The French Revolution in 1789 was arguably one of the most significant Western political movements, alongside the American Revolution that occurred during the previous decade. Beyond the fact and figures involved in the uprisings and executions that defined the revolution, historians have culled many important lessons in the centuries that have passed since. If you're a teacher, no matter what your discipline may be, you can assign an engaging, relevant project on the French Revolution.
Obviously, the discipline in which the French Revolution most often comes up is history, and with reason. Whether you assign your students to detail the events leading up to the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789 or those which led to the rise of Napoleon and the eventual re-succession of the Bourbon dynasty to the French throne, projects that focus on historical chronology will help your students uncover a wealth of information and, hopefully, gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for Western history.
Although unelected monarchs wield very little power in Western countries these days -- if they even exist at all -- it's arguable that the class issues which led to the French Revolution still very much exist. If you're a sociology teacher, you might assign students a project that requires first that they research and investigate the types of parameters which divided late 18th-century French society into its "old" order -- the poor, the bourgeoisie and the nobility. Then, have them interview people in their neighborhoods (and, if they're of working age, at their workplace) to assess the extent to which everyday people perceive social stratification, using what parameters and how today's society dilemmas compare with those surrounding the French Revolution.
Of course, not every French Revolution project has to focus on upheaval and bloodshed. Whether you teach at a design school or simply believe that the garb of a given day is an important component of studying its history and culture, regardless of your discipline -- you might assign your students a project that requires them to research typical clothing of the day, be it the powdered wigs and wire-framed skirts noble men and women wore or the everyday rags of the peasants. If you teach a costume design course, give students an extra credit challenge: to design an authentic French Revolution period costume.
Robert Schrader is a writer, photographer, world traveler and creator of the award-winning blog Leave Your Daily Hell. When he's not out globetrotting, you can find him in beautiful Austin, TX, where he lives with his partner.