Feel the Fear and Teach the Revolution Anyway: Notes From a Historian of Post-1945 France

Age of Revolutions

By Roxanne Panchasi

I learned a lot about “the terror” during my first few semesters on the job as an Assistant Professor of History. I felt like a fraud regularly and wondered often if that feeling might actually kill me. Even in those moments when I was teaching in my twentieth-century-to-the-present “comfort zone,” I spent a lot of time hoping no one would ask me about the (many!) events and people I either couldn’t keep track of, or just didn’t know anything about at all. Take me further back, into the early-nineteenth or (gasp!) eighteenth century and more intense levels of panic set in. The French Revolution made me feel especially nervous. Such an important set of historical events, actors, themes, and questions, for modern France and its empire, but also for the wider world. I was expected to help students better understand what felt like still-shaky terrain to me…

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