VCE History. Revolutions - units 3 & 4

This guide identifies resources relevant to the VCE History - Revolutions units

French Revolution

The French Revolution is sometimes referred to as the Revolution of 1789, however the revolutionary period is greater than just this one year. It is important to be aware of the social and political climate before the Revolution, which can help shine a light on the causes of the conflict; as well as the societal conditions in the aftermath of Revolution.

 Area of study 1 - Causes - spans the period from the accession of Louis XVI in 1774 to the night of 4 August 1789 - the abolition of feudalism. Area of study 2 - Consequences - begins again at 5 August 1789 and continues through to 1795.

For simple, broad overviews of the French Revolution try the Oxford Reference : History database or the Oxford History of the French Revolution. Alpha History also has a very useful French Revolution Timeline.


The Library has a number of ebooks considering issues around the French Revolution. Most of these can be accessed online using your State Library Victoria member number.

Before you begin a search of our catalogue, make sure to read the Catalogue tab of this guide for a basic understanding of how to search.

To search our ebook collection, set the drop-down menu to the right of the search box to 'ebooks'. You can search your keywords anywhere in the record, or search more specifically within the subject as we have done in the example below:

eBook catalogue search

Note that some of our ebooks can only be read onsite at the Library, either on one of our bookable public PCs, or on your own device connected to our wifi.

Suggested subject headings

If you find a title that is particularly useful you can also search for similar books by clicking on the Subjects linked under the Details heading of the record. Remember to also search for works on France in the period before the Revolution for context.

Some eBooks from our collection


The Library subscribes to a wide range of databases, most of which you can view from home with your free SLV membership

Filter the database list by subject to see all of our History databases or Historic Newspaper databases.

Recommended databases

Once you have chosen a database, you will need to search it by keyword. Use Simple or Basic Search for specific information, or consider Advanced Search when searching several interrelated concepts. Remember that you can filter your results by the kind of resource, or by the year of publication. 

Consider doing the following:

  • remove 'Reviews' from your results to exclude book reviews
  • include only 'full text' results
  • limit publication date to a specific timeframe - this is particularly useful if you are searching a primary source or newspaper database and want to see opinions written at a specific time. 

An example of an Advanced search from the JSTOR database is shown in the side panel of this guide.

Journal articles

Here are examples of some articles that can be found on specific issues of the French Revolution, the causes and the aftermath. 

These articles can be contradictory as different historians interpret the evidence of events in different ways. The articles will also have footnotes and bibliographies that can lead to further articles.

These are just a few examples of articles you can find using our databases and Article search through our Library catalogue. Note that to read the articles you will need to sign in with your SLV membership details. 

Historical perspectives on the French revolution

The subject of history is the study of past events. A historian is someone who researches these events and interprets them. Different historians may judge the causes and effects of historical events differently and may place greater emphasis on certain documents or evidence to form their conclusions.

Historians may also approach and interpret evidence through their own personal perspectives, influenced by their background and political, ideological or social beliefs. For example historians may view historical events through a left wing or conservative lens. Historians may be identified as ‘revisionist’ if they reinterpret events in a way that contradict traditional historical conclusions.

Choose from the tabs above for suggestions of texts written from a specific perspective. We don't, though, want to classify historians too narrowly and so the categories should be interpreted broadly.

Alpha history

This site has been developed to support VCE students and includes excellent overviews of each of the VCE Revolutions topics. The site also has pages on historical perspectives, highlighting specific historians.


The books below consider the different perspectives on the French revolution

In the early 1960s, English historian, Alfred Cobban initiated a revision  of the accepted Marxist interpretation of the causes and outcomes of the French revolution. He and other historians felt that the Marxist view pushed facts to fit ideology.

Francoise Furet was the leading figure amongst liberal or hard revisionists. He was a disillusioned ex communist who extended Alfred Cobban's challenge to the Marxist interpretation.

Marxist historians have interpreted the French revolution as a class struggle. Other historians have questioned the Marxist interpretation, suggesting they fitted the events to match the Marxist ideology and therefore their conclusions were compromised.

See also these articles discussing the Marxist interpretation of the French revolution. Use keywords from titles and authors to find reviews of specific books.

Since the 1970s there has been a greater emphasis amongst historians on the role of women in the revolution

Lynn Hunt has written a number of books. Other writers include

See also these articles about women and the French revolution.

Peter McPhee is the author of a range of books on the French revolution. His work assesses the social drivers and outcomes of the revolution from the perspective of ordinary people.

See also this article

See also these contrasting reviews of his A social history of France 1780-1880

  • Moss, Bernard H. Review Science & Society, vol. 58, no. 1, 1994, pp. 96–98.
  • Price, Roger Review History, 78(252), 119-120.

Primary sources


EuroDocs' History of France: Primary Documents, 1789-1871 webpage includes an excellent collection of links to digitised primary sources, including several collections of French revolutonary pamphlets, and a ground plan of the Bastille when it was seized

Alpha History

A collection of French Revolution documents and primary sources.

Primary sources at SLV

Try this search for holdings at the Library containing primary documents:

These items will mainly be in print, and only available at the Library (not online).

For online primary sources, try these collections from the Archives Unbound database (see Databases box above):

Newspaper resources

Newspaper archives will be held in some of the collections above, and also in our database collection. See the box on Databases above.

From our Pictures collection

Poster advertising production of play titled 'Marie Antoinette' by troupe The Majeroni's

The Majeroni's in Marie Antoinette, H2000.180/25

Books at SLV

SLV has a range of physical books relating to the French Revolution. Many will be in storage, but some will be available on the shelf in the Redmond Barry Reading Room

Perform a catalogue search using the Books scope. You can Ask a Librarian for assistance if you need to order an item from storage. Alternatively, use the Find on Shelf search scope to limit results to books you can read immediately. Note that SLV is not a lending library; books are to be read onsite at the Library. 

To browse the shelves, try the range at 944.04 (French History, Revolution 1789-1804). French History more broadly will be at 944-944.9. European History will be upstairs in the Redmond Barry Reading Room mezzanine.

Some examples of books at 944.04

From the large bookshelves

The F ('Folio') series are larger books that don't fit on the regular shelves in the Redmond Barry Reading Room. This series is also held on the mezzanine, but items in the F series will be held separately to the B series. The F series is held on the west side of the mezzanine, over the door to the Cowen gallery.

Note that there will be other books on the French Revolution held in other parts of the Library. For instance, books that are more focused on the ramifications of the Revolution on international law will be held at 341.26.

JSTOR Advanced Search

An example of how to perform an Advanced Search in a database. Here we are searching for information on the Sons of Liberty during the American Revolution in JSTOR. Other databases will have similar features.

JSTOR Advanced Search