21G.053 | Spring 2014 | Undergraduate

Understanding Contemporary French Politics



Each student will make a ten-minute speech to state an opinion on the weekly issue, followed by a debate with the class. Students will have to speak to the class, and not read a pre-written text.

Speech theme 1 Advocate for or against the direct election of the French President.
Speech theme 2 Advocate for or against the suppression of the students’ strike of May 1968.
Speech theme 3 Advocate for or against the death penalty.
Speech theme 4 Advocate for or against the increase of income taxes.
Speech theme 5 Advocate for or against the participation of France in the European Union.
Speech theme 6 Advocate for or against the ban of religious signs at school.

Historical Notes

Each historical note will consist of a four-page maximum paper on one political event, one political character, as well as one political party, and one institution. Students choose one note to write per month, for a total of 3 that count toward the final grade.

Historical note 1 Charles de Gaulle. Michel Debré. Gaston Monnerville. No-confidence vote of 1962. The presidential election of 1965.
Historical note 2 Georges Pompidou. Daniel Cohn-Bendit. The strike of 1968. De Gaulle’s resignment. The Marcellin Law.
Historical note 3 Georges Pompidou. Valery Giscard d’Estaing. The Abortion Law of 1975. The socialist and communist parties’ alliance of 1972.
Historical note 4 François Mitterrand. Robert Badinter. Pierre Mauroy. The 1981 election. The decentralization reform.
Historical note 5 Jacques Chirac. Michel Rocard. Edith Cresson. The RMI (minimum wage). The 1995 Strikes.
Historical note 6 The Rise of the National Front. The collaboration trials. The health of President Mitterrand
Historical note 7 The European Parliament. Simone Veil. Jacques Delors. The Maastricht treaty. The referendum on the European constitution in France. The 2014 European election. The European Court of Human Rights.
Historical note 8 The Gayssot Law. The Parity Law. The PaCS. The 2005 riots. Nicolas Sarkozy. Christiane Taubira. The DSK gate. Anti-Gay Marriage Protests since 2012.
Historical note 9 Impeachment in France. The inversion of the electoral calendar. Ségolène Royal. François Hollande.

Six-page Political Statement

The paper will consist of a political statement of intent, as if students were running for the French presidency. They will have to explain their institutional and social reforms and how this would change French society. The students will submit a first version on week 9 and will resubmit the final version two weeks later.

One-hour Presidential Debate

Students will team and prepare a political platform that they will advocate in a first-round presidential debate that takes place during the final class session.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2014
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments
Presentation Assignments
Instructor Insights