Economics 210b: Topics in Economic History: "Great Books" Course

Cursor and bradford delong com Grasping Reality with Both Hands

Course Meeting: Tuesday @ 4 PM in Evans Hall 639

Topics (Preliminary):

  • Jan 16: Organizational
  • Jan 23: Robert Allen: Global Economic History: A Very Short Introduction
  • Jan 30: Joel Mokyr: A Culture of Growth
  • Feb 6: Barry Eichengreen: Hall of Mirrors: The Great Depression, the Great Recession, and the Uses and Misuses of History
  • Feb 13: Robert Allen: The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective
  • Feb 20: Peter H. Lindert and Jeffrey G. Williamson: Unequal Gains: American Growth and Inequality since 1700
  • Feb 27: Lawrence Katz and Claudia Goldin: The Race Between Education and Technology
  • Mar 6: Robert Gordon: The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living Since the Civil War
  • Mar 13: Peter Temin: The Roman Market Economy
  • Mar 20: Sven Beckert: Empire of Cotton: A Global History
  • Apr 3: Ian Morris: Why the West Rules--for Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future
  • Apr 10: Richard Baldwin: The Great Convergence: Information Technology and the New Globalization
  • Apr 17: Presentations
  • Apr 24: Presentations

Requirements: This course aims to provide students with an introduction to interesting current debates in economic history by studying a curated list of recent books in the field.

We will undertake a critical reading of these books, focusing on both their strengths and weaknesses, while paying attention to the context—both historical and intellectual—of the books' arguments.

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 will be provided as appropriate to focus this last question.

Many sessions will be student-led: students will take (some) responsibility for presenting the author’s argument and stimulating classroom discussion.

Requirements for the course are three. Grades for the semester will attach equal weights to the three components:

  1. Doing the readings, attending meetings and participating in class discussions.
  2. Leading an appropriate share of class meeting devoted to a book
  3. Submitting a 15-page memo at the end of the semester describing the literature about from one to three potential questions for a possible large future research project.