Comparative Revolution Workshop

2018 Bennion Teachers’ Workshop

Revolution, Representation, Propaganda: Democracy in the 18th-Century Atlantic

Sponsored by: Utah State University’s Ione Spencer Bennion Workshop for Teachers through the The Mountain West Center for Regional Studies


Bennion 2018

DIRECTOR & INSTRUCTOR: Julia M Gossard, Assistant Professor of History

WORKSHOP DATES:  June 4, 2017 – June 8, 2017

KEYNOTE (open to the public) on June 4 at 6:30PM: Dr. Wim Klooster, Professor at Clark University and author of Revolutions in the Atlantic World: A Comparative History

Information of how to register for the workshop can be found by following the link here.


WORKSHOP OVERVIEWFrom 1763 to 1815, the Atlantic world was rocked by three revolutions: the American War for Independence; the French Revolution; and the Haitian Revolution.  During this period, Enlightenment ideas spread rapidly throughout the Atlantic world, inspiring people to revolt against their oppressors. American colonists threw off tyrannical British rule.  The French monarchy crumbled.  Black slaves in the world’s wealthiest colony, Saint Domingue (Haiti), emancipated themselves.  By 1815, the “Old Regime” of Europe, which had long dominated the political, economic, and social topography of the Western world, was a thing of the past.  Experiments with representative government emerged from the violent upheavals of revolution.

This year’s Bennion Teachers’ Workshop will ask participants to consider the creation of representative institutions, whether democratic or republican, in the last quarter of the eighteenth century. Understanding why democracy flourished in the United States but not in Haiti or France is a key question we will consider. The workshop will take a unique approach to integrate historical content with pedagogical innovation. Through the use of Reacting to the Past, participants will be immersed in the social, ideological, and political background of the Age of Revolutions in a role-play simulation of the American Revolution. To supplement the simulation and provide content on the Age of Revolutions, participants will read political philosophy from Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Montaigne, John Locke, and Thomas Paine, as well as a variety of eighteenth-century newspapers, pamphlets, and propaganda.  The last quarter of the eighteenth century saw a dramatic increase in the publication of political pamphlets inspired by tumultuous revolutionary sentiments.  Much like today, many of these pamphlets were highly biased and presented false or misleading information to sway citizens to the authors’ platforms and agendas.  By evaluating eighteenth-century media, participants will be required to identify author bias, legitimacy, and document reliability.  Required to read every assigned source with a critical eye, participants will translate these skills to their modern lives as 21st-century citizens and educators.

In addition to the important primary sources, the workshop will engage with a number of preeminent historians and archivists.  Dr. Willem Klooster, Professor at Clark University, will give the keynote address on Monday evening and lead a seminar earlier in the day for our participants.  Dr. Angela Diaz (USU), Dr. Robert Olwell (University of Texas at Austin), Jessica Grzegorski (Newberry Library), and Liz Covart (Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture) will also join us, either in-person or virtually, to discuss aspects of comparative revolutions in the Atlantic world.

“Revolution, Representation, Propaganda: Democracy in the 18th-Century Atlantic” will appeal to history, social studies, government, and civics teachers (K-12) in the Intermountain West, as well as community college instructors, homeschool teachers, and graduate and advanced undergraduate students in history, political science, and American studies.  The ideal number of participants would be 22, although I would be willing and able to accommodate up to 35 participants.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES:  Through the workshop and independent projects, participants will

  1. Gain content knowledge of the American, French, and Haitian Revolutions.
  2. Compare and contrast the different Atlantic Revolutions, understanding the nuances of each.
  3. Consider the various forms of media that served as catalysts of revolution.
  4. Become familiar with comparative historical methodologies.
  5. Understand the impact of Revolution on the wider 18th- and 19th-century world.
  6. Explain the difference between democratic and republican forms of government.
  7. Apply questions and issues from the 18th century to current day experiences and situations, especially in relationship to civics and citizenship.
  8. Build media literacy that they can pass on to their students or use in their daily lives as 21st-century citizens.
  9. Acquire pedagogical methods for student-centric learning through Reacting to the Past.
  10. Create a collaborative, digital repository for researchers and educators of comparative revolutions.

ABOUT REACTING TO THE PAST:  Reacting to the Past is a series of historical role-playing games written by higher education and secondary education instructors.  Students are given elaborate game books which place them in moments of historical controversy and intellectual ferment.  For this workshop, we will “play” a modified version of the American Revolution simulation, “Patriots, Loyalists, and Revolution in New York City, 1775-1776.” When employing Reacting to the Past, class becomes a public body of sorts; students, in role, become particular figures from the period, often as members of a faction.  Their purpose is to advance a policy agenda and achieve their victory objectives. In this case, the loyalists want to stop the revolution from happening, whereas patriots want to break from Britain.  To do so, participants conduct research, write speeches and position papers, deliver formal speeches in class, participate in informal debates and negotiations, and otherwise work to win the game.  Although outcomes may sometimes differ from actual history, the instructor is careful to address what actually happened in the past, focusing on how individual actions led to a different outcome.

Inside Option 2

WORKSHOP PROJECT: Participants will collaborate on a “Discovering Democracy in the 18th-Century Atlantic” website.  Inspired by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History’s Educator Resources, our website will be a collection of resources for educators (AP; K-12; and college) and researchers alike. Our website will provide:

  • One-page primers on particular topics in comparative revolutions, such as “republicanism,” “natural law,” or “The General Will;”
  • Primary source analyses on Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s “Social Contract,” and many others;
  • An Age of Revolutions timeline;
  • Lesson plans on comparative revolution topics (at various levels of instruction);
  • A social media feed to include the wider public in our program;
  • A list of targeted, annotated bibliographies for further reading.

Regardless of specialization, each participant (after the conclusion of the program) will be expected to complete the following STANDARD REQUIREMENTS:

  1. One 2-page primary source analysis on a translated, open-access primary source of their choosing;
  2. Two entries of their choosing to the timeline. Each entry will be 250-300 words in in length.  It will define the entry (name, date, location) and provide the larger historical significance.  It will also include an image;
  3. One targeted, annotated bibliography on a particular theme of their choosing. These annotated bibliographies will include at least 5 titles, each with a 300-400-word annotation;
  4. Two entries to our social media feed after the conclusion of the seminar (could be a resource, blog piece, etc).

In addition to the above requirements, each participant will need to choose an “educator” or “researcher” path to complete additional assignments.

EDUCATOR PATH In addition to the above standard requirements, each participant on the EDUCATOR path will complete:

  1. Two (2) one-page primers on a particular topic of their choosing that will include a list of additional resources;
  2. One additional primary source analysis;
  3. One (1) complete lesson plan that takes a comparative approach to Atlantic Revolutions. This lesson plan will use a standard format and template (Understanding by Design) and should include:
    1. Desired Results (Established Goals; Understandings; Essential Questions)
    2. Assessment Evidence (Performance Tasks; Other Evidence)
  • Learning Plan (Including Activities, Materials)
  1. Short Narrative
  2. Any handouts or materials (including primary sources) necessary

RESEARCHER PATH: In addition to the above standard requirements, those on the RESEARCHER path will complete:

  1. Two (2) one-page primers on a particular topic of their choosing that will include a list of additional resources;
  2. One additional primary source analysis;
  3. One additional timeline entries;
  4. One additional targeted, annotated bibliography on a particular theme of their choosing.

Final projects will be due within three weeks of the conclusion of the workshop (by July 9, 2018). Pre- and post-workshop work, along with the workshop schedule (below), is appropriate for a 3-credit class. Participants can attend the workshop for credit or not for credit.  In advance of the workshop, participants will be asked to complete a short list of readings, including selected chapters from Willem Klooster’s Atlantic Revolutions.  During the workshop, participants will be expected to read primary sources and engage in small (1-2 page) writing exercises to advance the role-play simulation.  Homework during the workshop will not take longer than 1.5 hours daily to complete.  Ample time will be set aside during the week to discuss logistics of final projects.


  • Revolutions in the Atlantic World, New Edition: A Comparative History (2018) by William Klooster; ISBN: 9781479857173
  • Patriots, Loyalists, & Revolution in New York City, 1775-1776, 2nd Edition by Bill Offutt; ISBN: 978-0-393-93889-0

 Mosaic 2



Monday, June 4

9-10:30            Welcome: What is ‘Atlantic’ and Comparative History? (Dr. Gossard)

In this opening session of “Discovering Democracy,” we will set an analytical and methodological base for the workshop.  Participants will interrogate the definition of “Atlantic” and “comparative” history.  Having read chapters from Klooster’s Revolutions in the Atlantic: A Comparative Approach in advance, participants will be prepared to discuss the various methodological approaches to studying Atlantic history.  This session will lay the framework for the rest of the week, focusing on key themes and events that transcended each Atlantic revolution.

10:30-11:00      Break

11:00-1:30        Working Lunch: Reacting to the Past: A Pedagogical Approach (Dr. Gossard)

This session will introduce participants to the Reacting to the Past role-play simulation.  They will have already received their character role sheets and been expected to complete preliminary primary source reading and research in character.  In addition to providing participants time to ask questions about the simulation and work in small groups with their faction members, the session will also provide a pedagogical discussion of the benefits and challenges of working with role-play simulations.

1:30-3:30         Discovering Democracy & the Republic of Letters (Dr. Gossard and Dr. Klooster)

The purpose of this session is to demonstrate how the American, French, and Haitian Revolutions were all products of the Enlightenment.  To fully understand the major political philosophical thoughts that underpinned the various declarations, constitutions, and governing documents of the eighteenth-century world, participants will analyze excerpts from John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Thomas Paine. Particular attention will be paid to Dr. Klooster’s comparative approach to studying the Age of Revolutions.

3:30-6:30         Break and Dinner on your own

6:30-8:00         Willem Klooster’s Keynote Address & Book Signing


Tuesday, June 5

9:00-10:30       Privileges versus Rights (Amphitheater Exercise – Dr. Gossard)

This session will take place in USU’s outside amphitheater.  One of the main differences between the early American colonies and the early modern French world was the understandings of rights and privileges.  Both revolutions occurred over issues of taxation and lack of representation, but their understandings of whether taxation and representation were rights or privileges are important to recognize. John Locke had a powerful impact on the seventeenth-century English constitution, providing ample rhetoric for what defined citizenship and natural rights.  By the outbreak of the American Revolution, colonists were demanding equal rights.  However, in eighteenth-century France, society was organized according to ideas of privilege.  Each estate (or class) had particular privileges.  To explain the difference between rights and privileges, Dr. Gossard will organize the workshop into particular “estates.”  Using candy, participants will have to pay taxes and perform other duties at a mock “Estates General” meeting.  The point will be to demonstrate that the French advocated for access to privilege whereas the Americans demanded equal rights.  This active learning exercise employs Locke and the Abbé de Seyiès’ political philosophies. For educators, this is an easily transferrable activity to a middle school, high school, or community college classroom.

10:30-11:00      Break

11:00-1:30        Working Lunch in RTTP groups

During this lunch, participants will sit with their RTTP factions to prepare for the first game session.

1:30 – 3:30        Session 1 of Reacting to the Past (Participants)

Participants will begin with a debate of the Continental Association and the opening of New York’s court system.  This session will require an application and analysis of Locke’s philosophy, especially the role of law (and its absence) in 1770s New York.  Debate of particular theories, including Republicanism, free-market ideology, hierarchy, empire, and precedent will be addressed, with some attention paid to the role of political violence.

3:30-4:00         Break

4:00-5:00         Transferring the Past to Today (Dr. Gossard)

To build off of last year’s “Takeaway of the Day,” this session will ask participants to think about an aspect of that day’s workshop that they can use either in their classroom, research, or life.  This could also be a reflection about a historical continuity that they saw from the eighteenth century to today.  In small groups (different from their RTTP factions), participants will write a brief group blog entry and tweet (both of which will be shared via the “Discovering Democracy” website and the MWC’s Facebook page) on that aspect.  At around 250 words, the post should draw on historical content and pedagogy to connect to their life after the program.  This will help workshop participants crystalize their experiences, draw connections between sessions, and also to include the public in the workshop.


Wednesday, June 6

9 – 11:00          Media in the Age of Revolutions (Special Collections & Dr. Gossard)

This session will take place in the Merrill-Cazier’s Special Collections.  A selection of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century newspapers, pamphlets, political cartoons, and other printed pieces of propaganda will be laid out for participants to examine. Getting to hold and examine primary source documents like this can often be a transformative experience.  There will be ample time set aside to simply talk about the production, transmission, and dissemination of these documents with one of the Special Collections librarians (likely Jennifer Duncan).  Participants will be asked to evaluate claims made in the pamphlets, paying attention to bias, evidence, accuracy, and reliability.   Many of these pamphlets include inflammatory, inaccurate, and highly biased information which led to the equivalent of eighteenth-century “fake news.” By encouraging participants to read these primary source documents with a critical eye, participants can build their media literacy.  They will not only be able to pass this skill onto their own students, but can use it in their lives as 21st-century citizens.

11:00-11:30      Break

11:30-12:45      Digitizing & Popularizing French Pamphlets (Jessica Grzegorski, The Newberry Library – Skype)

The Newberry Library in Chicago, Illinois holds the largest and most complete collection of revolutionary French political pamphlets in the world with over 30,000 documents in its repository. Jessica Grzegorski, Principal Cataloging Librarian, will join us via Skype to discuss the surprising information she discovered when digitizing this series. In particular, she will discuss the varying political rhetoric that was used to explain the French Revolution to nobles and peasants, alike.  Ms. Grzegorski will also discuss the impact the Enlightenment had on those pamphlets.  Furthermore, as an archivist, Ms. Grzegorski will briefly discuss the importance of digitizing pamphlets and providing open-access to them.  Participants will have perused the French Revolution Pamphlet Collection, examining translated documents, prior to this session.  This session will inspire teachers and students to use these valuable resources in their lesson plans and research.

12:45-1:30        Lunch – Suggested in RTTP groups

1:30 – 3:30        Session II of RTTP (Participants)

Faced with a threat of armed intervention from Lord Dunmore and King George, the New York Assembly will have to decide how they manage revolutionary chaos, the organization of their state militia, the duties of the Continental Militia, and the role of “ordinary” colonists.  Significant attention in this session will be paid to the rights of laborers, women, and slaves.

3:30-4:00         Break

4:00-5:00         Transferring the Past to Today (Dr. Gossard)

See previous day’s description for this repeated, daily session.



Thursday, June 7

9 – 10:30          Competing Declarations: The Declaration of Independence & The Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen (Dr. Gossard)

 This session will ask participants to compare the American Declaration of Independence to the French Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen. These documents are remarkably similar, demonstrating the influence of Enlightenment ideology on both revolutionary movements.  However, each document addresses particular concerns to the Americans and French.  By examining these documents side-by-side, it is clear how the Declaration of Independence helped inspire the Declaration of Rights of Man & Citizen.

10:30-11           Break

11:00-12:30      Haiti: An International Revolution (Dr. Julia Gaffield – Skype)

Dr. Julia Gaffield, Assistant Professor at Georgia State University, will lead a seminar discussing Haiti’s Revolution and its difficulty to establish a governing constitution in the years following revolt.  She will emphasize the comparative, international nature of studying Haiti.  The Haitian Revolution involved armies from the French, British, and Spanish Empires as well as armies of slaves and former slaves along with free non-white colonial residents.  Alliances changed throughout the war, but it was a major international affair from the very beginning.  Participants and onlookers had a vested interested in the success or failure of the Revolution.  But, why does the study of Haiti remain disconnected from larger studies of revolution? Part of this is to do with the disappearance of many of Haiti’s earliest governing documents.  However, in 2010, Dr. Gaffield rediscovered Haiti’s first Declaration of Independence, which had been lost in the archives for more than 200 years. This seminar will combine content on the Haitian Revolution, a primary source analysis of the Haitian Declaration of Independence, and a brief discussion of archival mystery.

12:30 -1:30       Lunch – Suggested in RTTP groups

1:30 – 3:30        Final RTTP Session (Participants)

During this final session, members of the New York Assembly will debate the Declaration of Independence, determining whether or not to support the current draft.  The complexity of declaring independence, along with close textual analysis of Thomas Paine’s case for independence, will be brought to the forefront.  By the end of the session, participants will have either chosen independence or loyalty to the British crown.

3:30-4:00         Break

4:00-5:00         The Global South after Revolution (Dr. Angela Diaz)

As a historian of the nineteenth-century Gulf South, Dr. Diaz can provide context to what happened in the global south immediately after the Age of Revolutions.  In particular, Dr. Diaz will comment on the importance Haiti played in the construction of Confederate fears of slave rebellions.  Although nineteenth-century Americans touted the War of Independence as an unprecedented success and proof of democratic superiority, many of those same Americans worried about the impact their revolution had on the stability of the slave system. Haiti caused extreme anxiety among slave holders and traders who did not want to encourage slaves to revolt against them.  Dr. Diaz will tackle a challenging topic that brings together the study of American memory, race, slavery, and freedom.

5:15-5:45         Transferring the Past to Today – See Tuesday’s description for this session.

6-8:00PM        An Eighteenth-Century Revolutionary Banquet

To celebrate the success of completing the intensive Reacting to the Past simulation, we will stage an eighteenth-century feast.  In cooperation with local vendors, we will use eighteenth-century recipes to cook the banquet. Depending on location and rules, we could also light it with candles and torches (if outside). We could also look into the possibility of having student string players perform an hour of eighteenth-century banquet music.



Friday, June 8

9 – 10:30          Ben Franklin’s World (Dr. Liz Covart – Skype)

In the past decade, podcasts have gained incredible popularity among scholars, educators, and the public.  Public history podcasts provide a different and often entertaining medium for people to learn, either for fun or for serious research endeavors.  Dr. Liz Covart, currently the Digital Projects Manager at the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, created “Ben Franklin’s World: A Podcast about Early American History” to connect professional historians, educators, and history lovers.  Far from a podcast just about Ben Franklin, Dr. Covart’s series chronicles the history of “Vast Early America” (a term the Omohundro Institute is trying to coin).  Through examining the politics, economics, societies, and cultures of the entire Atlantic world from North America, Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, and South America, we can better understand the context in which the United States was born. Dr. Covart will join us on Skype to discuss her favorite episodes of Ben Franklin’s world, discussing why she chose to take a comparative approach on her early American podcast.

10:30-11           Break

11:00-12:30      Debating the American Revolution (Dr. Robert Olwell – Skype)

Associate Professor of History at The University of Texas at Austin, Dr. Robert Olwell, will lead the seminar through an examination of Thomas Jefferson’s conflicting drafts of the Declaration of Independence. An expert in nineteenth-century America and a Thomas Jefferson enthusiast, Dr. Olwell provides extensive insight into the Age of Revolutions. Additionally, he will discuss his upper-division course, “Debating the American Revolution.” He has adapted Reacting to the Past to meet his specific learning objectives.  He will discuss his success and challenges in using RTTP in the college classroom.

12:30-1:30        Lunch

1:30-3:00         Writing our Own Constitutions (Dr. Gossard & Participants)

As a way to reflect on the entire week and the theme of “Discovering Democracy,” participants will write their own constitutions.  This exercise will help participants think carefully about which elements of the American, French, and Haitian declarations and constitutions they hold to be the most important.  Participants will realize that the Enlightenment is still alive, and in some instances, under continued critique and scrutiny.  Even more so, democracy continues to take on different, new meanings in each generation. Democracy means continued and active engagement with pertinent, contemporary issues, many of which the Founders could have never predicted.  Every participant will be asked to present their own constitution with an explanation.  We will include the constitutions on our “Discovery Democracy” website with a brief lesson plan for educators.

3:00-4:00         Final Projects Discussion – Participants will have time to ask questions and review the requirements for their final projects.

Tennis Court Oath in Versailles on June 20, 1789, 1784-1794, by Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825), oil on canvas, 65x88.70 cm. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)