies?

4. If des Essars’s pamphlet does not advocate immediate emancipation, why write it in the first place?


The Le Chapelier Law (14 June 1791)

1. What kinds of persons and activities does the Le Chapelier Law condemn?

2. How does the Le Chapelier Law allow the government to punish those it condemns?

3. How does the Le Chapelier Law use the Declaration of the Rights of Man as a weapon against those it condemns?

4. Compare the Le Chapelier Law to the Decree of August 10, 1789 (RWC 7, 227-228). How does each document establish the parameters of legitimate and illegitimate economic activity? How does each document define in political terms the illegitimate activities and person it seeks to condemn?


Marie-Olympe de Gouges, Declaration of the Rights of Women (1791)

1. How does Gouges use the logic of Enlightenment thinkers to make her case for women obtaining political rights equal to those of men?

2. In what ways does Gouges establish women’s rights on the basis of their equality to men?

3. In what ways does she promote women’s rights based on their difference from men?


The Constitution of 1791

1. How does the Constitution define a French citizen?

2. How does it define an active citizen, and how is such a person different from a citizen?

3. In what ways does the Constitution expand the role of the government in the lives of its citizens?

4. According to the Constitution, to whom or what does sovereignty belong?

5. Who and/or what are the sovereign’s two representatives?

6. To which representative does this Constitution give greater power and authority?  Name two or three examples.


The Revolution of 10 August 1792

1. What extraordinary measures do the Fédérés and the Mauconseil Section demand that the Legislative Assembly take?

2. Why does the Mauconseil Section consider the Constitution and the law in general to be deficient?

3. In the two documents by Vergniaud, how does the National Assembly react to these popular pressures and demands for immediate action against the king?


Documents of the Sans-Culottes

1. In the first document, what are the political beliefs and economic policies of the sans-culottes?

2. What kinds of beliefs and actions are attributed to an aristocrat?

3. According to Citizen Lacroix, what forces are behind the problems the country is facing?

4. According to Citizen Lacroix, in what ways must the country mobilize against its enemies?

5. In the document on a Special Jury against Hoarders, who now claims to be the nation?

6. Compare the document from the General Council of the Commune of Paris (RWC 7, 338-339) to the Decree of August 10, 1789 (RWC 7, 227-228).  In what ways have suspicion about seditious activities, the range of potential enemies, and the methods used to recognize them changed over time?

7. What does the William Tell Section urge the Convention to do with its policies of “fear and terror”?


Decree Establishing the Levée en Masse (23 August 1793)

1. What is the purpose of this mobilization?

2. What and who are being mobilized?

3. What are the obligations of citizens and how are they to be organized?


“Make Terror the Order of the Day” (5 September 1793)

1. Over what economic conditions are the sans-culottes and their representatives expressing their discontent and fear?

2. How do they explain the origins of these economic conditions?

3. What solutions do they propose?

4. What concepts, slogans, and ideas do they invoke to justify these solutions?

5. Do they see these solutions as a departure from the original ideas and goals of the Revolution?


The Law of Suspects (17 September 1793)

1. What actions or non-actions can result in someone being labeled a ‘suspected person’?

2. What kinds of measures can the Watch Committees take to combat suspected persons?

3. What does article 10 of the law allow the courts to do?


Louis-Antoine Léon de Saint-Just, Report to the Convention on Behalf of the Committee of Public Safety (10 October 1793)

1. According to Saint-Just, who are the enemies of the Revolution?

2. Where do many of these enemies now work and operate?

3. Why must the Constitution be suspended?


Maximilien François Isidore de Robespierre, Report on the Principles of Political Morality (5 February 1794)

1. What are the ultimate purposes of the Revolution, according to Robespierre?

2. How does Robespierre define virtue?

3. How does he define and justify terror?

4. Who are the enemies of the Revolution, according to Robespierre, and how can one recognize them?


Conservatism, Liberalism, and Views from Abroad

Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790)

1. What are Burke’s general objections to the French Revolution to date (i.e., up to 1790) and the conduct of the Revolutionaries?  Identify at least three main examples in his general objections.

2. In an ideal world, according to Burke, what role should tradition play when a country undergoes important social and political changes?

3. According to Burke, why are nobility and religion important, and why should they be preserved in an era dominated by commerce and trade?

4. In Burke’s view, why is the French Revolutionaries’ understanding of rights so fundamentally flawed?

5. Why does Burke think that promoting the idea of equality is dangerous?


Benjamin Constant, Ancient and Modern Liberty Compared (1814)

1. According to Constant, what kind of liberty did the ancients acquire by giving up their individual rights to the community?

2. Why does he think that modern attempts to achieve the ancients’ version of liberty will not work?

3. According to Constant, what kind of liberty can modern people aspire to?

4. According to Constant, how have some people misinterpreted and misused Rousseau’s concept of sovereignty in The Social Contract to justify despotism?


Al-Jabarti, Chronicle of the French Occupation, 1798 (blog)

1. In what ways does Napoleon’s proclamation to the Egyptians reflect values, assumptions, and tactics of the French Revolution?

2. What aspects of the proclamation does Al-Jabarti consider to be outright lies?

3. What does Al-Jabarti think of the French approach to religion in general?


Joseph de Maistre, Considerations on France (1796)

1. In what ways are de Maistre’s criticisms of the French Revolution similar to Burke’s?  How are they different?

2. In observing that “men do not lead the Revolution; it is the Revolution that uses men,” what is de Maistre saying about the role of individuals in history?

3. According to de Maistre, why is religion so important to society?


The Progress of Industrialization

Samuel Smiles, William Fairbairn (1870)

1.   In what ways is Smiles’s biography of Fairbairn an example of a “triumphalist” narrative?

2.   According to Smiles, what motivates Fairbairn to do what he does?

3.   Would the authors of the Encylopédie like or dislike Fairbairn, and why?

4.   Why does Smiles believe that industrialization and technology are good things?


Two Articles from The Economist (1851)

1. According to the first article, what does the Crystal Palace represent and signify about the times they are living in?

2. In what ways will the technology of the Crystal Palace change housing?

3. What kind of equality will the technological advancements represented by the Crystal Palace make possible?

4. According to the second article, in what ways have the first fifty years of the 19th century been different from “all the centuries which have preceded it”?

5. What are the major differences between life in 1850 and life in 1800, which the author uses to illustrate the progress of the age?

Utopian Answers to The Social Question

Charles Fourier, On the Phalanstery (1830s-1850s)

1. What are the several passions that Fourier believes have been wrongly suppressed as vices by morality?

2. What does Fourier mean by the terms the “civilized state” and the “associative state”?  Which one does he clearly favor over the other?

4. What is the phalanstery and how is it organized?

5. How will the phalanstery repair and restore man’s relationship to labor?


Flora Tristan, The Workers’ Union (1843)

1. According to Tristan, why is it necessary for workers to have a union?

2. In what ways does Tristan see her cause in religious terms?

3. According to Tristan, what vital roles do women play in the lives of workers?

4. How will workers’ lives improve once women are given equal rights?


Ludwig Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity (1841)

1. According to Feuerbach, what differentiates humans from animals?

2. How does he define religion?

3. According to Feuerbach, how is religion related to a person’s consciousness of him or herself?


The Revolutions of 1848 and Marxism

Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852)

1. According to Marx, how will the working class revolution be different from past revolutions in history?

2. Why did the 1848 Revolution fail for the workers?

3. What does Marx think of Napoleon III’s government and the role of the state in history?


Friedrich Engels, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (1880)

1. Engels is most attentive to moments in history when economic forces and the ways a society is organized are out of synch or even in conflict.  What are some examples where he shows this?

2. In history, according to Engels, what has been mankind’s relationship to Nature and social organization up until the time he is writing (i.e., the Industrial Revolution)?

3. In theory, what is supposed to happen once people fully understand the social forces and social organization that shape their lives?

4.  Why is the state supposed to wither away in the era of communism?


Nationalism and Imperialism

Ernest Renan, “What Is a Nation?” (1882)

1. What is the “far graver mistake,” which Renan identifies in the introduction to his speech?  How is this “mistake” similar to what Sieyès advocated about the nation and sovereignty?  How is it different?

2. What does Renan think of “ethnographic politics”?  What are the risks, in his opinion, of making race the basis for modern nations?

3. What should the modern nation be based upon ideally, according to Renan?


Giuseppe Mazzini, Duties to Country (1859)

1. According to Mazzini, what is the ultimate mission of Italy once it is constituted as a country?

2. In what ways does Mazzini echo the the goals and values that the Abbé Sièyes had outlined for the Third Estate before the French Revolution?

3. What groups and forces stand in the way of Italian unification?


Heinrich von Treitschke, In Memory of the Great War (1895)

1. According to von Treitschke, for how long has the German nation existed?

2. What did Bismarck do?

3. How does von Treitschke’s speech reflect the myths and dangers of nationalism, as defined by Renan?


Theodor Herzl, The Jewish State (1896)

1. What is the purpose of Herzl’s project?

2. According to Herzl, why did the assimilation of Jews into European societies not work?  Why does Herzl resist assimilation?

3. In what ways does Herzl’s project reflect broader understandings of what a nation is and what it should be, as described by Renan?


Joseph Chamberlain, Preference, the True Imperial Policy (1905)

1. How does Chamberlain justify the continued existence of the British Empire?

2. What does Chamberlain think of free trade?

3. In what ways does Chamberlain wish to change the British Empire?


The Earl of Cromer, Modern Egypt (1908)

1. How does Cromer describe Egyptians and their society?

2. What is England’s mission in Egypt according to Cromer?

3. How does Cromer use the term “Western civilization,” and what meanings does he associate with the term?


Modernism and World War I

 Sigmund Freud, “Thoughts for the Times on War and Death” (1915)

1. According to Freud, before the war, people shared certain beliefs about “the citizen of the civilized world” and about death.  What were these generally shared beliefs?

2. According to Freud, the war shattered these beliefs and made them completely untenable.  What are the truths about “the citizen of the civilized world” and about death which the war revealed?

3. How does the individual’s psychological constitution (i.e., the way he is hard-wired) change over time?  How does it stay the same?

4. How does civilization (e.g., moral restraints) change and progress over time in what it demands from the individual?

5. In what ways does Freud challenge the assumptions liberals make about the individual person and his/her relationship to society (i.e., civilization)?


Totalitarianism and World War II

Joseph Stalin, The Foundations of Leninism (1924)

1. How does Leninism justify the fact that the Revolution occurred first in Russia instead of more industrialized countries?

2. In what ways does Leninism “update” Marxist doctrines?  (Contrast Leninism with earlier writings by Marx and Engels that we have read.)

3. What is the “dictatorship of the proletariat” and what are its main purposes?

4. What is the harmony that Stalin seeks in the section “Style in Work”?


Benito Mussolini, The Doctrine of Fascism (1932)

1. Provide a brief definition of the term “fascism” after having read Mussolini’s essay.

2. In what ways can the individual best realize himself or herself, according to Mussolini?  What authors, whom we have read, expressed similar views before him?

3. What other authors, whom we have read, does Mussolini discuss and what does he say about them?


Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (1925)

1. How does Hitler explain his anti-Semitism?

2. What narrative and rhetorical tools does Hitler use to present his anti-Semitism as a legitimate example of an intellectual awakening?

3. What is the purpose of the state, according to Hitler?


Friedrich von Hayek, The Road to Serfdom (1944)

1. What is Hayek trying to salvage from Western Civilization?

2. What is the great aberration of history he notes has happened in the late 19th and early 20th centuries?

3. What values characterize the collectivist or socialist society?


Bruno Bettelheim, The Experience of the Concentration Camps (1945)

1. What reasons does Bettleheim offer for explaining why he examined life in the concentration camps?

2. According to Bettleheim, how did the initial experiences of the concentration camps change the prisoners psychologically?

3. In what ways did old prisoners differ from new prisoners?

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