Weekend Reading: William Jenning's Bryan's "Cross of Gold" Speech

Richard von Glahn: The Economic History of China: From Antiquity to the Nineteenth Century: The Economic History Research Frontier: A Great Recent Books Approach

Richard von Glahn: The Economic History of China: From Antiquity to the Nineteenth Century http://amzn.to/29jBkwt


Five Orienting Questions:

  1. von Glahn argues that in general we should see the Chinese economy as either led by or dependent on the state, rather than growing in a manner guided by the market. Is he right?
  2. Somebody-or-other once said that the natural climax state of a humanity that has passed through the filter of the Neolithic Revolution is the Gunpowder Empire--a sophisticated, literate, well organized, unequal, near-Malthusian society, in which slow improvements in technology boost the standard of living and sophistication of the rich and just offset the effects of long run natural resource degradation and exhaustion on the numbers and prosperity of the poor. What does the example of China as put forward by von Glahn have to say about this?
  3. What sort of Malthusian edge was China as painted by von Glahn close to, and how close was it to that edge?
  4. As Kent Deng wrote in his review of von Glahn: "technology, feudalism, the fiscal-military state, mercantilism, markets and capitalism" all as "elements... seen as unique in pre-modern Western Europe or Japan were present in pre-modern China.... The only difference was that they appeared earlier in China".
  5. As of 1978 the two ends of Eurasia had seen a truly great divergence: last a divergence in living standards and prosperity levels, before that a divergence in the deployment of technology and in the investment of capital, before that a divergence in the invention of technology, and before that a divergence in institutions. What dates should we assign to each of these four divergences?

This course will provide students with an introduction to the research frontier in economic history by studying a carefully curated list of recent books in the field. We will undertake a critical reading of these books, focusing on both their strengths and weaknesses. General questions will include the following. Does the topic justify a book-length treatment? Does the author successfully sustain his/her argument throughout the book? What is the role of books, as opposed to articles, in research in economic history (and in economics more generally)? Supplementary readings are provided to point up this last question. Most sessions will be student led, in that students will take charge of presenting the author’s argument and stimulating classroom discussion.

Course template and architecture by Barry J. Eichengreen...