v2.11.0 (5518)

HSS - Cours - HSS101 : Major Issues in Today’s World and the Place of France

Domaine > Humanités et sciences sociales.



Tuesday, 10.15/12.15

Amphitheatre Cauchy

Pr Nicolas Roussellier


Major Issues in Today’s World and the Place of France


The course is designed to give a broad and comprehensive view of the political and social place of France in today’s globalized world. It introduces to the basics of international economics and relations paying special attention to the place of France, both from an institutional and « balance of power » point of view. French political system and society are compared, through their recent history and current events, to the countries interacting with them, especially within the European Union. This course aims to enable students to confront today’s changing world and to become themselves agents of change.

For a good understanding of the today’s issues, the course will propose an historical perspective in its first part, and a more current analysis in its second part. Two themes will shape the course: 1/ the quest for the ideal republic; 2/ the quest for the « Grandeur »: France as a World Power.


Principle of the course

-          1 session  of General Introduction (session # 1)

-          9 ‘normal’ sessions (Lecture + oral intervention with discussion)

-          4 interactive sessions (three presentations by students’ groups)

The oral interventions in the normal sessions

For each “normal” session, there will be one individual oral intervention (topics are listed below in the detailed syllabus). This intervention is prepared individually by 8 students. The Professor asks only one student to perform the intervention (sometimes two students depending on the timing of the session). All the 8 students give their written version of the intervention (no more than 2 pages)

The oral presentations

The presentations are made by groups students during the 4 interactive sessions. There will be 3 presentations for each interactive session. Groups will number between 5 and 6 students. The length of the presentation should be around 20 minutes with equal participation of the group members

The final exam

A written exam will conclude the semester (06/19). This exam will propose 3 questions related to different parts of the course


50% of the final mark: the written exam

25% for the individual intervention

25% for the presentation


Session # 1 (02/13): General Introduction


Part I/ Quest for an Ideal Democracy

Session # 2 (02/20): Revolutions!

The Revolution of 1789, the « sister » revolutions in the 19th century, the revolutionary spirit and « culture » from the Commune (1871) to our day, Mai 68, seduction of the idea of a “Revolution” in our time

Oral intervention: Portrait of Robespierre


no class on 02/27, Winter Break


Session # 3 (03/06): Interactive Session I

Presentations by groups students:

1/ Success and Failure of the Revolutionary Cults (1789-1799)

2/ Bonaparte: a “Jacobin” or a new Monarch. Modernity or archaism?

3/ The Church (catholic) and the Monarchy in the 19th century


Session # 4 (03/13): Monarchy: Failure and Legacy

Monarchical tradition and monarchical feelings in Modern France. The failure of Monarchy and monarchists in the 19th century: explanations. The strange success of the Monarchical legacy in France today

Oral intervention: French Liberalism and French liberals in the first 19th century (1815-1848)


Session # 5 (03/20): Republics!

The Republican ideology since the Revolution. The success of the Republicans: politicization of the masses. Republican legacy today and the problem of “Parliament Sovereignty”

Oral intervention: The Dreyfus Case: history and legacy



Session # 6 (03/27): Interactive Session II

1/ Romantics and romanticism: intellectual, artistic and political evolution (1800-1848)

2/ Success and Failure of Léon Gambetta

3/ Anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists in pre-War France (before 1914)


Session # 7 (04/03): Dictatorships!

How a Democracy can fall apart? The Third Republic, its decline, its final fall. The Vichy’s Regime (1940-1944). Was it a French version of Fascism? Legacy: the extreme right since 1945: decline and renewal

Oral intervention: How the Defeat of 1940 can be explained?


Session # 8 (04/10): The “Republican Monarchy”

Why a « republican monarchy » in 1958? New leadership, new type of legitimacy attached to De Gaulle since 1940. The impact of the “Résistance”. What are the main characteristics of the 5th Republic? Crisis and adaptation of the Fifth Republic

Oral intervention: François Mitterrand: a portrait


Session # 9 (04/17): Interactive Session III

1/ Philippe Pétain: a portrait

2/ Communism in France: how to explain its strength?

3/ François Mitterrand: a portrait


No class on 04/24 ; 05/01 and 05/08, Easter Break


Part II/ Quest for « Grandeur ». France as a World Power

Session # 10 (05/15): Grandeur! State Building and Power Building under the Monarchy

Origins of the French « Grandeur ». The nature of the French state. Building of the First French Colonial Empire

Oral intervention: Toussaint-Louverture: a portrait


Session # 11 (05/22): Ghost of Empire: the Republican colonialism

How to explain the Republican colonialism? The Case of French Algeria. Post-colonialism: the changing character of the French population and society since the 1960s

Oral intervention: Why the French Antilles are still French?


Session # 12 (05/29): Interactive Session IV

1/ War(s) in Algeria after WWII (from 1945 to 1962)

2/ French policies in Africa after the independence in the 1960s: the ghost of “Françafrique”

3/ France and Islam from the time of the Colonial Empire to our day


Session # 13 (06/05) Wars and World Power

France as a military power in the 20th century. The impact of WWI and WWII. The reconstruction of the French Army after WWII. Nuclear power. France and its military interventions, “small wars”, the end of the universal military service


Session # 14 (06/12): Europe! Europe! A New Horizon?

Political basis of a United Europe: since 1929, stop the “civil war”, unification of the economies. Moral basis of Europe: after 1945, against Nazism and fascism, protection of human rights. France as the leading actor in the European construction: from Monnet to Delors. The meaning of the European construction in the Aftermath of WWII. What is the definition of the EU? Problems of a democratic deficit. Disillusionment of public opinions

Oral intervention: The Referendum of 2005: victory of the “no”


Session # 15 (06/19): Final Exam (3 questions)


Format des notes

Validé/Non validé

Pour les étudiants du diplôme Echanges PEI

Le rattrapage est autorisé (Note de rattrapage conservée)

    Pour les étudiants du diplôme Bachelor of Science de l'Ecole polytechnique

    Le rattrapage est autorisé (Note de rattrapage conservée)
      L'UE est acquise si Note finale >=
      • Crédits ECTS acquis : 2 ECTS
      • Bachelor acquis : 2
      Veuillez patienter