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Fascism & Antifascism in France - 30 credits (HS1848)

Kevin Passmore, From Liberalism to Fascism: The Right in a French Province, 1928-1939;
Kevin Passmore, The Right in France: From the Third Republic to Vichy

Module Tutor: Professor Kevin Passmore

Course Description

On 6 February 1934 fascist leagues and veterans rioted on the Place de La Concorde in front of the French parliament, and succeeded in casing the resignation of a left-wing government. Fearful  that France was about to go the same way as Italy and Germany the Socialist, Communist and Radical-Socialist parties formed an antifascist ‘Popular Front’. The  struggle between fascists and antifascists spread from the streets to elections to the factories and to intellectual and cultural life. The struggles continued after France was occupied by the Germans in 1940. Public opinion became increasingly polarised between the pro-Nazi Vichy regime and the Resistance. The course will explore the many ramifications of the conflict between fascists and antifascists, and to place them in the context of France’s longer term history.

Credits: 30

Availability of module: Every year

Prerequisites: N/A

Necessary for: N/A

Teaching methods

While political history – the struggle between fascists and antifascists – is central to the course, it nevertheless encompasses a broad range of approaches to history, from the history of the arts to social and gender history. The lectures will largely focus on defining what was at stake politically in the period, and you will, of course, need to follow up the  issues raised in the lectures in your own reading. The seminars allow you to follow themes that are of particular interest to you. For instance, if you are interested in women’s and gender history, you might want to read about pronatalism in week one, the role of women in fascist and communist parties in weeks three and four, the Popular Front’s family policies in week five, and so on. You will then be in a good position to examine the role of gender in the films and literature discussed in the course, and you will be able to write source and document commentaries on the topic.


Students will be assessed by means of a combination of one essay relating to primary sources [20%], an assessed essay [30%] and an examination paper [50%].

Course assignments:

The Assessed Essay relating to primary sources will contribute 20% of the final mark for the module and must be no longer than 1,000 words.

The Assessed Essay will contribute 30% of the final mark for the module. It is designed to give students the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to review evidence, draw appropriate conclusions from it and employ the formal conventions of scholarly presentation. It must be no longer than 2,000 words.

The Examination will take place during the second assessment period [May/June] and will consist of an unseen two hour paper that will contribute the remaining 50% of the final mark for this module. Students must write 2 answers in total.

Summary of course content

  1. Introduction to the course
  2. French society and culture
  3. February and fascism in France
  4. The Popular Front, 1934-8
  5. The Popular Front and Society
  6. International relations, 1934-1939
  7. Jean Renoir’s Grande Illusion (1937)
  8. The Fall of France
  9. Irène Némirovsky’s Suite française: L’Exode
  10. Vichy, fascism and collaboration
  11. The National Revolution and French society
  12. The National Revolution: Documents
  13. Clouzot’s Le Corbeau
  14. Immigration, racism and antisemitism, 1934-45
  15. The Resistance
  16. Vercors, Le Silence de la mer
  17. The Army of Crime
  18. Comparison of texts: Course themes

Learning outcomes

Students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate familiarity with the political struggles between fascists and antifascists in France from 1934-45.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the ramifications of those struggles in society, international relations, family, and culture
  • Identify strengths, weaknesses, problems and/or particularities of historical interpretations of the period.
  • Evaluate the meaning and usefulness of selected sources relating to the period

Skills that will be practised and developed

Students will learn to:

  • Formulate and justify their own arguments and conclusions in seminar discussions and written work
  • Present their arguments clearly and concisely, in accordance with scholarly conventions
  • Think critically and challenge assumptions
  • Use information technology assist with information retrieval and assignment presentation.
  • Manage their time and organise their own study methods and workload.
  • Work effectively with others as part of a team or group in seminar or tutorial discussions.  

Suggested book purchases

Julian Jackson, The Popular Front in France (1990)
Julian Jackson, France, The Dark Years 1940-44 (2001)

Suggested preparatory reading

Vercors, The Silence of the Sea (edited by James W. Brown and Lawrence D. Stokes (Berg, 1991 ISBN: 0 85496 378 2)
Jean Renoir La Grande illusion (DVD)
L’armée du crime (DVD)
Julian Jackson, La Grande Illusion (2009)
Ginette Vincendeau,. (ed) Le Corbeau (French Film Guide) (2007)
Irène Némirovsky, Suite française, (London, Chatto and Windus, 2006).
Julian Jackson, The Fall of France (2002)