Course 2021-2022 a.y.


Department of Social and Political Sciences

Course taught in English
Go to class group/s: 13
BESS-CLES (6 credits - I sem. - OB  |  SECS-P/12)
Course Director:

Classes: 13 (I sem.)

Class-group lessons delivered  on campus

Suggested background knowledge

There are no prerequisites for the course.

Mission & Content Summary


The course focuses on the long-term economic development of Western societies, exploring the factors leading to the pre-eminence that they acquired over other world areas. Concepts and theories from the social sciences are used as a starting point for understanding the development of real economies in their complex social, political and cultural contexts. Although the course focuses on the West (Europe and northern America), the developments which took place elsewhere are also considered. The introductory part of the course focuses on the preindustrial period, and introduces the theoretical framework of the 'Great Divergence' (leading to the pre-eminence of the West over the East) and 'Little Divergence' (leading to the pre-eminence of northern over southern Europe) to understand the emergence of key economic and political hierarchies between different world areas. The Industrial Revolution which took place in Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries constitutes the core of the course. The paths to industrialization and modernization followed by other world areas are also explored. The final part of the course covers the period going from the so-called ‘first Globalization’ (1870-1914) until today. The course provides students with fundamental knowledge about the long-term economic and social developments that gave origin to the contemporary globalized and highly-interconnected (but also highly unequal) world. This is important background information for other courses.


  • The Stone Age economy (and beyond).
  • The medieval legacy (1347-1530).
  • The rise of the West and the “Great Divergence”.
  • From the Mediterranean to the North Sea (1530-1720).
  • The roots of the British Industrial Revolution.
  • Why Britain? (1720-1870).
  • The Industrial Revolution & Living Standards.
  • The Second Industrial Revolution
  • The Demographic Transition.
  • Industrial Europe (1830-1914) and the “First Globalization”.
  • The "First Globalization" and the age of mass migration
  • Paths to industrialization: Italy.
  • The roots of the North-South divide in Italy.
  • Paths to industrialization & the modern economy: China, Japan and the U.S.
  • War & Disintegration of the global economic order (1914-1950).
  • The economic history of Europe from World War II until today.
  • Inequality in the long run of history.
  • The past and future of the European Union and other international organizations.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO)


At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Describe the general economic development of Europe and selected world areas in the long run of history.
  • Explain the specificities in the path of development followed by each country/world area.
  • Identify the basic historical variables relevant for research across the social sciences.


At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Analyze how the specific historical developments of a given country/world area affect the inner workings of its current economy and society.
  • Draw up a summary of the long-term economic development of a specific country/world area.

Teaching methods

  • Face-to-face lectures
  • Individual assignments


Students who decide to submit the optional "Descriptive Report"  also are required to be ready to present it in class. Given the nature of such reports, the presentations are an occasion for covering the historical developments of additional countries/world areas.

Assessment methods

  Continuous assessment Partial exams General exam
  • Written individual exam (traditional/online)
  x x
  • Individual assignment (report, exercise, presentation, project work etc.)


Assessment is based on one mandatory element, plus one optional one:

  1. A partial written exam on the first part of the course and another partial written exam on the second part of the course. Each partial exam counts for 50% of the final mark OR a written exam on the full program (100% of the final mark). The partial and general exams consist of one essay question, aimed at assessing the capacity of the students to provide an articulated discussion of one topic, and multiple short questions, whose objective is to check the ability of the students to concisely explain the relevant historical facts. In addition, the exams will also include two questions related with the chronological order of historical events and one true/false question, whose answer the students have to motivate with one sentence.
  2. (Optional): a short “descriptive report” (max 2,000 words, plus references) about:
    • The economic history of a specific world area / country during the preindustrial period OR
    •  The path towards industrialization of a specific country.
    • Good-quality reports add 0.5 points (out of 30) to the final mark, excellent reports add 1 point, and poor reports not alter the final mark.

Non-attending students have to cover the same program as for attending students and are admitted to the partial exams or the general exam. However, non-attending students are not given the option of submitting the optional descriptive report.

Teaching materials


  • R.C. ALLEN, The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective, Cambridge, CUP, 2009 (selected chapters).
  • J. BATEN, (ed.), A History of the Global Economy. Cambridge, CUP, 2016 (selected chapters).
  • S. BROADBERRY, K. H. O’ROURKE (eds.),The Cambridge Economic History of Modern Europe. Cambridge, CUP, 2010 (selected chapters).
Last change 29/08/2021 10:47