And here we are in Week 4 of LA COMMUNE 2021, a virtual free school experience hosted by Roxanne Panchasi (a.k.a. RP) in collaboration with UNIT/PITT Society for Art and Critical Awareness. If you’re just joining us this week, you might want to take a look at the content from the previous three weeks to help get you situated. You can also dip into and out of the content as you like, in whatever order appeals to you. Free really means free!

The Paris Commune erupted in the spring of 1871 following more than a century of political, social, and economic transformation in France. After months of war and siege, the French capital’s working-class population rose up in March, holding elections, and forming their own government. The revolutionaries of the Commune attempted a complete overhaul of all aspects of life in the city. Instituting political and economic reforms, they also pursued a program of universal public education, the separation of church and state, and the promotion of a radical culture.


Our free school TIMELINE includes a number of key events that may help to situate events chronologically and within the broader history of nineteenth-century France. We’ll be adding dates to the timeline each week, following events from March through May as we go.

RADIO 1871

Each week of LA COMMUNE 2021 is anchored around an episode of radio 1871, an audio series created for a seminar in History at Simon Fraser University in 2021 with subsequent release via this free school in mind.

This week, listen to RP’s conversation with Dr. Laura O’Brien. Laura is a Senior Lecturer in Modern European History at Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne who works on popular culture, revolution, religion, and commemoration in nineteenth-century France. She is the author of The Republican Line: Caricature and French Republican Identity, 1830-1852 (Manchester University Press, 2015). 

Touching on a range of issues, the episode focuses on the Commune and its “Outsiders.” Along the way, the discussion takes up questions of secularism, education, the relationship between class inequality and opposition to the Catholic Church, the complexities of Communard beliefs, and the violence of this revolutionary moment.


“Decree on the Separation of Church and State,” 3 April 1871

Elihu Washburne, The Diary and Letters of America’s Minister to Paris during the Siege and the Commune, esp. ch. 6, “The Reign of Terror” (sign up for a free Internet Archive account to access the full text)

Collier’s Encyclopedia entry for Elihu Washburne

Anne Brucy, “On the Sources of Secularism in France,” CNRS News, 13 August 2016

Check out “How repercussions from the Paris Commune led to the separation of church and state,” a recent Radio France Internationale podcast (in English) featuring Dr. John Horne, Professor Emeritus, Cambridge University

Focused on student activism, this recent article traces some key connections between education, academic and other freedoms, Islamophobia, and the politics of secularism in contemporary France.

“An Outspoken Student Union Positions Itself at the Vanguard of a Changing France,” New York Times, 4 April 2021


Don’t forget to check out the HAPPENINGS & HEADS-UPs section, a collection of Paris Commune-related & Commune-spirited events taking place in various sites during the period of the free school.