Examens de Licence. Civilisation.


Sujets d'examens avec suggestions de corrigés

Documents fournis par M. Richard Davis


Ordre des sujets présentés et corrigés :

1) Commentaire : texte  de R. Cobden (discours)

2) Dissertation : citation d'Oscar Wilde

3) Commentaire : texte de T. S. Coleridge

4) Commentaire d'un article de périodique (contemporain)

5) Dissertation : citationW Bagehot

6) Dissertation : citation de P. M. H. Bell

7) Commentaire : article du Times de C. Morgan (1941)

8) Commentaire : texte de J. W. Young

9) Dissertation : citation de D. Acheson



méthodologie de la dissertation et du commentaire de civilisation britannique

First of all a word concerning the techniques required to succeed in your dissertation and commentary. Look again at your civilisation polycopies from the first and second years which include some useful texts relating to commentaries. You may also find it useful to consult one of the many civilisation manuals most of which include advice on how to approach these exercises (Charlot, Halimi, Royot Le commentaire de civilisation anglaise et américaine Armand Colin, 1982; Brunet and Plessis Explications de textes historiques Armand Colin, 1970; Bernas, Gaudin et Poirier The Document in British Civilisation Studies, pp.30-44; Frison, Crowley, Gilles et al Expansion of the Anglo-American World, 1688-1900. historical Documents and Commentaries Ellipses, 1995, pp.15-17). More specific to this problem is the book by Vincent Milliot and Olivier Wievorka Méthode pour le commentaire et la dissertation historiques (Nathan Université).

To finish this introduction let me quote from Milliot and Wievorka: concerning the commentary they write

les qualités requises sont de savoir expliquer un document, d'exposer clairement des connaissances à son propos et de faire preuve d'un solide esprit critique... les objectifs du commentaire : expliquer et critiquer... Le développement doit être nourri de définitions, d'explications, d'appréciations critiques et de citations judicieusement choisies...

On the question of the dissertation they write:

Toute dissertation est une discussion autour d'un problème posé, directement ou implicitement, par l'énoncé du sujet. Une dissertation suit un fil directeur et développe une argumentation logique, rigoureusement organisée et nourrie d'exemples concrets. il ne s'agit donc pas de réciter "par coeur" des connaissances, car cet exercice suppose que l'on prenne le temps de la réflexion et de l'analyse, que l'on veille à sélectionner et à hiérarchiser ses idées en vue de répondre à une problématique.



(Programme de licence : Le déclin de l'aristocratie britannique (1660-1949).)

Richard COBDEN- Speech in the House of Commons, May 15, 1843
Speeches on Questions of Public Policy by Richard Cobden London:
Macmillan, 1878, p. 27.

Now do not suppose that I wish to deprive you of your rents ; I wish you to have your dents ; but what I say is, don't come here to raise them by legislative enactments. I think you mayhave as good rents without a Corn-law as with it; but what I say is this, that when you come here to rise the price of corn under the pretence of helping the farmer and the farm-labourer, whilst in reality you are only going to help yourselves, then, I say, you are neither dealing fairly by the farmer, nor yet by the country at large; and, mind me, this is just the position in which you stand with the country. You have deceived the farmers and, feeling that you have deceived them, they have a right to ask, how you intend to benefit them? Nay, more, they have a right to inquire into your rentals, and find out how you have benefited yourselves. Yes, I say they have a right to inquire into your rentals. The hon. Member for Sussex (Colonel Wyndham) laughs, and truly it would be laughable enough were he to come to me to inquire into the profits of my business ; but, then, he should remembex that I do not ask for a law to enhance the profits of my business. He, on the contrary, is the strenuous supporter of a law, which, in its effect - whatever maybe its intention – benefits his own class and no other class whatever. This language, I dare say, is new to the House. I dare say it is strange and unexpected in this place ; but it is the language I am accustomed to use on this subject out of doors, and I do not wish to say anything behind your backs that I am not prepared to say before your faces.

And here let me ask what progress has been made in rents? Since 1793, rents in this country have doubled. I have returns in my pocket sent in by the clergy of Scotland, from which it appears that the rental of that country has increased in the same time threefold. In England, rents have not increased to that extent; but I can say with safety that they have more than doubled ; and there is something beyond even this. You have had a considerable advance in rents since 1828. There has been a great rise since that year. I hold in my hand a return of the rents of the corporation lands of the city of Lincoln since 1828. I see the hon. Member for Lincoln (Colonel Sibthorp) in his place. Now I have a return of the property of the city corporation ; it is nearly all agricultural property, and I find that that rental has increased 50 per cent since the year 1829. Now I do not say that the whole rental of the kingdom has increased in the same proportion, but I do say that we have a right to inquire what is the increase in that rental. The hon. Member for Lincoln says he won't tell me; but I will tell him that nothing is so easy to learn as the history of rents in this country, for there is scarcely a village in England in which there is not some old man who can tell what was the price of land in his parish through many succeeding years. I say it is the business of the farmer and the poor labourer to know the progress which rents have made since the Cornlaw passed, and if they find that whilst in the one case they are losing all their capital, and in the other their condition is deteriorating, and they are obliged to put up with a potato diet - if they find, I say, that whilst this has been going on, rents have increased and are increasing, then, I contend, they will have a proof that this law was passed for the landlords, and that it operates for their benefit, and their benefit only.





COMMENTARY: Richard Cobden. Speech in the House of Commons, May 15, 1843.

The introduction:

    This would obviously have to consider the key character: Richard Cobden. Where he came from, his social and political position etc. (the fact that he was an industrialist from the heart of the industrial revolution in the north of England, that he was an M.P., a representative of the new rising class of middle class industrialists, traders etc.). All of these points put him in stark contrast to the representatives of the 'old order': the landed elite and at their head the aristocracy (this contrast between the new and old elites, the rising middle class and the declining aristocrcay could be one of the central 'problematiques' that form the heart of the commentary).
    The place in which the speech was delivered is also important (the House of Commons) and to whom Cobden was speaking (fellow M.P.s and beyond Parliament to the country as a whole). Mention the opening up of the Commons to new representatives of industry and commerce as a result of the 1832 Reform Act (an extension which was continued later in the 19th century. On this point it seems important to emphasise throughout this commentary the tendencies, the developments and changes in this 'age of progress'; it is these movements that are the key).
    The context of Britain in 1843 is also, obviously a key factor: the social, economic and political changes that were underway as a result of the industrial revolution; the relative decline of agriculture compared with the new wealth of trade and industry.

The main body of the commentary:

    Some of you chose a plan that divided the social, economic and political aspects of Cobden's speech. This has the advantage of being clear and simple although it should not be forgotten that if these three aspects are separated in your commentaries they were not in reality at all separate but rather indissolubly inter-related.
    Do not forget to consider the language used by Cobden in this part, not as a separate consideration but as an integral part of your consideration of each of the social, economic and political aspects of the speech. Note here Cobden's view that his language was new to the House (lines 36-37) and his defence of plain speaking (lines 39-42). Was he saying here that his opponents were not in the habit of speaking honestly? Cobden's language was also frank in his denunciation of how the farmers had been 'deceived' (line 17).
    The central debate here is, of course, that between the defenders of the old social order, of the land and of agriculture, and those new thinkers who, like Cobden, advocated a radical reform which would open the doors to a greater role and influence for non-agricultural interests. Here the central importance of land/agriculture to the aristocracy should be noted and the rold it played in reinforcing, indeed in providing the very basic support for, the political, economic and social position, power and prestige of the aristocracy. The attack on the Corn Laws was, therefore, an attack on all aspects of the aristocracy's privileges (whatever the denials that Cobden made on this subject). The Anti-Corn Law League is also an obviously important point to be considered here; its campaign against the defence of the landed interests, how it campaigned, its arguments, the bases of its arguments (the new economic thinkers such as Ricardo and Adam Smith etc), the free trade arguments opposed to the mercantilist attitude that had been dominant before.
    Certain paradoxes are also evident in Cobden's speech and could usefully contribute to the commentary and debates raised above.

- Cobden maintains at the beginning of the extract that he has no wish to deprive the aristocrats of their rents and that these would be just as profitable without the Corn Laws as with them (lines 1 to 7). If this was indeed the case why then was there so much fuss being made about this question? Also this was not what other, more radical, members of the Anti-Corn Law League were saying outside of Parliament.

- Cobden defends his case by reference to the plight of poor farmers and farm labourers whose rents went into the pockets of the landowners and especially of the aristocrats. However, was he sincere in his concern for the interests of these groups? Cobden was an industrialist and was concerned far more with the profitability of his business. This could be helped by lowering the price of corn and therefore of bread which would allow him to lower wages and increase profit margins. Equally greater imports of foreign food would allow other countries to buy more of Britain's industrial products. While all of these would be advantageous to Britain's industrial and commercial sectors it is haed to see how they could benefit the agricultural sector. Were the aristocratic defenders of the Corn Laws right in arguing that they were a means of defending not only the interests of the landowners but also of all those involved in agriculture right down to the humblest of farm workers?

- Cobden's whole argument against the Corn Laws and against the aristocracy was that they represented the interests of only a small minority of the country and not of the national interest. He accuses the landed interests of using their power and position, especially in Parliament, to further their own interests at the expense of the national interest. While there is obviuosly clear evidence in support of this view was Cobden, and others like him, merely advocating an equally narrow, although different, interpretation of what was the nationalm interest, seeking to replace the dominance of the landed interests with that of the new industrial interest? Would the latter be any more truly national than the former?


    The importance of Cobden's speech is obvious, it reflects the changes that were already underway in Britain in terms of society, the economy and the political life of the country. In all these areas the position of the aristocracy was central. As such any changes in any of these areas aws sure to have consequences in the others; any change was also inevitably going to affect the position of the aristocracy. Indeed, it could be argued that any change to the existing social/political/economic order was bound to undermine the position of the aristocracy. This speech needs, therefore, to be placed in its longer term context and seen as part of the gradual but irresistible decline of the British aristocracy and the concomitant rise of the new industrial middle class.





DISSERTATION Citation d'Oscar Wilde

Comment on the following comment on the value of land paying particular attention to the changes that had taken place, and their impact on the importance of land, in the previous 100 years:

"What between duties expected of one during one's lifetime, and duties excated from one after one's death, land has ceased to be either a profit or a pleasure. It gives one position, and prevents one from keeping it up. That's all that can be said about land."

(Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, 1895)


Many of the points made above regarding the commentary are, of course, of direct concern to this dissertation. If, however, the broad question remains the same (the decline of land as a determining factor in the decline of the aristocracy) a dissertation is not exactly the same exercise as a commentary (see the comments made on the first page above).



Correction de la citation d'Oscar Wilde.


    The author (Oscar Wilde), his background, why he has his character (Lady Bracknell) say this; what was his objective in writing this? Wilde was in some ways part of the establishment although clearly on its outer edges. He was no particular friend of the old landed order, typically poking fun at what he saw as the ridiculous aspects of aristocratic society.
    The time scale is fixed: the 100 years up to 1895.
    How was it that land, from being the very foundation of the aristocracy's position, power and privilege (again the social, economic and political aspects of this were all inter-related) at the beginning of the 19th century, came to be a positive burden to be abandoned at all costs lest it drag the landowners down into ruin?
    Did the fact that, as Lady Bracknell says, land continued to be the pre-requisite of 'position' (by which she means the superior social position occupied by the aristocracy) at the same time as it had ceased to be a source of profit mean that disaster was inescapable for the aristocrats? That they were unable to give up the very source of their decline (the estates) for fear of losing the very foundation of their position in society (and in the economy and political life both nationally and locally)? That they had proved themselves in this way to be increasingly unable to adapt to the changes underway in society and as such destined to end up totally marginalized (to become what David Cannadine sees as the glorified housekeepers of the nation's heritage)?


The main body of the dissertation:

    The changes that transformed land in the 19th century are, of course, the central elements of this dissertation and enable the questions outlined in the introduction to be considered. Land is the key question (it is always important to keep to the point in any dissertation or commentary and to avoid the temptation to stray to far from it) but this cannot be considered in isolation: if land was in relative decline in the 19th century in the way in which it increasingly ceased to constitute the foundation for political, social and economic power it was because new forms of wealth were growing at a far faster rate.
    The following need to be considered:
    The decline in the relative economic importance of land; the rapid agricultural improvements of the 18th and early 19th centuries (enclosures, new farming techniques etc.) gave way to agricultural recession at the end of the 19th century. Why? (the possibility of massive imports of foreign foods due to the technological progress - canned foods, frozen foods, faster steam ships etc. - the ability of foreign farmers to produce food far more cheaply than British farmers).

The concomitant rise of new forms of wealth - the 'nouveaux riches' of industrialists, traders, bankers. the new fortunes increasingly overtook the older landed fortunes.

The decline of social deference -the cement that held up the old social order and the privileges of the aristocracy. New urban centres far less likely to accept old established social orders than traditional rural communities.

Growth of democracy in the 19th century; the House of Commons became more open to British society as a whole; loss of influence of the landed elites reflected in the laws passed by Parliament (the classic example is, of course, the repeal of the Corn Laws).



    The decline of land went hand in hand with the undermining of the aristocracy's position in society, in the economy and in politics. In many ways it explains the former explains the latter. These were, in turn, part of the wider transformation of Britain in the 19th century. the time scale under consideration here spans a period that goes from the end of the 18th century to the dawn of the 20th. In these years land, like all aspects of national life, underwent a fundamental transformation. The aristocracy showed considerable skill in resisting these changes and in holding onto much of their old privileges and powers. However, by the time Wilde wrote The Importance of Being Earnest it was plain to see that the aristocrcay's day had gone (return to the questions raised in the conclusion - the answer being that yes, broadly speaking, the arguments raised in the final paragraph of the introduction above were indeed the case).





From S.T. Coleridge, On the Constitution of Church and State (1830) 4th ed. by H. N. Coleridge, 1852, pp. 26-8.

        Coleridge contrasts the sense of permanence and stability, which he connects with possession of transmissable landed property,
         with the progress in civilization and the arts, which to him are connected with entrepreneurial and professional elements in society.

Now, in every country of civilized men, acknowledging the rights of property, and by means of determined boundaries and common laws united into one people or nation, the two antagonist powers or opposite interests of the State, under which all other State interests are comprised, are those of permanence and of progression.
    "It will not be necessary to enumerate the several causes that combine to connect the permanence of a state with the land and the landed property. To found a family, and to convert his wealth into land, are twin thoughts, births of the same moment, in the mind of the opulent merchant, when he thinks of reposing from his labours. From the class of the novi homines he redeems himself by becoming the staple ring of the chain, by which the present will become connected with the past, and the test and evidence of permanency be afforded. To the same principle appertain primogeniture and hereditary titles, and the influence which these exert in accumulating large masses of property, and in counteracting the antagonist and dispersive forces, which the follies, the vices, and misfortunes of individuals can scarcely fail to supply. To this, likewisc, icüds the proverbial obduracy of prejudices characteristic of the humbler tillers of the soif, and their aversion even to bcnclits that are ofered in the form of innovations. But why need I attempt to explain a fact which no thinking man will deny, and where the admission of the fact fis all that my argument requires?
    On the other hand, with as little chance of contradiction, I may assert that the progression of a State in the arts and comforts of life, in the diffusion of the information and knowledge, useful or necessary for all; in short, all advances in civilisation, and the rights and privileges of citizens, are especially connected with, and derived from, the four classes, the mercantile, the manufacturing, the distributive, and the professional.



Commentaire de texte ('Property and Permanence' from S.T. Coleridge, 1830)

As regards the present commentary it is important to remember that what is proposed here is in no way the definitive answer. As with any other 'commentaire de texte' there are many different ways of addressing the problem which are of equal value. Students should not, therefore, regard this as the only possible way of commenting on this text.

If, however, there are many different commentaries which are possible it is important to remember that ALL commentaries have to respect certain basic rules. Firstly, a commentary should be exactly that: that is to say it should comment on the text and should not simply explain the text by paraphrasing what the author has to say. Explaining the text is an essential part of any commentary; it is, however, only a starting point and students need to go beyond a simple explanation to really comment on the text. This requires students to address the issues raised by the text and the author, the debates around the text. The language used by the author, the tone of language, the structures etc. should also be integral parts of any commentary (it is not only a question of considering what the text says but how it is said). The text should be used to shed light on the general context; at the same time the general context should be used to shed light on the particular interest of this text.

A first reading of the text raises the following points which are worthy of consideration in the commentary:

line1 'in every country of civilised men': Coleridge distinguishes between civilised and uncivilised countries. His arguments, or so he claims, are applicable to 'every' civilised country, i.e. this is not restricted to Britain alone, although as he was himself British and was writing in Britain, in a British context, the focus was inevitably on Britain. How far was Coleridge's claim to universality justified? were other 'civilised' countries in the same position as Britain? Or does Coleridge consider those countries which are in a fundamentally different position to be somehow less civilised?

lines 1-2 'the rights of property': What does Coleridge mean? The right to hold property safe from the fear of losing it (the comparison with the recent history of France where landowners had seen their property seized as a result of the revolution of 1789 is interesting here). He talks only of the 'rights of property' but is this, or should this be, the key right in any society?

lines 3-4 'two antagonist powers or opposite interests of the State': permanence and progression are placed in opposition, regarded as antagonistic, not in parallel.

Lines 8-9 'connect the permanence of a state with the land and the landed property': the connection drawn by Coleridge between landed property and the state, and the permanency of the state needs to be detailed. The state was regarded by Coleridge as being founded on land, on the landed interest and on those in society who held this land. The landed class (from the aristocracy, the gentry to the non-noble landowners) was regarded by Coleridge as the backbone of the state. They occupied a dominant position in Parliament (both the House of Commons and the House of Lords) and in Government (both local and national). Coleridge does not mention the monarchy as another possible permanent feature of the state.

Line 12 'the novi homines': Coleridge contrasts the long established, indeed perhaps permanent, landed class with the rising class of new men. This latter group 'redeems' itself (line 12). What does Coleridge mean by redeeming? How do they need to be redeemed? Redeemed from what? Clearly Coleridge accepts the existing social hierarchy which places the 'new men', the merchants and industrialists at a lower social level than the landed interests.

Lines 13-14 'the present will become connected with the past': this brings to mind Burke's often quoted view that 'the landed interest is a partnership not only between those who are living but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born'.

Lines 15 to 19 'primogeniture and hereditary titles... counteracting the antagonist and dispersive forces... the folies, the vices, and misfortunes of individuals'. Coleridge's concern is with society as a whole, with the landed class rather than with individuals in that group. He defends primogeniture and hereditary titles as defences against what he regards as dispersive forces.

Lines 20-22 'the proverbial obduracy of prejudices characteristic of the humbler tillers of the soil, and their aversion even to benefits that are offered in the form of innovations': Coleridge defends the concentration of land in the hands of a few as being beneficial to agricultural progress. The smaller farmers, he maintains, cannot be counted on to introduce innovations and progress. While some aristocratic landowners were associated with improvements in agriculture such was not always the case. If smaller farmers were suspicious of innovation it was in large part because they lacked the resources necessary for such changes.

Lines 22-23 'why need I attempt to explain a fact...': Coleridge's arrogance is striking here. His argument is a fact and only needs to be stated for all men to agree with him. As with all arguments there exists counter arguments. These counter arguments provide important points for debate in any commentary.

Lines 25 to 31 'all advances in civilisation... are especially connected with, and derived from, the four classes, the mercantile, the manufacturing, the distributive, and the professional': Having sung the praises of the established landed order Coleridge now recognises the key role played by the rising middle classes in the general progress of society. Clearly his view is one of progress, of advancement, both for individuals, for different social groups and for the country as a whole.


The key point of this text, as the title itself indicates, is the relationship between property and permanence and between permanence and progression (lines 5-6). This, it seems to me, should be the central 'problematique' that the commentary has to address. How does Coleridge reconcile the two? He regards them as 'antagonist' and as opposites. Yet he sees in the transformation of the rising middle-classes into landowners (lines 9 to 15) a means of reconciling the two. This in turn leads us to a consideration of the idea of the aristocracy as an 'open elite' (dealt with in detail in the course): were the rising industrialists and merchants able to enter this elite, to transform themselves into landowners?

Coleridge himself, in his youth, had been associated with more radical ideas. When this particular text was written (1830) Coleridge was coming to the end of his life. It could be interesting to contrast the moderate, indeed in some ways conservative, tones of this text with the author's earlier revolutionary ideas.

The context of 1930 is also important. That year saw revolutions in Paris and elsewhere on the continent. Britain, unlike many of her continental neighbours, was moving in a direction of reform rather than revolution. The 1832 Great reform Act was soon to be passed which can rightly be regarded as an important step forwards along the path of parliamentary, and later social, reform. British society was also undergoing fundamental changes as a result of the industrial revolution. Strains were being placed on the existing social and political order that would either have to bend or to break. Coleridge, in this text, addresses the really central question that was being raised by these changes: how could the existing order adapt sufficiently to satisfy the needs of a society that was being transformed; how could permanence (exemplified by land and the landed interest) be reconciled with progression (exemplified by the rising middle classes)? How could the excesses of change (cf the French revolution's excesses) be avoided without obstructing all the changes required to allow society to progress? How could the stability of the existing landed order be maintained while at the same time allowing the growing importance of industry and commerce to be recognised? Coleridge's 1830 text seems to suggest that this can indeed be achieved. How far such a whiggish interpretation of British social history in the 19th century is justified is a debatable point.





Article de journal avec photo (The Independent on Sunday 6.9.98)

Cliquez ici pour atteindre la correction du commentaire.

They have to change

The monarchy must transform its role or die, argue Mark Leonard and Tim Hames

THE HISTORIAN RH Tawney once said that institutions are loved only when they touch the imagination. The Royal Family should heed his words Though the monarchy lies at the heart of our constitution and has infused every aspect of British life -from the Royal Mail to the Queen's English - it is mot set in stone. There is, indeed, a perfectly rational case to be made for abolishing it. So far, however, them han been an overwhelmingly powerful argument against the republican case: the fact that a huge majority of people want to retain the monarchy. Given that the republican argument is based on a concern for democracy, a constitutional solution that runs against most people's wishes is clearly unsustainable.

The reason that people support the monarchy is enshrined in Tawney's phrase: the monarch appeals to the imagination. Anthropologists tell us that all societies need a figure to act as a focus of national unity, and we are no exception. That explains why our commitment to the monarchy remains strong. As the opinion poll conducted by MORI for the Independent on Sunday and Demos shows today, people are committed to preserving it (only 11 per cent want Britain to become a republic).

But that figure is deceptive. A monarchy rooted in people's imagination has to keep in step with their values, aspirations and lifestyles. In the past our monarchy has done precisely that - reinventing itself for every generation. Over the past few years they have tried again: the Queen started paying taxes; Buckingham Palace has been opened to the public; the Civil List has been slimmed; the rules of curtseying have been relaxed; and members of the Royal Family have even been seen with the Spice Girls and around McDonald's.

Yet, even with these measures, the Palace has not managed to keep seamlessly in step with the public's priorities. Certainly, the monarchy is less unpopular than it was 12 months ago. But it is still in decline, as it has been for a decade or more. And its long-term prospects look less certain than they have done for a generation.


Opinion polls show that, whatever people's personal preferences, most people think the monarchy will have disappeared in 50 or 100 years' time.

There is an uncromfortabic paradox here: the monarchy depends for its existence on its ability to touch the imagination of the people; but now, the people can imagine a future without it. One reason for this is that the debate over the monarchy has in the past been conducted on an either/or basis between those who want to preserve it as it is and those who want to get rid of it. Today's opinion poll shows that there are barely more people who want to keep things as they are (25 per cent) than those who want to abolish it. What most people (60 per cent) want is the option they are rarely offered: a modernised monarchy.

Because any suggestions for modemisation were treated as disguised calls for a republic, the Palace han developed scatter-gun solutions to short-term problems - such as the Windsor Castle fire and Diana's death - rather than come up with a coherent strategy for modernising the monarchy. This lack of coherence is reflected in the fact is that the monarchy is no longer clear about what it is for - much less clear than monarchies in other countries. Look around the world and you will see three sorts of monarchies. In northern Europe monarchies tend to symbolise the secular state. They focus exclusively on ceremonial functions, and are not connected to politics or religion. In the Middle East, monarchies literally are the state, and govern their countries. In the Far East, monarchs tend to be above the state - they draw their authority from a quasi-religious role.

The British monarchy mixes all these functions. As well as fulfilling the symbolic role through official engagements at home and abroad, our monarch is still, at least in theory, intensely political; the Queen has the power to choose the prime minister and block legislation passed by Parliament; and, as head of the Church of England, she is the force that binds church and state.

It is the symbolic role that allows the monarch to touch the public's imagination. People want to be represented by the monarchy at home and abroad; they want a monarchy that provides unity. That is what the Queen gives them. At the same time, however, many of her symbolic roles are looking increasingly anachronistic: the patriotic role as head of the armed forces is less important in a period of peace, and the idea of the monarch as the apex of a hierarchical society runs counter to most people's values. In addition, the personal problems of the younger royals have blown apart the idea of monarchy as model family.

The monarchy's other functions are also coming between it and its people. The existence of the religious role stops the monarch from fully symbolising a country where most people are not members of the Church of England. The political role is in danger of undermining the monarch's symbolic position by embroiling the monarchy in party politics - as in the case of a hung parliament at a general election.

Moreover, the fact that the monarchy has clung to its triple role - ceremonial, political and religious - has meant that it has not changed the way it is organised or funded. Ile royal household is expensive to run, and not appropriate for many modern roles. Above all, it reinforces the impression that monarchy is supported by people who rise through old boys' networks. This matters because the British monarchy does not tend to mix socially with people from other backgrounds - as royal families in other European countries do. The monarchy's funding is equally anachronistic. It is complex, shrouded in mystery and not accountable to Parliament. Both these things reinforce perceptions that the monarchy is stuck in the past, and make it more difficult for them to be in touch with the public.

Much has been said by the Palace about learning the lessons of Diana. The debate about her legacy speaks volumes about the future. Diana famously led a double life. On the one hand she was "Diana the celebrity". She did glamorous things with glamorous people, wore designer clothes, rubbed shoulders with film stars and pop icons and used the media skilfully. At the same time, however, she put effort into becoming the "queen of people's hearts", using her status to promote such causes as the suffering of Aids victims, the plight of the homeless, the horror of victims of domestic violence, and the international trade in landmines. Of course, she attended opening ceremonies in the royal fashion, but she broke free from the constraints of her role "and lived in the country's imagination". What's more, she didn't need a royal title to do it. The Palace seem to have learnt the lessons of Diana the celebrity. It is time for the Palace to learn from the "queen of hearts". She shows that the monarchy will need to change if it is to live on in the popular imagination.

The Demos report Modernising the Monarchy outlines a comprehensive programme of measures to breathe new life into the Royal Family and put it back in touch with the people it serves. The key challenge is to scrap the monarchy's political and religious roles, and break down the barriers between the royals and their people so that they can really symbolise the country, and become part of British life, rather than just being observers of it.

One way would be for the Royal Family to make a special commitment to education. Just as the monarchy allied itself to empire in the 19th century, when that was the biggest national priority (with Victoria becoming Empress of India), and the promotion of exports in the 1960s, when they were deemed a priority, today education is the major concern of parties and the public. The Royal Family should consider establishing awards for educational innovations in underperforming schools. They should demonstrate this commitment to national life by making a point of using state schools to educate their children.

Most important of all, we suggest the monarchy should be allowed to demonstrate that it draws its legitimacy from the people it symbolises, rather than from divine right or historical continuity. This could be done with a referendum to approve the monarch at the time of succession (if the public rejected him or her, it would be asked to approve the next in line to the throne).

By changing the way it is organised, and the things it does, the Royal Family can be seen to promote the best of British values: tolerance, fair play and support for the underdog, rather than being associated with the remnants of empire and the British class system.

In essence, this is a call for the Royal Family to break free from the prison of Walter Bagehot's English Constitution and his recipe for a formal monarchy that is distant from the public. If they manage to do this and meet Tawney's test today, they will reap the rewards for decades to come.


Mark Leonard is a senior researcher at the independent think-tank Demos. Tim Hames is a leadcr writeron the 'Times'. Modernising the Monarchy' (14.95 plus -0P P&P) b published oa 7 September, available fiom Dernarort 0171-353-479.


The Independent on Sunday 6.9.98


Légende de la photo du document d'examen : Out of date and out of touch : if the Royal Family espoused a cause such as education, it could rediscover its popularity.




Commentaire "They have to change".



They Have to Change - Poly p.33 Commentary

Document, source, author(s) etc.

Article printed in The Independent on Sunday on 6 September 1998

Author - Mark Leonard (Demos researcher) and Tim Hames (journalist on the Times)

Demos - independent think-tank (centre-left). Independent but often used by New Labour

Role of think tank to raise new ideas, new debates

Date - following opinion poll on monarchy, part of on-going contemporary debate on the monarchy

Context - part of new Britain emerging at the end of the 20th century - post-Thatcher, Blair’s New Labour; each deliberately attempting to question and overturn old order in important aspects of British life. At the same time Britain and British society remains firmly rooted in traditions and in its history.

Monarchy part of this wider transformation and wider debate on future direction.

With long detailed text such as this need for synthesis to reduce it to more manageable proportions

Case for a reformed monarchy can obviously be confronted with two alternatives : those in favour of no change and those in favour of abolition.



1. ‘They have to change’; ‘The monarchy must transform its role or die’

Very survival of the monarchy is under threat?

2. A modernised monarchy; a new role for the monarchy

Would proposed reforms: modifications of the monarchy reinforce or undermine it?

3. A superficial case for change? A spin doctor’s solution?



Part 1. ‘They have to change’; ‘The monarchy must transform its role or die’
Very survival of the monarchy is under threat?

Foundation of monarchy according to article - popular support; monarchy touches the popular imagination

‘a large majority of people want to retain the monarchy’ (l.14-15) ‘an overwhelmingly powerful argument against the republican case’ (13-14)

Only 11% in poll want abolition and republic - other polls have repeatedly given similar picture even if majority expect abolition of monarchy in next 50-100 years

trends in polls less favourable - weakness of statistical case?

Do authors exaggerate necessity of change? Monarchy has existed for over 1000 years almost unbroken; has survived previously difficult periods. Strength of monarchy is its deeply rooted origins; gives impression of stability in an age of radical (perhaps uncontrollable) change.

Need for monarchy to ‘keep in step with their (people’s) values, aspirations and lifestyles’ (36-37); ‘the Palace has not managed to keep seamlessly in step with the people’s priorities’ (51-53)

Debatable. Do the public want a royal family just like them? Do we welcome all aspects of modern society and modern life? Do people want rather a royal family that links us to traditional values even if they are rather old fashioned?


Part 2. A modernised monarchy; a new role for the monarchy (vocab of modernity, stale old ways, breaking free from past etc)

Would proposed reforms: modifications of the monarchy reinforce or undermine it?

Need for monarchy to ‘reinvent itself for every generation’ (40-41)

People want reformed monarchy (60% according to poll - line 77)

First required reform according to authors is improved tactical sense of royals - ‘come up with a coherent strategy for modernising the monarchy’ (86-87); need for the royal family themselves to be clear what they are for. Be focussed.

Reform in different roles of the monarchy -

symbolic and representative role - allows it to touch the people’s imagination; monarchy as symbol of national unity

socially hierarchical and patriotic dimensions of this role are questioned by authors ‘looking increasingly anachronistic’ (122-123)

role model as model family has been ‘blown away’ by the ‘personal problems of the younger royals’ (129-131)

Other roles ‘are coming between it and its people’ (132-133)

Religious role - state and church (of England) - excludes majority of people

Political role embroils monarchy in politics

Funding also accentuates division of monarchy and people

Impression overall is that the monarchy is ‘stuck in the past’ (162) and not in touch with the people

Authors point to Diana as example of modern royal - able to capture people’s imagination (‘Queen of Hearts’; the ‘People’s Princess’) by her association with popular causes while continuing state ceremonial work, breaking free from the ‘constraints of her role’ (184-185)

Concrete reforms proposed by Demos ‘to breathe new life into the royal family and put it back in touch with the people it serves’ (196-199)

scrap political and religious roles

break down the barriers between royals and the people

thus reinforce symbolic role of royals

espouse cause such as education - commitment - send royals to state education

legitimacy of royals - referendum at accession

break free from the past (break free repeated throughout text) and they will ‘reap the rewards for decades to come’ (246-247)


Part 3. A superficial case for change? A spin doctor’s solution?

General criticism of these proposals and this text : Failure to address fundamentals - superficial analysis, more concerned with impressions than with reality, that fails to get to the root of the problem; that ‘solutions’ proposed are sticking plasters not cures for the monarchy’s ills

‘conservative’ case against DEMOS - Bagehot argument : by messing around with the monarchy you will weaken it; that it is when a system attempts to reform itself that it opens itself up to eventual collapse; to ‘open up’ the stuffy monarchy will only serve to destroy its mystique and mystery.

That two authors are not committed royalists, that what they propose would not defend long-term interests of the monarchy but perhaps this was not their objective

Abolitionists argue that DEMOS fails to address key points in their case: that monarchy is undemocratic, that it is morally wrong and anachronistic to have a hereditary based system, that it is holding back other necessary reforms etc.


Conclusion :

Nature of radical proposals reflect nature of DEMOS - object to launch a debate, to throw a few ideas in the air to see what reactions they provoke. Not serious likelihood of them being accepted. To accept them would certainly transform monarchy, perhaps even destroy it.
Argument that monarchy must change no doubt, but to such an extent?





UFR Angellier - Licence 1998-99 (Civilisation GB) Monarchy and Republicanism in GB


Comment on the following extract from Walter Bagehot’s The English Constitution (1867) ‘The Monarchy’

Above all things our royalty is to be reverenced, and if you begin to poke about it you cannot reverence it... Its mystery is its life. We must not let in daylight upon magic.





Correction of the quotation of Bagehot

Source? Who was Bagehot? Victorian constitutional expert, journalist, lawyer, historian. Someone who has gained a certain authority - successive monarchs, as Prince of Wales, up to and including Prince Charles, have been taught constitutional history with Bagehot’s works especially his English Constitution.


Date of publication 1867 - peak of British power and self-confidence:

Confidence in the British constitutional system, its checks and balances, its reformist rather than revolutionary style of introducing change (1867 reform act as part of moves towards democracy), opposed to most other models abroad where revolutions were the norm and frequent absolutist systems (Whig interpretation of British history, including Bagehot, saw victory of parliament over absolutism in Glorious Revolution of 1688-89), British stability and prosperity.

Monarchy in 1867? Death of Prince Albert, Prince Consort, in 1861; Queen Victoria in mourning.


Subject? Attitude to be taken towards the monarchy? Relationship between royalty and the rest of society?

Debate on monarchy in 1860s, on the future of the monarchy.

Objective of author? - giving advice (or even stronger - telling people what to do and what not to do). Aim to defend monarchy against attacks (first signs of serious republican movements in Britain at this time)

Timescale? Question simply asks students to comment on a quotation from 1867, gives no indication of how far back or up to which point the questions should be considered. Most logical approach would be to take a relatively broad timescale - could go back to implications of the Glorious Revolution and bring things up to the present day - Bagehot talks of the ‘life’ of the monarchy - how has it developed since the time of writing? etc.



Introduction, Plan, ‘Problématiques’

Analyse very what Bagehot actually says very closely - keep to the point which is comment on Bagehot’s words (the objective is not to give a general account of the monarchy in 1867 or since 1867 but to use your knowledge to back up an argument).


1. Reverence (repeated)

2. Mystery (as life of royalty) and magic - no daylight to be let in on it - must not poke about it

3. Our monarchy (optional point - possible to make do with two parts)



Part 1. Reverence (repeated)

To revere: ‘regard as sacred or exalted, hold in deep and usual affectionate or religious respect, venerate’ (OED)

Reverence: capacity for revering; gesture showing reverence, bow, curtsy, obeisance’ (OED)

Reverence: ‘great respect and admiration mixed with love’ (Longman dictionary)

Bagehot argues that the British people did feel this way towards royalty - part of tradition etc. Was this in fact the case?

Were such sentiments possible in the modern world that was emerging in the mid-19th century? Are they possible in today’s world? Or are they throw backs to a feudal age that had already passed in 1867?

If the monarchy was to be reverenced’above all things’ how was this to be achieved? What were/what are the requirements to achieve this? How was/is the monarchy to win the respect, admiration, even love of the people? Monarchy as a role model of respectability, family values, hard working, symbol of national strength and unity, for Britain and for the Empire. Have these survived the test of time?

Royalty to be reverenced ‘above all things’; royalty as highest strata in stratified society? Society as pyramid, with royalty at its peak? Could this view of society still be maintained in the 1860s and can it be defended today?

Ideally the various parts of the dissertation should be connected by some link.



Part 2. Mystery (as life of royalty) and magic - no daylight to be let in on it - must not poke about it

Bagehot presents a picture of a monarchy which is distant from the people, who feel awe towards their royals; people kept in the dark as to royalty, behind the curtains of secrecy; royalty untouchable (not to be poked about).

How did this image fit in with the emergence of the modern age?

Britain moving towards democracy (1867 reform Act); can this view of an alomost mystical monarchy be reconciled with a democratic age? Contradiction between democracy (govezrnment by the people) and monarchy? The two could probably be reconciled but it would mean that the royalty became far more symbolic than powerful or even influential.

Mysterious royalty in a modern society? Age of mass politics; growth of new technologies (photography, radio, TV in 20th century, today’s paparazzi etc.).


The position of royalty in society has been transformed since Bagehot wrote his English Constitution, changes have been imposed on them whatever their wishes.

Victoria’s mourning - very few public appearances; 20th century royals invited the cameras into their homes; Today’s royals have tried to manage the media - leaks, photo opportunities.

Can we feel respect, awe, admiration when we see so clearly into the private lies of the royals?

Royals themselves to blame? They have courted popular support, wanted to come closer to the people often with disastrous results (Royal It’s a Knock Out).



Part 3. Our royalty

Was Bagehot himself not ‘poking about it’ by writing about it in his book? His efforts to explain the working of the monarchy are perhaps a contradiction of his argument that the royalty’s mystery must be preserved. Mystery can be defined as ‘something which cannot be explained or understood’ (Longman dictionary); does Bagehot’s work not attempt to remove this mystery by seeking to explain the monarchy?

When he describes royalty as ‘our royalty’ is he not suggesting that they are in a way public property? This would fit in with the contemporary view of many people - the royalty is there to do what the Government tells it to do; there to fill the popular newspapers etc.




Bagehot was perhaps right to argue that the monarchy, at least the monarchy as it existed in 1867, could not survive if it was to be opened up to close public scrutiny, that the mystery and lystique had to be preserved if its position in society was to be maintained in the same way as before.

Bagehot could not, however, have foreseen the tremendous changes that were to take place in the following decades. It has proven to be simply impossible to maintain this view of royalty. Consequently royalty has had to adapt to modern conditions; the greatest adaptation has been the gradual, but accelerating, abandonment of this aura of mystery surrounding the monarchy as the curtain of secrecy has been pulled back to lay bare the royal family (could Bagehot have imagined, for example, that the press in the 1990s would publish photos of a royal princess having her toes sucked by a man who as not her husband? Or that the Princess of Wales would be photographed exercising in the gym?)

Reverence is not a word that would be used very frequently today. Talk of a ‘people’s monarchy’ in New Labour speak. No longer any insistence on bowing and curtsying.

Was there not always a contradiction between Bagehot’s desire to maintain the mystery of the royalty and his desire to win public popularity? That the efforts to win and to maintain public sympathy and support for the monarchy has required the veil of secrecy to be lifted?

Will Bagehot’s warning that letting in the light on the monarchy will threaten its very life prove to be accurate? Only the future will tell.






CC 13 May 2000 - Licence option 'les relations internationales'

Dissertation OR commentary



The events of 1940-45 marked the beginning of a 'Long Separation'* between Britain and France. Comment.

(* From the title of the book by P.M.H. Bell  : France and Britain 1940-1994: The Long Separation, published in 1997.)



Comment on the following extract from an article published in The Times on 25 February 1941 and written by the journalist Charles Morgan:

A little before the collapse of France, my host at dinner, a good soldier and a country squire, having listened to what I had to say of the French, replied as follows: 'Well, I dunno. Sounds all right. Don't pretend to know the chaps myself But what I say is "Never trust a Froggy." ' For this phrase there is a precise translation: 'Perfide Albion'. Among great sections of the two peoples mutual distrust is profound and hereditary, and this feeling was sharpened by the events of the summer of 1940. Our troops, and particularly our Air Force, believed that the French let us down in the field; the French, though the better informed among them acknowledged that we fulfilled our contract in the present war, that we did what we undertook to do, were nevertheless persuaded that, if we had stood by them firmly during the last twenty years, the German menace would not have revived and that, in any case, when the crisis arose, we ought to have been able to undertake more than we did. There is truth in both charges. All those who cry: 'Never trust a Froggy' or'Perfide Albion' seem to themselves to have been justified.

Anyone who believes, as I do, that France is nevertheless an idea necessary to civilisation and that any victory which divides us from her is a defeat, must recognise these facts. A great number of English dislike the French; a great number of French dislike the English- with this result: that there are Frenchmen, represented by Laval, who look across the Rhirre for their associates in a néw European order, and there are Englishmen who, if they can win this war alone or in collaboration with America, rely for the future upon an Anglo-Saxon undertaking that shall exclude France. I hold and have long held a contrary view. Ever since the Treaty of Versailles, I have urged an active Anglo-French alliance as the only real core ofa pacific system in Europe. In 1934, travelling through Europe for ne Times newspaper on an unpolitical mission, I found everywhere that the men on the spot - diplomatic representatives or newspaper correspondents - were alive to the German intention to divide England from France and destroy each in turn. In November 1936, lecturing to a French audience at the Sorbonne, I urged them, if they were justifiably impatient with the hesitancies of our foreign policy, to remember the differences of temperament between our two peoples. The French liked every understanding to be cut and dried, every treaty to be signed in ink and sealed with sealing-wax; the English stubbornly preferred a more elastic obligation. I asked my audience to remember the tablet set up in Notre Dame to the memory of our soldiers fallen in the earlier war. We were not bound by treaty to send across the Channel more than 200,000 men. Nevertheless the tablet was inscribed: 'A la mémoire du million de morts de l'Empire Britannique tombés dans la grande guerre, et qui pour la plupart reposent en France'. I suggested

that though it was not in ink that those signatures were written, we should honour them when the hour struck, and begged my hearers to believe in us, to be patient with us meanwhile, though our methods were different from theirs. 'Si nous nous divisons, le monde est perdu.'


Licence option 'les relations internationales'        





Corrigé Dissertation (relations internationales)

The events of 1940-45 marked the beginning of a 'Long Separation'* between Britain and France. Comment.

(* From the title of the book by PMH Bell 'France and Britain 1940-1994: The Long Separation' published in 1997.)



Source? PMH Bell as a basic text book on the subject. British source therefore seeing Anglo-French relations from essentially a British perspective.

Date? Published 1997 – contemporary. No specific limits to the time period covered by the dissertation question. It is obviously necessary to go back beyond the years 1940-45 and to bring things forward at the same time.

Focus should, of course, be on Britain and France and on their relations. However, it will be necessary to bring in other international ‘players/actors’. If there was a separation between Britain and France then was this due to the greater attraction for either Britain and France in another international relationship? This will bring us to the question of relations with the United States, the Commonwealth, Germany and the whole question of Europe and of European construction. Although these are essential points it is important not to forget that the essential aspect is the Anglo-French relationship.

The various dimensions of the separation between Britain and France are not specified in the question. Does Bell refer here to a purely political separation or does he cover also the social, economic, ideological, military, technological etc. aspects? Any answer that takes a too narrow view of this would be at a disadvantage. To a large extent all these various dimensions are interrelated and are part of the same fundamental question.


Questions / Plan


As always the key here is to focus on the actual terms of the question asked and to keep to them. The question is precise and answers need to be similarly precise.

Look again at the actual question:

The events of 1940-45 marked the beginning of a 'Long Separation'* between Britain and France. Comment.

As a starting point it will be necessary to explain what the events of 1940-45 were (without becoming bogged down in detail and in giving an over emphasis to a simple chronological account).

Other key ideas here are ‘the beginning’, i.e. the starting point, of a separation. Attention will therefore have to be paid to the question of when the separation can be dated from. Were the years 1940-45 a beginning or had this separation been underway before or can it be dated even later?

The key word, however, is obviously ‘separation’. Without a clear focus on this concept any answer will be missing the essential point.

Was there a separation between the two countries?

Can this separation be dated from the years 1940-45?

If there was a separation what was the connection between the events of 1940-45 and the separation? What were the causes of this separation? How did the experience of war lead to a separation?

Separation implies that Britain and France were somehow together before (how can you separate something hat is not linked or tied together?) Was this the case or were Britain and France never really ‘together’? This brings in the question of what exactly was the relationship between Britain and France?

Was, as Bell argues, this a ‘long’ separation? How long? Have Britain and France ever really come back together?


As for a plan it is necessary to put some sort of order into all these various points (many of which overlap in the way I have asked the questions). There is no one simple way of organising the plan, nor indeed are the above questions in any way an exhaustive list as there are no doubt others I have not found. The plan I suggest here, therefore, is only one possible approach.


Part One (before the events of 1940-45)

The nature of the Anglo-French relationship? Entente, alliance, partnership or traditional animosity? Consideration of this relationship at the various levels mentioned above (political, economic etc.). If there was no closeness there cannot have been a separation.

Although the relationship had not always been one of alliance or genuine friendship (here it will be necessary to avoid the over generalisations of saying all the British or the French thought one thing or another and to accept the complexity of the relationship and of the variety of opinions on either side of the Channel) I would argue that there was before the events of 1940-45 a certain closeness. The two countries had been military allies in 1914-18 and had renewed this military alliance in September 1939; if they had not often agreed on the policy line to take towards the German problem both Britain and France continued to regard (or fear) German as a future adversary in war; ideologically the two countries had remained broadly similar (parliamentary democracies) in a world increasingly dominated by various forms of totalitarian regimes; although public opinions in both countries were far from unanimous there was a certain popular sympathy between Britain and France.


Part Two (the events of 1940-45)

How then did the events of 1940-45 undermine, perhaps even destroy (at least temporarily), the previous relationship between Britain and France?

The defeat of May – June 1940, the most crushing defeat for Britain and France in modern history, was obviously a shock for both. Unexpected, especially in its extent and in the speed with which it came about. The immediate reaction on either side of the Channel was to blame the other – France’s lack of resolve, its corrupt and rotten regime before, its military weaknesses, its stubbornness in having refused any concessions to Germany when they could have prevented a conflict if given early enough; Britain’s failure to stand by France either in its diplomatic conflict with Germany in the 1920s and 1930s and its failure to provide sufficient military support for France in 1939-40.

The Situation after the defeat of 1940 also served to reinforce this separation: France was occupied and the Vichy regime chose a path of collaboration with nazi Germany (Vichy France bringing out all the traditional Anglophobia of certain sections of French society); De Gaulle’s Free French Forces chose to ally themselves with Britain but even here the relations were not always easy (De Gaulle – Churchill relationship). Above all the transformation of the war into a world war in 1941 with the entry of the Soviet Union and above all of the United States fundamentally changed the situation. Britain thereafter chose to give priority to the American relationship and to relegate the relationship with France to a secondary position. The victory of 1944-45 (achieved largely thanks to the strength of the American military forces and the American economy) convinced the British of the validity of this preference.


Part Three (the consequences of the events of 1940-45 for Anglo-French relations thereafter)

The completely different circumstances in which Britain and France found themselves after June 1940 (France occupied by nazi Germany, Britain continuing the war, first alone then in alliance with the UUSR and the USA) was ended in 1944-45 when France was liberated. However, the diplomatic, military, economic, ideological choices that Britain and France took in the following years tended to reinforce this separation between them. Britain concluded that the war had only been won thanks to the Americans and that they should give priority to the efforts to maintain the ‘special relationship’ between London and Washington. The advent of the cold war (which was to dominate world politics for more than 40 years) only confirmed them in this choice. The end of the empire did not convince the British that they should ignore this relationship and the creation of the Commonwealth convinced a majority of people in Britain, at least until the 1970s, that economically Britain could survive outside of the European Common Market. Even when Britain entered the Common Market in 1973 relations between Britain and her European partners, especially France, continued to be strained.



The acceptance that there was indeed a ‘separation’ between Britain and France as a result of the events of 1940-45 does not mean that this was a complete separation. Indeed, given the two countries geographical positions, their economic and political interests etc. it is quite impossible that they could ever be completely separate. The years 1940-45 did, however, mark an important change in this relationship and a decline in its importance for both countries.




Commentaire (relations internationales)


Nature of document / source etc.

Extract from an article published in The Times on 25 February 1941.

The date here is important: Following the defeat of the French and British armies in May – June 1940 Britain had chosen to fight on alone supported only by its Empire. France had been occupied by the Germans and the Vichy regime was increasingly choosing a policy of collaboration with nazi Germany. At the time this was written neither the Soviet Union nor the United States had yet entered the war, nor did this seem particularly obvious at the time. Britain was, therefore, very much in a desperate position, its darkest hour.


Written by the journalist Charles Morgan (not a well known writer); no particular significance to his personality. He writes that he was already writing for The Times in 1934 which would suggest that he was a relatively senior journalist at the time this particular text was written.

The Times can perhaps be regarded as a semi-official voice at this time (in wartime there would have been quite strict official control of what was published in the media although a paper such as The Times which was so close to official circles would not have needed any censorship to control it).

The message in favour of the Anglo-French entente given in this article would no doubt have been approved by Churchill.


Plan / questions

Long-term Anglo-French relations? The article, even if it argues in favour of an Anglo-French entente, accepts that relations between the two countries and the two peoples are difficult and that they are inherently so (see lines 4-5; ‘mutual mistrust is profound and hereditary’ (line 6)). The author points to the ‘difference of temperament between our two peoples’ (33-34) to explain these difficulties.

Can we accept these arguments and these explanations? If Anglo-French relations are indeed as he suggests can the two countries and the two peoples ever co-operate diplomatically as he says they must? Alternatively are Britain’s relations with France no better and no worse than with almost every other country/people?

In the same way we have here evidence of the attitudes of the British and French towards one another. The author takes a very negative view of these opinions the British and French have of each other (is he over generalising here?) emphasising the extent of Francophobe and Anglophobe views. He himself is not entirely free of the tendency of the British to look down on the French: he suggests in the first paragraph that French complaints over Britain’s failure to provide sufficient support in 1939 and 1940 are not entirely fair (‘we fulfilled our contract’ etc line 10). He also describes 1940 as ‘the collapse of France’ (line 1) conveniently forgetting that the British armies in France in 1940 had been equally severely defeated. Despite his professed sympathy for France he is taking a highly Anglo-centric interpretation and analysis.

The scenario he raises on lines 20-24 of a future situation where Britain looks to an ‘Anglo-Saxon undertaking that shall exclude France’ (line 24) and where France looks ‘across the Rhine for their associates in a new European order’ (21-22) is worthy of note. This is, to a certain degree, what has happened since 1941 (although the Germany across the Rhine today is not the same as the Germany across the Rhine in 1941). Is this division between a continental bloc and an Anglo-Saxon bloc a natural or even inevitable one?

Alternatively are the underlying British and French interests, as the author suggests, basically similar? Can, or should, Britain and France, again as the author recommends, stand together? The author suggests that if Britain and France do not do this ‘le monde est perdu’ (line 45). That this is ‘necessary to civilisation’ (line 18). Is this so? The author suggests here that the interests of the two countries (broadly similar) should be sufficient to overcome the poor opinions each country has of the other: that the head should dominate not the heart.

The question of methods (line 44) is also here. Britain, he says, adopts a more flexible approach to international affairs whereas France takes a stricter more juridical attitude. Again how justified is this view?



The article balances the factors pushing for and against an effective Anglo-French relationship, even alliance. Against he points to the long traditions of popular antipathy between the two peoples, the differences in method in dealing with international relations, the mud slinging that followed on from the defeat of 1940 and the temptation on either side to look elsewhere for diplomatic support and friendship (de does not deal with the economic aspects although these correspond very much to the diplomatic and political dimensions dealt with here). In favour he points to the common record of fighting together (with the memories of Britain’s war dead in France on lines 40-41) and above all to the need, both for Britain and France themselves and for the ‘world’ and for ‘civilisation’ as a whole, for London and Paris to work effectively together.









Comment on the following extract taken from Britain and European Unity, 1945-1992 (Macmillan, 1993) by John W. Young:


On 13 August 1945 Ernest Bevin, Britain's new Foreign Secretary, held a meeting with Foreign Office (FO) officials to discuss future policy towards Western Europe. A few weeks earlier the Labour party had entered government with its first overall majority; the `Big Three' powers - America, Britain and the Soviet Union - had just held their last wartime summit meeting; Japan was on the brink of unconditional surrender. In this situation Bevin could hope to re-forge Britain's international relations and many in the FO wished to see West European co-operation become a cornerstone of post-war British policy. They did not leave the August meeting disappointed. During the session Bevin outlined a `grand design' to build co-operation with the continent at all levels: political, military and economic. The first step would be an alliance with France, a pre-war ally, a fellow colonial power, and the largest European democracy. On this basis links could be extended outwards to the Low Countries, Scandinavia, and Italy. Reading the accounts of this meeting it might seem that Britain was ready, in 1945, to undertake the close commitment to the continent in peacetime from which she had historically shrunk..1

Twelve years later, in March 1957, the European Economic Community (EEC) was founded without British membership. Britain since 1945 had repeatedly distanced itself from efforts to create supranational institutions in Europe. Instead the country based its political and economic future, in the international . sphere, on the American alliance and the Empire-Commonwealth. This approach was not seriously challenged until 1961 when Harold Macmillan's government made the first application to enter the EEC. By then Britain's economy was performing badly relative to the rest of Western Europe, the Empire was disintegrating and the US had long ceased to treat Britain as an equal. In retrospect the failure to fulfil Bevin's `grand design' of August 1945 seemed to point to major errors of judgement by British policy-makers. Many writers, beginning with Anthony Nutting and Nora Beloffin the early 1960s, have argued that the British government `missed the bus' in Europe when they ought to have taken the lead in efforts at European integration.2


Licence. Civilisation britannique

De l’Empire à l’Union Européenne: la Grande-Bretagne dans le monde depuis 1945





COMMENTARY: John W. Young, extract from Britain and European Unity

The objective of the introduction should be to present the broad lines of the question and to raise the specific issues/questions which you propose to consider in the main part of your commentary. The importance of a good plan should not be underestimated: without this there can be no real commentary of the text. Remember that the objective of this exercise is to comment on the text itself - to find the ‘problématiques’, the questions which the author raises in this text and from these to conduct a discussion based on these arguments. You must begin by giving an indication of what the key debates are and how you intend to deal with them.

The text we have to deal with here covers the position at the end of the war in 1945, the prospect of a new ‘grand design’ in British foreign policy in the new post-war age and a possible ‘re-forging’ of British policy, especially towards Western Europe. It then, in the second paragraph, goes on to discuss the position 12 years later when the EEC was founded.

The author makes certain assertions and raises certain questions which should e the basis for your commentary (remember that this is a commentaire de texte and that you should, therefore, concentrate on this particular text and not give a very general account of Britain’s relations with the rest of Europe from 1945 onwards. You may use a more general consideration of the broader context to these questions but do not forget the primary objective which is, I repeat, to comment on this text).

The questions which could be considered as the basis for a commentary are the following (this is not an exclusive list and students would not be expected to consider all of them - given the time available it is obvious that they could not all be dealt with. What is important, however, is that there be some sort of ‘problématique’ and that they be drawn from the text and based on the arguments of the text):

line 8: Bevin’s ‘hope to re-forge Britain’s international relations’; to ‘see West European co-operation become a cornerstone of post-war British policy’ (lines 9-10); Bevin’s ‘‘grand design’ to build co-operation with the continent at all levels: political, military and economic’ (lines 12-13).

The question here is what pushed Bevin in this direction in 1945?; what were the foundations for this new thinking?; and most importantly why these hopes were still born, why they never got off the drawing board?

The second part of the text deals with the situation at the time of the signature of the Treaty of Rome in 1957 and with Britain’s absence from that Treaty; Britain’s choice of the American and Commonwealth connections before the European connection.

Here again the text raises the question of what had happened between the time of Bevin’s Foreign Office meeting in 1945 and 1957? Why were all the ideas of that FO meeting abandoned?

A third part (from line 26) raises the change in British attitudes at the time of Macmillan and the reasons behind Britain’s first application to enter the EEC in the early 1960s.

Here the question is again what factors lay behind this change of attitude. Young gives a few indications in his text (lines 28-31); are these convincing? (remember that you must always comment on the text in a critical fashion, not necessarily taking the author’s arguments at face value).

Young finishes by arguing that there were ‘serious errors of judgement by British policy-makers’ (lines 32-33) and that the British government ‘missed the bus’... ‘when they ought to have taken the lead in efforts at European integration’ (lines 35-36).

The plan for this commentary (drawing on the questions raised above) that I suggest is the following (students should remember that this is just one possible plan, that there are no doubt many other possible ways of commenting on this text but that the important thing is to have some sort of plan to give an overall structure to the commentary, and some ‘problématiques’, some questions around which to construct your commentary/debate of the issues in the text):

Part One:

Bevin’s ‘grand design’ - what it was, was it so ‘grand’ (a turning point that was not), why was it so quickly abandoned?

Part Two:

The change of direction in the early 1960s - the reasons for this about turn? the failure of the previous approach? a negative choice? (taken only when the alternatives had collapsed?)

Part Three:

Missed opportunities, Errors of judgement, Britain ‘missed the bus’?


The key to a successful commentary is to focus on the questions that the text raises and to build up your commentary around them.





‘Great Britain has lost an Empire and has not yet found a role’ (Dean Acheson, United States Secretary of State, 1962).

How far does this explain the problems of Britain’s international position in the 1960s?





Again, as for the commentary it is essential that students focus on the question itself. Here the starting point is not a long text but a short quotation. Despite the obvious differences between the length of the text for the commentary and the dissertation question the same basic rules apply. Focus on the words actually used by Acheson, do not fall into the trap of drifting too far from the question and ending up giving a vague and general analysis of British foreign policy in the 1960s without looking at what Acheson actually argues here.

Start out by trying to understand what exactly Acheson means by these words. Who was Acheson, where was he speaking from, why was he saying this, what was the background to this statement in the early 1960s? (Acheson, like many American officials, would have liked to see Britain enter the EEC).

The question talks of the ‘problem of Britain’s international position in the 1960s’; what exactly was this problem? (Britain had lost, or was losing its empire, but its thinking on international affairs was still in many ways unchanged from the imperial days; Britain continued to assume responsibilities and commitments all over the world which were a hangover from its imperial past even though this imperial position had been lost. At the same time it was far from clear what new role could be, or should be, taken on. The problem that was inherent in Acheson’s statement was, therefore, that Britain was in a sort of international limbo, no longer playing its old imperial role but without having found any new role to take its place. All these problems were exacerbated by a steady economic decline relative to other countries).

‘Great Britain has lost an Empire’; this can hardly be contested. The British Empire had been ‘lost’ in large part by the time Acheson made this comment. India had been granted its independence in 1947, other colonies followed quickly in the next 15 years; by 1962 there remained a few African and Asian outposts of Empire but it was clear that these were destined to follow the same path.

If there is no real debate as to the fact of the loss of Empire there is a possible discussion on the consequences of this. The dissertation question asks ‘how far this explains the problems of Britain’s international position in the 1960s’. Is the loss of Empire an explanation for these difficulties?

The second main point made by Acheson was that the Empire had been lost but that Britain’s past imperial role had not been replaced by any other. The key word here is ‘role’; what were the possible ‘roles’ for Britain? What alternatives did they have to choose from?

Acheson’s very brief statement cannot, of course, explain the whole picture; what other explanations are there for Britain’s international ‘problems’ in the 1960s.


The plan I suggest is based on these questions:

Part One:

Loss of Empire - briefly explain process (without getting bogged down in too many details); consequences for Britain: Britain transformed from imperial power to something else (the problem was exactly that nobody was entirely sure what Britain had been transformed into as a result of the loss of Empire); the consequences for Britain’s international position in the world economy - Britain’s trading relations, the position of the £ as an international reserve currency etc.; the consequences for Britain’s world role in the military and strategic fields - British military bases across the globe, Britain’s military commitments to various colonies, ex-colonies etc.; the consequences for the ways in which Britain saw itself and the ways in which it was seen by others.

Part Two:

The end of the old (imperial) role, no new role as yet: Britain in a position of limbo. This is what Acheson argues; was his analysis fair? (there is no right or wrong answer to these questions; indeed the important thing is not to produce an answer which agrees or disagrees with what the author says, or with what I say. The important thing is to ask the essential, and relevant, questions).

Some people in Britain argued that although the Empire had been lost it had been only partially ‘lost’ and that the Commonwealth could fulfil some of the roles that the Empire had previously done allowing Britain to continue its privileged trading relations with the ex-colonies and allowing Britain to play a greater diplomatic role at the head of the Commonwealth. Was this Commonwealth option a valid one?

What were the new roles that could be taken? Various options were discussed by the various British governments around this period: a revived Commonwealth; a closer relationship with the United States (some form of North Atlantic free trade area was discussed); Britain ‘going it alone’; or closer connections with the rest of Europe. Was it not this last option (Europe) that was the only viable alternative for Britain? (this is perhaps what was in the back of Acheson’s mind when he made this statement).


Part Three:

Other alternative explanations (or complementary explanations)?

Britain’s economic decline at the root of its international weaknesses?

Inevitable long term decline - had been going on since the beginning of the century?

Britain standing still, or progressing only very slowly, while other more dynamic countries were moving ahead more quickly.



Acheson’s famous, and often quoted, view was received with great anger in Britain, all the more so as it came from the United States which was regarded as being a close ally of Britain. Many in Britain reacted with shock that such a cutting remark, and one which seemed to say that Britain was no longer a significant international force, could have been made by a senior American official. Yet no matter how upset the British were at these remarks they were perfectly valid. Indeed their basic truth only made them all the more painful to hear.

I would accept the basic arguments made by Acheson that Britain had lost its old imperial role and that in 1962 it was floundering, trying to find a new role without fully facing up to the facts. I would also accept the argument that Europe was the only new role that was open to Britain, even if the British government in 1962 had only gone half way towards accepting this (their problems were, of course, exacerbated by the decision of de Gaulle to refuse Britain’s entry into the EEC in 1963 - so the failure to find a new role was in part caused by the decisions of others outside their own control).