Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Thème agrégation

 I wasn’t paying attention and I just realized today was my last class teaching thème for agrègation! Good luck to the externe people in the exams, if I don’t see you again. If you are still here next year, I will not be, as I am retiring.

I will see the interne people a few more times for comprehension orale/ thème oral (externe people, you are welcome to come if you are free and you find it useful.

Monday, February 26, 2024

Frderick Douglas - Letter to my former master. Podcast

 You will find here a recording of the class on the context of Douglas's "Letter to my former master".

Just click here

You will find here a recording of an analysis of one part of the document

Just click here

You will find here the slides I used in class

Just click here

Wednesday people: we will be looking, Wednesday 28 Feb, at the speech by Emmeline Pankhurst.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024


 Je ne serai pas en cours aujourd’hui car je suis souffrant. Revenez dans quelques jours pour des conseils.

Monday, February 19, 2024

Agrégation cours Irlande du Nord


Il y a eu un malentendu. je viens d'échanger avec M Gillissen. Les cours sur l'Irlande du Nord ne commence pas le 21 février, mais le 28 février.

Voir emploi du temps ici


Sunday, February 18, 2024



“We’ve got to stop this, it’s stupid.”

I completely agreed, but to stop it, I needed my whistle (well, Peyssou’s whistle), so I searched, soaked in perspiration, in all my pockets, without managing to find it. As I searched, I realized, even through all that anxiety, how ridiculous I was.

The general-in-chief could no longer command his troops, since he had mislaid his whistle. I could have shouted out “Hold your fire!” Even Miette and Catie in the fort at the entrance would have heard me.


But I did not do this: I do not know why, but at that moment it seemed very important to me that things should be done by the book.

I finally found this precious relic. There was nothing surprising; it was where I had left it, in the breats pocket of my shirt.[1] I blew three short blasts[2], and these, when I repeated them a few seconds later, managed to silence our guns. Yet my whistle must have[3] awakened some echo in the military spirit of Vilmain, since, from the rampart I was crouched behind, I heard him screaming at his men “What are you firing at, you bunch of cretins?[4]

On that, on both sides, silence replaced the outburst. To say deathly silence would be overstating the case, since no one had been shot.[5]   This first part of the combat ended in farce and immobility. We did not feel a need to leave Malevil in search of the enemy, and the enemy had no desire to  come forward to meet our bullets, by moving into a breach of only four or five foot wide.

I did not see what happened next, it was the outside commando that recounted it to me.

Hervé and Maurice were desperate There had been a mistake in positioning the blockhouse. It allowed a clear view on people coming on the Malevil road if they were upright. But as soon as they lay down (and they did), they were invisible: the grassy ridge of the path hid them completely. Because of this, Hervé and Maurice could not shoot.  What was more, even supposing an enemy were to stand up, they did not know whether they should shoot or not, since Colin’s gun remained silent.



Shirt with breast pocket


BNC deadly silence

See also dictionary on ‘deadly’ here : https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/deadly



BNC deathly silence


See also dictionary on deathly, here: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/deathly


[1] In the breast pocket of my shirt : but then again, where else do shirts have pockets ? Still, if you knew the expression « breast pocket » it is no doubt best to use it.

[2] As often, this reminds me of a popular song (from the 1940s). « I blew a little blast on my whistle » by George Formby Senior. You can listen to it here : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aeXMexIAroo

[3] If you were tempted by any translation other than « must have », you must urgently read again the modal verbs section of your Grammaire Explicative de l’Anglais.

[4] Jerks, bloody idiots, etc.

[5] I’m fairly confident that, strictly speaking, « deathly »  is correct (resembling death) and « deadly » is not (liable to cause death). However the British national coprus shows that people do use both.






         “There is no such thing as chance, everything is linked together”, Sarah would have[1] said. Why had I just today received by post this article, an old-fashioned reprint on paper, with staples, rather than a PDF file accompanied by a covering email (which might[2] have included some of her news, and which might have let me know where she was and what this Sarawak place was where she was writing from) ? According to my atlas, it is a state of Malaysia situated in the North West of the island of Borneo, just next to Brunei, land of the wealthy sultan, and not far at all from Debussy’s and Britten’s gamelans, I believe. Yet the content of the article was quite[3] different : there was no music in it, apart from, perhaps, a long funeral dirge ; there were twenty closely printed pages which had been published in the September edition of Representations, a fine journal[4] from the University of Californa to which she had frequently contributed.

 A brief dedication appeared on the cover page of the article, without any further comment «  For you, my dear Franz, with all my love, Sarah ». It had been posted on November 17th, that is to say two weeks previously – it still took two weeks for a letter to travel from Malaysia to Austria ; perhaps she had been a little mean with the stamps - she could[5] have put a postcard in too. What was the meaning of all this ? I went through all I had left of her in my apartment, her articles, two books, a few photographs and even a copy of her doctoral thesis, printed in a red Skivertex binding, two heavy volumes weighing more than six pounds each :


« In life, there are wounds which, like leprosy, eat away at the soul when one is alone »,[6] writes the Iranian author Sadegh Hedayat at the beginning of his novel The Blind Owl : the short man with round spectacles knew this better than anyone else. It was one these wounds that led him to turn the gas full on in his apartment on the Rue Championnet in Paris, one night he was feeling particularly lonely, a night in April, far away from Iran, very far away indeed ; his only company was[7] a couple of poems written by Omar Khayyam and perhaps an old bottle of Cognac, or a tablet of opium, or perhaps nothing, nothing at all, apart from the pages he kept by him and which were taken with him in the vast emptiness of the gas.





Résultat de recherche d'images pour "Skivertex"





[1] By using « would have said » you avoid the potential ambiguity of « would say ».

[2] We are speaking here of an imaginary email. « Might » is the best option. The difficulty with « could » is it suggests physical capacity, which imaginary emails do not have.

[3] Notice that, here, the word « quite » means « completely ».

[4] Academics generally write in journals, not magazines.

[5] Here it i sbest to use « could » because « might » would be ambiguous.

[6] Be careful with the distinction between solitude and loneliness.


[7] Note that this cannot be plural.

L3 podcast and slides McCauley's speech in parliament on the Reform Bill 1831

 You will find here the recording of what I had to say about the context of the Reform Bill.

Just click here

You will find here a recording of the part of the class where I comment on a specific extract.

Just click here

And you will find here the slides we saw in class.

Just click here 

Monday, February 12, 2024



Suggested translation of passage by Philippe Djian


Some evenings she could have cried tears of rage. She felt her life was a real disaster and this made her panic somewhat. And yet the filming was going well: the rushes were good and more and more people were congratulating her for her work, and saying they bet she could[1] get an award  for her acting out of it and be back in the spotlight again.


This promising future, though, did not thrill her as much as she had thought it would. Now that it was within her reach, the prospect left her nonplussed; she no longer found it so attractive. She had almost lost that furious appetite for success which ate away at ninety nine per cent of artists on the planet- and a hundred per cent in the world of cinema.



Eric Duncalah was perfectly correct in thinking that a sign from Evy would be able to make her happy, in so far as that was possible. They missed each other in the mornings, since at Dawn she was like a stone at the bottom of a well, crushed by leaden sleep or thoroughly drunk with fatigue. When she heard the coffee machine in action, it was too late. In the evenings she would do her best to clear her schedule and find time to be with her son, but she had not yet managed to have a serious conversation with him about all this, not to mention the fact that they had André under their feet. What a pain in the neck  he was, that man.


Judith Beverini made use of their yoga sessions to urge her to get rid of the old bastard- as if anyone in the house needed a sports room, as if muscle was what the house was short of!







“I wouldn’t put up with it if I were you ,” said Judith. “And it’s so weird, I reckon. It’d be different if Rose was there. Really he’s just lurking around the house. At least that’s what it looks like. How old is he. Brr... he must be 70. Isn’t he?







Judith’s husband had gone off again to put on The Nutcracker in Nankin, in China, with the communists , so the two women could talk on for hours about how men were intrinsically deceitful and gifted for rudeness and pretence. But all that could not stop Laure from thinking that first her husband and then her children had abandoned her one after the other, and this picture terrified her.

[1] There are other possibilities here, but the sequence of tenses seems to rule out structures with « may ».

Thomas Paine "The Rights of Man" podcast and slides

 You will find here the recording of  our class on Tom Paine

Just click here

And here comments on a couple of extracts from the Rights of Man

Just click here.

You will find here the slides we saw in class

Just click here

Friday, February 09, 2024

L3 Tom Paine

 A left wing comedian, Mark Steel, produced a half hour TV programme which is both funny and educational, about Tom Paine.

Just click here



MEEF M1 December Homework assignment feedback.


MEEF M1 December Homework assignment feedback.

I know that you MEEF M1 people are now hurtling through the second semester and not necessarily thinking back to what happened in your homework assignment at the end of 2023. Nevertheless, this is one of the first times you have attempted an exercise in the format of the CAPES exam, and it is important to identify key errors, in particular in methodology.

I should first say that I very much enjoyed working with you. You were my last MEEF students. Due to my great age, I am retiring in the summer. I will continue doing a little history (which you might find from time to time here or on my YouTube channel «  The History Fellow ») as well as several other activities (which are easy to find via Google if required). I am always pleased to hear how you are getting on.


A few of the main points concerning this assignment.


I have preferred to write here about the main weaknesses of student work, rather than write comments individually. This allows me to deal with weaknesses at greater length. It also allows you to think about weaknesses or mistakes which you did not display in this particular piece of work but might in a future piece, or at the actual CAPES exam. 


The main danger is paraphrase - simply repeating in your own words what the documents say (this is how to fail a CAPES).


Many people need to listen again to my excellent lecture on the history of the UK school system :


Just click here



So, to the present exercise :

These three documents all deal with conflicts and difficulties in the history of UK education. The first gives a general picture of the post-war reform, and then of changes made forty years and more later. The second illustrates the anger and resistance of the biggest teachers’, union faced with neoliberal reforms and competition between schools. The last compares private schools and state schools and speaks to the difficulty of giving equal opportunities to every child, and the political conflicts, in particular between the Conservatives and Labour, connected with how private schools should be treated by government.


The objectives of the people who produced the three documents are quite different. Documents one and three are journalistic in nature : their main aim is to explain to readers facts and processes (although one can certainly see the opinions of the first journalist in his writing). The second document, produced by a trade union, has an agitational objective. It aims at encouraging teachers and headmasters to refuse to cooperate with the evaluation body OFSTED, since this organization is considered not to be working in the interests of schools, children and teachers.


Each of the documents contains several references to events or actors in the history of UK education. You would not have time to explain them all, and there are probably some you do not understand. Nevertheless, you must explain quite a few of them.


Obviously, you  get points for ( among other things) understanding the history and organization of UK schools. So, you would obviously get points for :


-        Showing you know what OFSTED is and does, and why many teachers oppose it.

-        Showing you know what a GCSE is, how the system works, and the difference with the French baccalaureate system.

-        Showing you know exactly what the eleven plus was, and why it disappeared. Most importantly, what kind of ideas were behind the eleven plus system, and why these ideas are not accepted today.

 (Read here : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eleven-plus )


And this article recounts the history of debates about the eleven plus back in the 1940s and 1950s



(You will find here a rather right-wing documentary about the history of the eleven plus, but which includes a lot of useful information).



-        Showing you know something about the 1944 Act which is not mentioned in the documents ( e g its establishment of the tripartite system, with the eleven plus, and the idea of innate intelligence which was behind this decision).

-        Showing you know *how* church schools fit into the national system.

-        Showing you know the importance of Local Education Authorities in the history of UK education, and why this influence declined in the 1980s.

-        Showing you know that the 1988 reforms were part of Thatcherism, and how they fit in with the rest of Thatcherism, indeed showing you know  what Thatcherism is.

-        Saying who Rab Butler is, what political party he comes from, etc.

-        Showing you know what kind of newspaper The Guardian is and what sort of people read it.

It is important to refer immediately, at the very beginning of your work,   to the intentions of each author, and to structure your work around what the documents are trying to do.


Most students quote too much. The examiner has read the documents. Line numbers are enough.


Remember to only include details which help us to understand the document, and the history of education. If you say that Rab Butler was a Conservative politician, this is important since it might show that the need of the British economy for educated workers pushed the Conservative Party to partly abandon some of their traditional elitism. This detail helps us understand the history.

On the other hand, the fact that Toby Helm worked for a few years in Berlin is not relevant to this set of documents. If Mr Helm’s article had dealt with the relationship between the UK and Germany, it would have been relevant to mention his link to Berlin.ç


One of the biggest dangers is paraphrase. If you summarize the documents in your own words, instead of analyzing what the document is trying to do or how it reflects historical situations and changes, this is not good. You need to show you know things *which are not in the document*.


Note that both the introduction and the conclusion should concern how the documents help us to understand British society and its education system. Your conclusion should not be advice about what the governments*should do* or about what the education system « really needs ». Your position is one of a student of British society, trying to explain how a situation came about and how it is changing. Your position is not advisor to the British government.


At the very beginning, try to be as precise as possible. «  These three documents all deal with aspects of education in Britain » is weak, because it is so obvious. Noone would expect one of the documents to talk about dolphins! What do they have in common which is more precise ? No doubt conflict. They show how different ideas about education - egalitarianism, elitism and neoliberalism in particular, have been in tension as they produced a modern education system.



Monday, February 05, 2024

L3 John Locke A letter on toleration

 All this may be useful to you when revision time comes.

You will find here a recording of the introduction I gave to to John Locke’s pamphlet (context, Reformation, Enlightenment etc).

Just click here.


And you will find here a recording of the part of the class where I analyzed a section of the document.

Just click here.


The slides you saw in class are also available.

Just click here.

L3 orals - exam

Someone asked me about the exact format of the oral exam. You are given an extract of a couple of paragraphs of one of the documents, we worked on in class. (But not the exact lines analyzed in class - another part sof the document). You are not asked to choose between two possible extracts - you are simply given one.

Saturday, February 03, 2024

A Paris ou sur zoom - conférence en français sur le système de santé britannique


Surtout recommandé pour des étudiant e s en MEEF

L’Association France-Grande Bretagne et

le Centre de recherches et d’études en civilisation britannique

annonce une conférence


Mercredi 07 février à 18h dans la salle Julien Gracq au lycée Henri IV à Paris (et sur Zoom)

Une image contenant Police, Graphique, logo, Bleu électrique

Description générée automatiquement




par Louise Dalingwater, professeure à Sorbonne université


En présence physique : au Lycée Henri IV, 23 rue Clovis, 75005 Paris, Salle Julien Gracq
[Inscription obligatoire pour assister à la conférence sur place. Une preuve de
votre inscription vous sera envoyée la veille. Elle pourra être demandée à
l’entrée du lycée avec votre pièce d’identité.
Demande d’inscription à envoyer à afgb.resa-conf@orange.fr ]


Ou bien à distance. Lien zoom :




Le National Health System (NHS) a été créé en 1948, dans le but de fournir des soins de santé gratuits et universels à tous les citoyens britanniques, indépendamment de leur niveau de revenu ou de leur statut social.

Dans les années 80 et 90, le NHS a subi plusieurs réformes qui ont vu l'introduction d'éléments de marché dans le système, avec la création de fonds de financement pour les hôpitaux et les médecins généralistes. Ces réformes ont également donné un rôle accru aux patients dans la gestion de leur propre santé, avec la création d'un système de choix de médecins et de traitements.

Plus récemment, le NHS a été confronté à des défis financiers importants, liés à son financement public et à la pression croissante sur les services de santé en raison du vieillissement de la population. Pour y faire face, le gouvernement britannique a lancé différents programmes de réformes, notamment en encourageant les soins à domicile et en développant les technologies de la santé.

John Mullen

Président du CRECIB