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Econ 210A, Introduction to Economic History

Spring 2009

Lecture: W 12-2P , 608-7 Evans
Instructor: Professor Barry Eichengreen
Office: 603 Evans
E-mail: eichengr@econ.berkeley.edu
Office Hours: Wednesdays, 2-4 p.m.
Please call or email Cheryl Applewood in advance for an appointment: 643-9044 / capple@econ.berkeley.edu

Syllabus and Reading List

Class Information

Class meets Wednesday 12:00-2:00 pm in 608-7 Evans Hall.

Economics 210A is required of Ph.D. students in Economics in the first year of the graduate program. The course is designed to introduce a selection of themes from the contemporary economic history literature, not to present a narrative account of world economic history. Emphasis is placed on the uses of economic theory and quantitative methods in history and on the insights a knowledge of history can give to the practicing economist.

Before the First Meeting

Before the first meeting of Econ 210a, please do the following four tasks:

1. Read the readings listed in the syllabus for January 21: The Malthusian Economy? (DeLong).

2. Write your first 400-word or so (250-500 words, really) weekly memo in response to the memo question for January 21 (see below).

3. Click here to read the following three snippets:

(1) Adam Smith, Exchange and its vicissitudes as fundamental to human psychology and society? http://www.adamsmith.org/smith/won-b1-c2.htm.

(2) Karl Marx, "Different technologies as producers of different societies which give rise to different types of economies?" Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy.

(3) Robert Solow (1985), "Economic History and Economics," http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/1805620.pdf.

4. Read Brad DeLong's handout on economic growth in the longest run: http://www.j-bradford-delong.net/2008_pdf/20080120_longestrungrowth.pdf.


Memo Questions

April 29

John Maynard Keynes said, near the end of his life, that the problem of controlling inflation while maintaining full employment was fundamentally a political and not an economic question. Did the 1970s in the developed world prove him right or prove him wrong?

April 22

Why was recovery from the Great Depression so partial and delayed?

April 15

What similarities strike you between what you have been reading about the global financial crisis over the past eighteen months and what you read for this week? What differences?

April 8

Textbooks say that the gold standard had internal mechanisms that worked automatically to maintain both price and balance-of-payments stability. On what grounds does Arthur Bloomfield challenge this textbook view? Are his points convincing?

April 1
It is popularly argued that the world was even more globalized a hundred years ago than it is today. Is this an accurate characterization? If so, why? If not, why not?

March 25
No question--Spring Recess

March 18
The economies settled from northwestern Europe--the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand--were all resource rich. So why did they industrialize early? Why didn't they simply become gigantic Denmarks, shipping agricultural and other resource-based products to the European industral powers in return for manufactures?

March 11
Sanford Jacoby and John James both suggest that late-19th century American labor markets were very different from American labor markets today. What are the three most important factors they point to as explaining (accounting for) those differences?

March 4
What are the most striking similarities between the pre-1914 life-insurance-mortgage-company connection described by Kenneth Snowden and the subprime crisis?

February 25
What relevance and use does a work like Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (1848), "Manifesto of the Communist Party" have to twenty-first century economists today?

February 18
An influential literature cites the scarcity of labor as a key factor in the emergence of the "American System of Production." How much of this argument (if any) survives Peter Temin's 1966 critique?

February 11
Maxine Berg and Pat Hudson write that the "historiography of the industrial revolution in England has moved away from viewing the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries as a unique turning point in economic and social development." Do you agree with their conclusion that the literature has moved too far in this direction? Why or why not?

February 4
Most economic historians now think that the agricultural revolution was more a gradual and drawn out process than previously believed. Why do they now think this?

January 28
"The treasure captured outside Europe by undisguised looting, enslavement and murder, floated back to the mother-country and were there turned into capital." -- Marx, Capital, Vol. 1 Ch. 32. Do the other assigned readings provide any basis for assessing the general truth of this passage from Marx? In what sense did colonial trade in the 1497-1800 period contribute to capital formation in Europe?

January 21
Gregory Clark claims that "the real income in Malthusian economies (all economies after 5000 B.C. and before 1800) was determined from the birth rate and death rate schedules alone." Does this mean that mankind was powerless to improve its material conditions via factors such as technology, social organization, population control, etc.?

Lecture Notes

February 25
Lecture Notes

January 21
Lecture Outline
Lecture Notes
Why Study Economic History?