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History of Economic Thought



GED, ID, PSc, Ec

Admission requirements

  • Classes of 2013-2016: a similarly-tagged 200/300-level course, ideally Trade & Finance in the Global Economy, Macroeconomics, and/or Microeconomics. Also recommended is Principles of Economics.

Course description

Though the course is 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. How 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.

Learning 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 uses a variety of teaching methods: interactive lecturing, student presentations, class debate and is writing-intensive.


In-class participation

Presentation and student-led discussion of, at least, one weekly seminar

Presentation of research paper

Two book response papers
Week 1 + Week 3

Research paper
Week 8

Discussion paper

Compulsory textbook

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

S. Nasar, Grand Pursuit, The Story of Economic Genius, New York: Simon & Shuster, 2011.

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

Contact information

Auke R. Leen