Year 12
Year 12
Classroom with Whiteboard

VCE History Units 3 & 4

Units 3 and 4: Revolutions

Revolutions are the great disjuncture of modern times and mark deliberate attempts at new directions. They share the common aim of breaking with the past by destroying the regimes and societies that engender them and embarking on a program of political and social transformation. As processes of dramatically accelerated social change, revolutions have profound impact on the country in which they occur, as well as important international repercussions. Because revolutions involve destruction and construction, dispossession and liberation, they polarise society and unleash civil war and counter-revolution, making the survival and consolidation of the revolution the principal concern of the revolutionary state. In defence the revolution, under attack from within and without, revolutionary governments often deploy armed force and institute policies of terror and repression. The process of revolution concludes when a point of stability has been reached and a viable revolutionary settlement made.


Revolutionary ideas, leaders, movements and events

The periods for this area of study are:

  • French Revolution 1781 to 4 August 1789 (Necker’s Compte Rendu to the 4 August 1789)
  • Russian Revolution 1905 to October 1917 (Bloody Sunday to the Bolshevik Revolution)

Historians have put forward different theories about the causes of revolution; for example, inadequate response to structural change, political divisions, the failure of rising expectations, the loss of authority, the erosion of public confidence in the old order. Questions have been raised such as: Why did social tensions and ideological conflicts increase in the pre-revolutionary period? Why could social tensions and ideological conflicts not be contained or constrained within the traditional order? What events or circumstances eroded confidence in the government or weakened the capacity of the ruling class to meet challenges to its authority? Historians place differing emphasis on the role of ideas, leaders and movements in the development of the revolution. Debate occurs about the role of the work of the Philosophes in the French Revolution and the role of Marxism in the Russian Revolution. Other historians focus more on circumstances and longer-term developments as the main contributors to revolution and determinants of the course it would take.


Creating a new society

The periods for this area of study are:

  • French Revolution 5 August 1789 to Year 111 (1795) (Declaration of the Rights of Man and
  • Citizen to the dissolution of the Convention Year 111);
  • Russian Revolution November 1917 to 1924 (Initial decrees to the death of Lenin);

A new political order and a new society was not created easily. Revolutions took many years to achieve their initial promise of social and political change. Endangered and radicalised by political dissent, civil war, economic breakdown and wars of foreign intervention, resistance to revolution assumed different forms impeding the transformation which the revolutionaries had envisioned. In times of crisis, revolutionary governments often became more authoritarian, instituting more severe policies of social control. Historians debate the success of the revolutionary ideas, leaders, groups and governments in achieving their ideals by evaluating the nature of the new society as the revolution consolidated. Questions are raised, such as: Has a completely new order been established with a significantly changed ruling group and ideology, with new methods of governing and new social institutions? Have the subjects of the new state acquired greater freedom and an improved standard of living? Has the revolution been successful in establishing a different set of values that fulfilled the ideals of the revolutionaries?


The award of satisfactory completion for a unit is based on a decision that the student has demonstrated achievement of the set of outcomes specified for the unit. This decision will be based on the teacher’s assessment of the student’s overall performance on assessment tasks designated for the unit. Students must complete Outcomes 1 and 2 for Unit 3: Russian Revolution and again in Unit 2: French Revolution.

Outcome 1

On completion of this unit the student should be able to evaluate the role of ideas, leaders, movements and events in the development of the revolution.

Outcome 2

On completion of this unit the student should be able to analyse the challenges facing the emerging new order, and the way in which attempts were made to create a new society, and evaluate the nature of the society created by the revolution.

Contribution to final assessment

  • School-assessed coursework for Unit 3 will contribute 25 per cent to the study score.
  • School-assessed coursework for Unit 4 will contribute 25 per cent to the study score.

The level of achievement for Units 3 and 4 is also assessed by an end-of-year examination, which will contribute 50 per cent to the study score.

End-of-year examination


All outcomes in Units 3 and 4 will be examined. All of the key knowledge and skills that underpin the outcomes in Units 3 and 4 are examinable. The examination will be set by a panel appointed by the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority.


The examination will be completed under the following conditions:

  • Duration: two hours.
  • End-of-year, on a date to be published annually by the VCAA
  • Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority examination rules will apply. Details of these rules are published annually in the VCE and VCAL Administrative Handbook.
  • The examination will be marked by a panel appointed by the VCAA

Contribution to final assessment

  • The examination will contribute 50 per cent to the study score.