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History of Economic Thought



Ec, HI, ID, PSc

Admission Requirements

Similarly tagged 200/300-level courses.


Though the course is fully accessible to beginning readers in economics, the course provides a thorough overview of the evolution of economic theory from its earliest formation to the present day, with an emphasis on the developments since Adam Smith published the Wealth of Nations in 1776.

The course focusses on developing an understanding of the interrelationships that exists between the historical environment and the economic theories used to understand this social reality. Howe did economic theories, as well as economic policy issues, evolve in response to changes in technology, market institutions, and political structures? The emphasis will be on those topics that are of continuing present-day interest.

The course introduces the students to different economic theories, ideologies and concepts of great thinkers such as Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Karl Marx, Carl Menger, John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich Hayek.

Course Objectives

  • The course is historical in content and international in perspective allowing students to develop a critical understanding of the influence of evolving economic thought on contemporary global economics.

  • The course aims to increase the students understanding of the evolution of economic theories, concepts and policies. The students are expected to acquire adequate basic and essential analytical skills to enable them to conduct individual research; analyze the various theories and be able to relate these to practical situations; infer the various economic concepts introduced by various theoreticians and be able to determine its relevance to economic activities.

  • The ability to detect the differences between the main schools of economic thought, to understand the historical debates between the advocates of different theories, to interpret contemporary events from the perspective of the great economic thinkers who have preceded us, to write coherently about the just-said.

Mode of Instruction

The course is writing-intensive and employs a variety of teaching methods: interactive lecturing, student presentations, and class debates.


To be confirmed in course syllabus:

In-class participation: 15%
Presentation and student-led discussion of, at least, one weekly seminar: 10%
Presentation of research paper: 15%
Two book response papers: 10%
Research paper: 35%
Discussion paper: 15%

  • Book response papers: two papers of 2-3 pages each (10%). You will be required to read four chapters of Robert Heilbroner’s The Worldly Philosophers before the second, as well as, before the fourth week does start. After you do the reading, write a 2-3 page response briefly summarizing one or two major ideas of the economists discussed in each reading.

  • Discussion paper. Presentation and student-led discussion of, at least, one weekly seminar (in total 25%). The weekly seminars are chaired by students. Depending on the number of students, each student has to chair at least one seminar-meeting (10%). The student starts each seminar with giving an overview (a first written-out draft) of the structure and contents of the seminar and giving a preliminary summery of the contents of that week’s required reading of the main text book. Other students are asked to give their ideas/questions on that week’s reading which subsequently will be discussed. The student incorporates the results of the discussion in the first draft and does sent the final paper (8 pages) to the lecturer before next week’s session (15%).

  • Class participation (15%).

  • Research paper, 12-18 pages (50%). The largest component of your grade is the final research paper. The grade will consist of a presentation of your research (15%) and the final paper itself (35%). The final paper is intended to be an independent, creative research project on a subject in the history of economic thought that you find particularly interesting.


E. Ray Canterberry, A Brief History of Economics. Artful Approaches to the Dismal Science (2nd edition, 2011), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd.

Robert Heilbroner, The Worldly Philosophers (The Lives, Times And Ideas Of The Great Economic Thinkers), (any edition)

Contact Information

Auke R. Leen:

Weekly Overview

Week 1. Scholasticism, Mercantilism and Smith; Canterberry Chapters 1 till 2, pp. 1-60; Heilbroner Chapters II till V (Response paper #1 Due on Friday).
Week 2. Malthus, Ricardo, J.S. Mill and Marx; Canterberry Chapters 3 till 6, pp. 61-119.
Week 3. Marshall, Veblen and Keynes ; Canterberry Chapters 7 till 9, pp. 121-200; Heilbroner Chapters VI till XI (Response paper #2 Due on Friday).
Week 4. Keynes (continued) and Modern Keynesians; Canterberry Chapters 10 and 11, pp. 201-272.
Week 5. Monetarists, New Classicals and Institutionalists; Canterberry Chapters 12 till 14, pp. 273-348.
Week 6. Supply-side Economics, the Global Economy; Canterberry Chapters 15 till 17, pp. 349-416.
Week 7. The Housing and Credit Crises of 2008, The Great Recession of 2007 and after and the Future of Economics; Canterberry Chapters 18 till 20, pp. 417-482.

Preparation for first session

Reading from the book of Heilbroner the introduction and the chapters I (the Economic Revolution) till V (The Visions of the Utopian Socialists).