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Essential Readings in Economic History


Admission requirements



Economic development, whether viewed as growth, increasing prosperity, or modernization, is closely related to the functioning of markets. Markets can be domestic places of exchange, but can also form a meeting place for different countries or ethnic groups. Markets did not at all times function freely and without government invention. Often, government intervention stimulated or supported economic growth, but at other times, forms of institutional sclerosis hindered the expansion of markets.

In this course we start with the debate on the historical circumstances that precluded sustained economic growth, the expansion of capitalism and the rise of the western world. Next, we discuss industrialization and the development of business and entrepreneurship during the Liberal Era (1870-1914), followed by the period of increasing regulation and trade barriers (1914-1945).

In the post-war global economic development two major trends can be discerned: an increasing liberalization of capital and trade flows, and the simultaneous development of global institutions regulating the world economy. We examine these developments taking the perspective of different regions. We will look at the postwar development of capitalism, review the welfare state and reflect upon the differences between advanced capitalist economies.

Course objectives

  • The ability to analyze and evaluate literature and sources for the purpose of producing an original scholarly argument

  • Insight into the social relevance of history

  • Knowledge and comprehension of the specialization Economic History and its historiography, more specifically: the origin and outcomes of the Great Divergence, developments in political economy since ca 1600, increasing global interdependence, the development of global governance in the twentieth century, as well as the most important debates in recent Economic History;

  • Knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical, conceptual and methodological aspects of the specialization Economic History, more specifically: the application of economic concepts, research methods or models; insight into the argumentation of current debates;

  • Knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical foundation of the discipline and of its position vis a vis other disciplines

  • Be informed about and take part in the on-going historical debate on this subject


Timetable History

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

Total: 280 hours

  • Hours spent on attending classes: 8 × 2 = 16 hours

  • Reading weekly literature assignment (150-240 pp à 5-8 pp. per hour): 7 × 30 = 210 hours

  • Writing weekly assignment: 7 × 3 = 21 hours

  • Reading an additional book for the book review: 23 hours

  • Writing final book review: 10 hours

Assessment method

  • Write short-essays weekly (in Engish or Dutch) 60% will test the ability to give a clear written report on the research results in English or Dutch.

  • Make an oral presentation and participate in the discussions (providing and reacting upon constructive academic feedback ) 10% will test the ability to give an oral presentation and participate in class, and the ability to provide constructive academic feedback

  • Write a book review (in Engish or Dutch) 30% will test the ability to give a clear written report on the research results in English or Dutch

  • All components should be passed

  • To complete the final mark, please take notice of the following: the final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average

Extra for Res Ma students:
Write an additional book review



Reading list

Week 1:

  • Patrick O’Brien, ‘A critical review of a tradition of meta-narratives from Adam Smith to Karl Pomeranz’, P. C. Emmer, O. Pétré-Grenouilleau & J. V. Roitman (eds.), A Deus ex Machina revisited. Atlantic colonial trade and European economic development (Leiden 2006) 5-20.

  • Kenneth Pomeranz & Steven Topik (eds.), The World that Trade Created: Society, Culture and the World Economy, 1400 to the present (Armonk, 2006).

Week 2:

  • Jean-Laurent Rosenthal & R. Bin Wong, Before and Beyond Divergence. The Politics of Economic Change in China and Europe (Cambridge, 2011)

Week 3:

  • Robert C. Allen, The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective (Cambridge, 2009).

Week 4:

  • Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, Why Nations Fail. The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty (New York 2012).

Week 5:

  • Barry Eichengreen, The European Economy since 1945. Coordinated Capitalism and beyond (Princeton, 2008).

Week 6:

  • Robert Reich, Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy and Everday Life (New York 2007).

Week 7:

  • Peter A. Hall and David Soskice, ‘An introduction to varieties of capitalism’, in: idem, eds., Varieties of Capitalism. The Institutional Foundations of Comparative Advantage. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001) 1-68. (Available on the internet)


via uSis


mw. Dr.C.A.P. Antunes
dhr. Dr. L.J.Touwen