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Course 2021-2022 a.y.


Department of Social and Political Sciences

For the instruction language of the course see class group/s below

Go to class group/s: 21 - 22

BIEF (6 credits - I sem. - OBBC  |  SECS-P/12)
Course Director:

Classes: 21 (I sem.) - 22 (I sem.)

Class group/s taught in English

Class-group lessons delivered  on campus

Mission & Content Summary

Why are some countries rich while others are poor? Since the publication of the Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, the sources of global inequality have been a key subject in economics. As Robert Lucas has famously claimed, once we start thinking about them, ‘it is hard to think about anything else’. This makes the study of economic growth and development over the long run relevant for economics and the social sciences alike. Economic history introduces tools and methods of describing and analyzing growth and development and it helps students develop critical thinking by demonstrating both the potential and limitations of economic theory in explaining economic change in the real world.


The course offers an overview of Western economic development from the early modern period, ca. 1500, to the present. We focus on the drivers of industrialisation and of increased prosperity in the Western world and on the historical origins of the disparity in the wealth of nations today. The course is organised in two parts:

  1. The first part discusses the drivers of long-run development: the commercial, agricultural, and industrial revolutions, the role of institutions, and the origins of globalisation.
  2. The second part illustrates the impact of major shocks on economic development in the 20th century: the World Wars, the Great Depression, and the challenges of the new globalisation since the 1970s.


The course covers the following topics:

  1. Part I The Rise of the Western World:
    • The Great Divergence
    • Pre-modern growth
    • The Industrial Revolution
    • The rise of the global economy
  2. Part II The Twentieth Century:
    • The world economy between the wars
    • The Great Depression
    • Economic development after 1945
    • New challenges in a global economy

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO)
At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Identify the main forces of economic development throughout modern history.
  • Explain the origins of modern economic growth and the role of institutions in comparative economic development.
  • Discuss the impact of major historical events, such as the world wars, or the Great Depression, on economic development.
At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Identify the aims and limitations of simple economic measurement.
  • Apply basic economic theory to empirical evidence.
  • Summarize complex narrative interpretations.

Teaching methods
  • Face-to-face lectures

The teaching method of this course is based on lectures and class discussions. The lectures aim both to convey basic knowledge and develop narratives from evidence presented in the course readings. The lecturers encourage student participation by discussing the texts that students are required to read in advance of each class.

Assessment methods
  Continuous assessment Partial exams General exam
  • Written individual exam (traditional/online)
  •   x x

    In order to evaluate the acquisition of the aforementioned learning outcomes, the assessment of attending students comprises two partial examinations, each worth 50% of the final grade.


    1. The first partial exam evaluates students on Part I of the course content
    2. The second partial exam evaluates students on Part II of the course content


    Both exams use a mix of open-ended and multiple-choice questions to test both the understanding of key concepts introduced in the course readings, and the ability to summarise and discuss the issues addressed in class.


    General exam (100% of the final grade) using a mix of open-ended and multiple-choice questions to test both the key concepts and the ability to summarise narrative interpretations presented in the course readings.

    Teaching materials

    Because of the nature of our subject, and in order to provide our students with a comprehensive overview of western economic history, our syllabus comprises a selection of chapters from different textbooks, complemented with a few additional texts. We arrange these readings by topic in the course syllabus, and normally discuss one text per class. Lecturers provide additional information in class aimed at helping students better understand the reading material. Students can access all the class material and the course syllabus on the Bboard.


    The syllabus is available to students on the Bboard and comprised of a selection of chapters from different textbooks, complemented with a few additional texts.

    Last change 03/08/2021 10:42