From Les Miserables to the Belle Epoque: the social history of France 1815-1914

Ref: C2337992

Ever wondered about the historical events depicted in the musical Les Misérables? Or whether there is any truth in films like Moulin Rouge!? This course will reveal the history behind such fictional accounts. Despite all the revolutions and rebellions, which seemed to be constantly breaking out in the 19th century, and the ignominious defeat in war against Prussia, France managed to produce the first photograph, Impressionism, the first cinema show, the opera Carmen, Art Nouveau – and of course the cancan, a dance that evolved from humble origins at working-class dance-halls into an enduring symbol of the “naughty nineties”. We also cover the dramatic reconstruction of Paris designed by Baron Haussmann, the notorious high-class courtesans, and the Dreyfus Affair. Illustrated with paintings, cartoons from satirical magazines, film clips, and musical extracts.

Additional information about this course


Course aim

To examine the social history of France 1815-1914, including the peasantry and linguistic diversity, Haussmann's Paris, the Commune, the Courtesans, the Dreyfus Affair, education and women's rights, the arts.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed
  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Describe the main reasons for a series of revolutions and rebellions in France in the 19th century
  • Outline some of the improves in women's rights in 19th century France
  • Cite some examples of French art movements in this period
  • Summarise the motivations for Haussmann's redesign of the city of Paris
  • Discuss how the cancan developed from a social dance for couples into a popular entertainment

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • Group discussion will be encouraged and the tutor will give feedback

What else do I need to know?

  • Some method of taking notes

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading or pre course work is required

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider
  • Become involved with the WEA in a range of voluntary work and other activities including campaigning as a WEA member
  • Become involved as a volunteer for a WEA partner or another organisation
  • Access the WEA What Next? booklet here

Download full Course information sheet

From Les Miserables to the Belle Epoque: the social history of France 1815-1914


You can if you meet all of the following requirements:

  • are paying the standard fee or are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • are paying with a credit/debit card or are not paying a fee because of a qualifying benefit
  • have a valid email address
  • have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2017
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
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