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European Economic History - Economics 442
David Mitch Economics 442
Office: Administration 821 Fall, 1999
Office Hours: Tues. Thurs. 1:00 to 2:00 P.M.
and by arrangement.
Email address: Mitch@UMBC.EDU
(feel free to send me email messages).
EUROPEAN ECONOMIC HISTORY
Course Scope and Goals: This course will examine the evolution of
the European economy from the introduction of settled agriculture
to the current mix of capitalism, socialism and central
planning. Central topics to be considered include fluctuations
in population growth and income during the middle ages, trends in
agricultural productivity and land redistribution during the
early modern period, the development of commercial and financial
institutions during the medieval and early modern periods, the
causes and consequences of the British industrial revolution, the
industrialization of continental Europe during the nineteenth
century, the evolution of international monetary arrangements
from the late nineteenth century to the present, the
nationalization of industries after World War II, the development
of social safety nets, the experience of central planning under
communism, and the growing economic integration within Europe.
By studying the case of Europe this semester, you will
(hopefully) develop skills in three general areas:
1) how to construct an account of an important long run
economic change. Important long run economic changes such as the
shift of economic activity from agriculture to manufacturing or
the rise in living standards are subject to diverse influences.
An effective account of such changes will make allowance for a
range of possible influences and consider their relative
2) how to compare key differences between economies in their
long term economic development. Why at any point in time are some
nations more prosperous than others ? Why have the economic
winners and losers frequently exchanged places over time ?
3) what have been the comparative contributions of
technological advance and institutional/organizational change to
economic progress? For example what contributions has scientific
discovery compared with the spread of free markets made to rising
living standards ?
Course Requirements :
1) A midterm and a final examination covering the material
presented in class and the in the readings. Although the final
will emphasize material covered after the midterm, it may contain
some material from the first part of the course. The midterm
will count for approximately 30 percent and the final for 35
percent of your final grade. The format of both exams will
consist of three types of questions: a) questions asking you to
identify and explain the significance of key terms and concepts
in European Economic History b) a short essay question asking you
to summarize the basic arguments and conclusions that have been
made with regard to a specific issue in European Economic History
and c) a longer essay question involving one or more of the three
skills listed above.
2) One paper (suggested length 10 pages) on an assigned
topic related to the lectures and readings. A list of topics and
more detailed instructions on the format will be distributed.
The purpose of the paper is not to force you to do a large amount
of outside reading. Rather, I want you to use it as an
opportunity to think more deeply about some of the material
covered in class and the assigned readings. The paper is due
Tuesday, December 14, 1999. Any late papers will be subject to a
grade penalty. The paper will count for approximately 35 percent
of your final grade.
3)A one or two page summary of one of the more in depth
readings (i.e. one of the readings other than the Cameron text).
The summary should present the main arguments and evidence in the
reading you consider and state the more general significance of
this material. The summary should be presented with a suitable
number of copies for the class appropriate to the given reading.
It will be graded on the basis of check, check plus, and check
minus. A generally satisfactory summary will receive a check.
An especially apt and insightful summary will receive a check
plus. A more perfunctory and inadequate summary will receive a
check minus. In addition you should be especially prepared to
contribute to class discussion for the class session appropriate
to your summary topic. The summary grade will count for
approximately 5 percent of your final course grade and will be
used to resolve border-line cases.
A Note on Grades: I grade on an absolute scale, not on a curve.
In grading essay questions and papers, I will use the following
scale for converting from numerical percentages to letter grades:
85-100 A 40-59 C 0-19 F
60-84 B 20-39 D
The basic text for the course is Rondo Cameron A Concise Economic
History of the World Third Edition (Oxford University Press,
1997). There is also a course packet of selected readings for
this course available for purchase at the book store. There will
be essay questions on the mid-term and final exams on these
In addition, I have ordered the following books for purchase at
the bookstore. There will be a long essay question on either the
mid-term or the final exam involving each of these books (you
will have a choice of long essay questions). In addition,
I anticipate that you may use one or more of these books
extensively in writing your paper.
1)Edwin S. Hunt and James M. Murray, A History of Business in
Medieval Europe 1200-1550.
2)Mark Overton, Agricultural Revolution in England
3)Joel Mokyr ed., The British Industrial Revolution: An Economic
Perspective Second Edition.
4)Mikulas Teich and Roy Porter eds., The Industrial Revolution in
5)Barry Eichengreen, Globalizing Capital. A History of the
International Monetary System
6) R.W. Davies, Soviet Economic Development from Lenin to
Class Format : Class sessions will consist of a mix of lectures,
and discussion. Each class period will focus on a particular
issue. The first part of the class will consist of formal lecture
on the given issue. The next part will focus on discussion of the
issue in question. Movies and Videos will be shown at the end of
Tentative Schedule and Reading Assignments :
Sept. 7 : Introduction; Why Study Economic History ?
Why Study the European Case ?
The First Agricultural Revolution. What were the causes and
consequences of the domestication of animals and the cultivation
of plants? To what extent was the agricultural revolution in
Neolithic times a technological advance and to what extent was it
an institutional change.
Readings: 1) Cameron, Chapter 1.
1) Cameron, Chapter 2, pages 20-32;
2) Douglass North, "The First Economic Revolution"
and "The Consequences of the First Economic Revolution"
in Course Packet
Movie "The Harvest of the Seasons"
September 16: Pre-industrial Population Trends and Cycles in
Europe. What is the Malthusian model of population
determination? To what extent did Malthusian forces influence
population and economic trends in pre-industrial Europe? Was
population pressure the main influence at work?
Readings: 1)Cameron, Chapter 3, pages 54-59, 74-77.
2)Cameron, Chapter 5, pages 95-99.
3) Course Packet, Livi Bacci.
Video, "Common Life in the Middle Ages"
September 21: The Organization and Development of Medieval
Agriculture. Why did serfdom arise? What was the manor and how
did it function?
1)Cameron, Chap.3, pp.44-54.
2)Mark Overton, The Agricultural Revolution in England,
Movies "Medieval Manor" and "The Middle Ages"
September 28: The Agricultural Revolution in Europe between 1500
and 1850. What were the key institutional and technological
changes which occurred in European agriculture during this
period? How much improvement occurred in agricultural
productivity? What factors contributed to this improvement?
Was a rise in inequality and the disappearance of small
landholders the necessary price of rising agricultural
productivity? Did improvements in agriculture during this period
lay the foundation for later industrialization?
Readings: 1)Cameron, Chap.5, pp.107-114.
2)Overton, Agricultural Revolution in England,
3)Gregory Clark, Too Much Revolution, Agriculture in
the Industrial Revolution, 1700-1860" in Mokyr
ed., British Industrial Revolution.
Videos "Age of Charlemagne" and "Freedom and Plenty"
October 5: Ancient and Medieval Commerce: How extensive was
long-distance trade and commerce in Ancient and Medieval Europe?
Why was long-distance trade risky during this period? What
partnership arrangements emerged to deal with the risks of long-
distance trade? What role did reputation play in such
Readings: 1)Cameron, Chap.2, pp.32-43.
2)Cameron, Chap.3, pp.59-68.
3)Edwin Hunt and James Murray, A History of Business
in Medieval Europe, chaps.1,3,5,7,9
4) Avner Greif, "Reputation and Coalitions in Medieval
Trade: Evidence on the Maghribi Traders," Course
Movie "Trade and Industry" and "Rise of the Trading
October 12: The Rise of the Nation State and the Revolution in
Government Finance. What role did governments play in economic
affairs during this period? What basic differences were there in
the policies and strategies various governments used to manage
their economies? What influence did these policies and
strategies have on economic performance and efficiency? What
factors contributed to the enhanced ability of the British
government to issue public debt?
1)Cameron, Chapter 6, pp.130-134, and pp. 144-153
2)Douglass North and Barry Weingast, "Constitutions
and Commitment: The Evolution of Institutions
Governing Public Choice in Seventeenth-Century
England," in Course Packet.
Video "The Enlightened Despots"
October 19: MIDTERM.
Movie "Thunder in the Skies"
October 26 The British Industrial Revolution. Part I.
What were the key features of the British Industrial Revolution?
Was it Really a Revolution? What important inventions
contributed to the industrial revolution?
Macroeconomic Perspectives on the British Industrial Revolution.
What was the extent of the shift of economic activity away from
agriculture during the British industrial revolution. To what
extent did economic growth accelerate during the British
industrial revolution? What percentage of economic growth was
due to productivity advance? To what extent was productivity
advance focussed in a few leading sectors of the British economy?
Readings: 1)Cameron, Chap.7.
2)Nick Crafts, "The Industrial Revolution," in
3)Joel Mokyr, "Editor's Introduction: The New Economic
History and the Industrial Revolution" in Mokyr
ed. The British Industrial Revolution.
4)C.Knick Harley, "Reassessing the Industrial
Revolution: A Macro View" in Mokyr ed. The British
Movies "The Industrial Revolution in Britain."
and "Industrial Revolution"
November 2: The British Industrial Revolution Part II. The Rise
of the Factory. How did the organization of manufacturing
enterprises change during the British industrial revolution?
What was the extent of the shift to factory organization? What
were the key characteristics of factory organization? To what
extent did the rise of the factory reflect technological
considerations and to what extent organizational considerations?
Trends in Working-Class Living Standards during the
British Industrial Revolution? Did working-class
living standards improve during the industrial
revolution? What indicators have been used to
measure trends in living standards? To what extent
do various measures indicate consistent trends?
Reading: 1) Maxine Berg, "Factories, workshops and industrial
organisation," in Course Packet.
Reading: 1) Peter Lindert, "Unequal Living Standards," in
Video "The Industrial World"
November 9: Industrialization on the European Continent. Was the
British case a model for continental industrialization? Was
there a natural tendency for growth rates to converge among
European countries? Did different European economies develop in
different ways and what factors explain these differences?
A. France. Why did France industrialize at a slower rate than
Britain? Did the French Revolution impede economic development?
Were Peasants too comfortable? Was there an inadequate supply of
B. Germany. What factors contributed to Germany's ability to
overtake Britain in technological leadership at the end of the
nineteenth century? What role did educational superiority play?
Did links between banks and large corporations provide important
C. Russia. Did low productivity in Russian agriculture
impede the growth of it's manufacturing sector? Did the
backwardness of the Russian economy offer compensating advantages
when it began to industrialize? Did backwardness imply a
distinctive pattern of industrialization?
D. Survey of remaining European cases -- Scandinavia, Belgium,
Spain, Italy, and Austro-Hungary. Alternative patterns of
Economic development. Did smallness provide advantages? Could
high rates of economic growth be achieved without
industrialization? Further ways in which backward agriculture
could impede industrial growth.
Reading: 1) Cameron, Chapters 8, 9, 10, and 11.
2)Teich and Porter, Industrial Revolution in
National Context, Chap.2. Francois Crouzet, "France."
3)Teich and Porter, Industrial Revolution in
National Context, Chap.5. Richard Tilly, "Germany
4)Teich and Porter, Industrial Revolution in National
Context, Chap. 14. Roger Munting, "Industrial
Revolution in Russia."
5)Teich and Porter, Industrial Revolution in
National Context, Chaps.3,7,8,9,10,11,12, 16.
Video, "The New Public"
November 16: Development of the International Economy and the
Gold Standard. To what extent did Europe become more integrated
into the international economy prior to 1914?
Did the gold standard contribute to monetary stability? Was the
gold standard self-regulation?
Reading: 1) Eichengreen, Globalizing Capital, Chap.2.
2) Cameron, Chapter 12.
Video, "The Technological Revolution"
November 23: Crises, Stagnation, and Depression in the first half
of the Twentieth Century. To what extent did difficulties with
international finance and monetary arrangements contribute to
stagnation and depression in the interwar period?
Socialism and Working Class movements. Have the factors behind
economic growth been different in the 20th century than in the
19th? What important changes in technology and economic
organization have occurred in 20th century Europe? Have communism
and socialism promoted equality? How did war change economic
activity? What economic strategies did various European
countries employ to pursue their military aims during war?
Reading: 1) Eichengreen, Globalizing Capital, Chap.3.
2 Cameron, Chapter 13.
3) Cameron, Chapter 14.
4)R.W.Davies, Soviet Economic Development from Lenin
Movies "The Russian Peasant" "Soviet Challenge:The Industrial
Revolution in Russia".
November 30 The Development of the Welfare State and Middle Way
in Western Europe. The Nationalization of Industrial Enterprises
-- Causes and Consequences.
Reading: 1) James Foreman-Peck and Robert Millward, "The
Causes and Consequences of the 1940s Nationalizations," in
2)Rebecca Blank, "Does a Larger Social Safety Net
Mean Less Economic Flexibility?" in Course Packet.
Movie "Rise of English Socialism"
December 7: International Monetary Arrangements in the 1950's and
1960's. Postwar Reconstruction. Early attempts at the economic
integration of Europe.
Reading: 1) Eichengreen, Globalizing Capital, Chap.4.
2) Cameron, Chap.15.
Video, "Cold War"
December 14: The further integration of the European Economy --
how far can and will it proceed?
Reading: 1) Eichengreen, Globalizing Capital, Chap.5.
2) Cameron, Chap.16.
Video -- "Europe 1992 -- The Next Challenge"
DUE DATE: Term paper, December 14.
Tuesday, December 21, 8:30 to 10:30 P.M.