The grading policy for memos will be:
14 memos. 2 points each. As follows:
0 - not handed in 1 - handed in, but could have been written without thinking about the reading 2 - reflects upon the reading 3 - teaches us professors something
Weekly pre-class memo questions
January 30: Was it in fact the case--as UCLA's Jared Diamond maintains-that the invention of agriculture was the worst mistake in the history of the human race? What can we say about the causes of the fact that in some human societies technological and organizational progress appears relatively slow and in others relatively fast? And is there a relationship between these two questions?
February 6: malthus
February 13: industrious revolution
February 20: Judging by the readings, how much of a difference does "good government"--that is, a government that cares about commerce and enforces contracts more-or-less honestly--appear to have made in the centuries before the industrial revolution in Britain?
February 27: early modern globalization
March 5: wars, colonies, et cetera
March 12: 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?
April 9: 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?
April 16: Textbooks say that the gold standard had internal mechanisms that worked automatically to maintain both price and balance-of-payments stability. On what grounds do Arthur Bloomfield and Hugh Rockoff challenge this textbook view? Are their points convincing?
April 23: Great Depression
April 30: A growing literature develops explanations for 'Europe's golden age' (the European economy's fast growth in the third quarter of the 20th century). Is this effort misguided? In other words, do we really need fancy explanations for a straightforward phenomenon that is easily explained in terms of convergence and delayed structural change?
May 7: The economic history of the world both in the post-WWII period 1945-1990 and, in broader perspective, over the past two centuries has been one in which the world has shrunken enormously in distance along every conceivable measurement, and yet in which income and productivity differences between societies have grown enormously. What, in your judgment, are the possible big-picture theories for explaining this phenomenon that are worth investigating?