Economics 210A

Introduction to Economics History

Spring 2009

Instructor: Barry Eichengreen
Office: 603 Evans Hall
Office Hours: Wednesdays, 2:00-4:00 p.m. Please call or email Cheryl Applewood in advance for an appointment: 643-9044 /
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?

(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,"

4. Read Brad DeLong's handout on economic growth in the longest run:

Memo Questions

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?


The Mishkin reading for April 1 in Glenn Hubbard's Financial Markets and Financial Crises is not available. Click here for the NBER Working Paper version of the article.

Click here for additional readings for April 1.

Please use this link to access the April 1 reading for Juan-Huitzi Flores (2007),
"Lending Booms, Underwriting and Competition: The Baring Crisis Revisited.

Click here for additional readings for March 11.

Click here for additional readings for March 4.

Click here for additional readings for February 18.

Here is an
alternate link to the Crafts reading for February 11.

Click here to access a file containing most readings that are not in the printed reader. Readings not in this folder will be added as they become available.

Click here for additional readings for February 4 on the agricultural revolution and glorious revolution.

A revised version of the syllabus was posted on January 21. Note that the readings for January 28 have changed.

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