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VCE Humanities

History: Revolutions Unit 3: The French Revolution (1774-1795)


There are no prerequisites for this unit.

Course Description

In Units 3 and 4 Revolutions students investigate the significant historical causes and consequences of political revolution. Revolutions represent great ruptures in time and are a major turning point which brings about the collapse and destruction of an existing political order resulting in extensive change to society. Revolutions are caused by the interplay of ideas, events, individuals and popular movements. Their consequences have a profound effect on the political and social structures of the post-revolutionary society. Revolution is a dramatically accelerated process whereby the new regime attempts to create political, social, cultural and economic change and transformation based on the regime’s ideology.

Change in a post-revolutionary society is not guaranteed or inevitable and continuities can remain from the pre-revolutionary society. Post-revolutionary regimes are often threatened internally by civil war and externally by foreign threats. These challenges can result in a compromise of revolutionary ideals and extreme measures of violence, oppression and terror.

In this unit students develop an understanding of the complexity and multiplicity of causes and consequences in the French Revolution of 1789. They construct an argument about the past using historical sources (primary sources and historical interpretations) as evidence and evaluate the extent to which the revolution brought change to the lives of people. Students analyse the different perspectives and experiences of people who lived through dramatic revolutionary moments, and how society changed and/or remained the same. Students use historical interpretations to evaluate historical interpretations about the causes and consequences of revolution and the extent of change instigated by the new regime.

Areas of Study

Causes of Revolution: France 1774 – 4 August 1789

  • What were the significant causes of revolution?
  • How did the actions of popular movements and particular individuals contribute to triggering a revolution?
  • To what extent did social tensions and ideological conflicts contribute to the outbreak of revolution?

In this area of study students analyse the long-term causes and short-term triggers of revolution. They evaluate how revolutionary outbreaks are caused by the interplay of significant events, ideas, individuals and popular movements and assess how these were directly or indirectly influenced by the social, political, economic and cultural conditions.

Students analyse significant events and evaluate how particular conditions profoundly influenced and contributed to the outbreak of revolution. They consider triggers such as the calling of the Estates-General. Students analyse the degree to which the influence of enlightenment thinking was instrumental in promoting change in French Society. 

Consequences of Revolution: France August 1789 - 1795

  • What were the consequences of revolution?
  • How did the new regime consolidate its power?
  • What were the experiences of those who lived through the revolution?
  • To what extent was society changed and revolutionary ideas achieved or compromised?

In this area of study students focus on the consequences of the revolution and evaluate the extent to which the consequences of the revolution maintained continuity and/or brought change to society. The success of the revolution was not inevitable; therefore, students analyse the significant challenges that confronted the new regime after the initial outbreak of revolution. Furthermore, they evaluate the success of the new regime’s responses to these challenges and the extent to which the revolution resulted in dramatic and wide reaching social, political, economic and cultural change, progress or decline.

As new political regimes attempted to consolidate power, post-revolutionary regimes were often challenged by those who opposed change. They may have unleashed civil war and counter-revolutions, making the survival and consolidation of the revolution the principle concern of the revolutionary state. Revolutionary ideologies were sometimes modified and compromised as the leaders became more authoritarian and responded to opposition with violence. In some cases there were policies of terror and repression, and the initiation of policies of social control as a strategy to maintain power. This was seen in The Terror in France.

In analysing the past, students examine the historical perspectives of those who lived in the post-revolutionary society and their experiences of everyday conditions of life that were affected by the revolution, such as the peasants and worker.

Students evaluate historical sources about the success and outcomes of the revolution, the new regime’s consolidation of power, the degree to which they achieved and/or compromised their revolutionary ideology, and the extent of continuity and change in the society.


Outcomes Assessment Tasks Marks Allocated
(school-assessed coursework)
Analyse the causes of revolution, and evaluate the contribution of significant ideas, events, individuals and popular movements.

A historical inquiry.

Analysis of primary sources.
Analyse the consequences of revolution and evaluate the extent of change brought to society.

Evaluation of historical interpretations.

Total Marks 100

Overall Final Assessment

Graded Assessment Title Assessment Exam Duration Contribution to Study Score (%)
1 Unit 3 Coursework School-assessed   25
2 Unit 4 Coursework School-assessed   25
3 Written Examination November 2 hours 50


Reproduced by permission of the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, Victoria, Australia: