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VCE Humanities

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


There are no prerequisites for this unit.

Course Description

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 a pervasive 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 order attempts to create political and social change and transformation based on a new ideology.

Progress in a post-revolutionary society is not guaranteed or inevitable. 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 primary sources as evidence and evaluate the extent to which the revolution brought change to the lives of people. They consider how perspectives of the revolution give an insight into the continuity and change experienced by those who lived through dramatic revolutionary moments. Students evaluate historical interpretations about the causes and consequences of revolution and the effects of change instigated by the new order.

Areas of Study

Causes of Revolution: France 1774 – October 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 October 1789 - 1795

  • How did the consequences of revolution shape the new order?
  • How did the new regime consolidate its power?
  • How did the revolution affect the experiences of those who lived through it?
  • To what extent was society changed and revolutionary ideas achieved?

In this area of study students analyse the consequences of the revolution and evaluate the extent to which it 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 consequences of revolution resulted in dramatic and wide reaching social, political, economic and cultural change, progress or decline.

As the new order attempted to consolidate power, they were challenged by those who opposed change. They unleashed civil war and counter-revolutions, making the survival and consolidation of the revolution the principal concern of the revolutionary state. The consequences of these challenges sometimes resulted in a compromise of revolutionary ideologies, as the leaders of the new order became more authoritarian and responded with violence and policies of terror and repression, initiating severe policies of social control as pragmatic strategies to stay in power. This was seen in France with the policy of ‘terror until peace’.


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: