Spring 2023

Economic History

Listed in: Economics, as ECON-471

Moodle site: Course


Daniel P. Barbezat (Section 01)


Robert Lucas famously claimed: “the consequences for human welfare involved in questions … [of long-run economic growth] … are simply staggering: Once one starts to think about them, it is hard to think about anything else.” This is a seminar in which we will start thinking about the why, how, and where long-run economic global growth occurred, or tragically did not occur. Through this inquiry students will learn why Lucas made this dramatic claim.

For most of human history, median per capita incomes all over the planet were relatively similar and stable. This began changing radically, only for some, during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

In this seminar, we will describe and begin to explain this long-run economic process that brought us to the contemporary global economy. We will first examine the long swing of the stable Malthusian equilibrium briefly described above by delving into hunter/gatherer societies, ancient agrarian societies and the agriculturally based economies that developed though the fifteenth century. We then will turn to the long process of breaking this Malthusian equilibrium and examine the economic growth that really first occurred in Northern Europe and England. Finally, we will analyze the modern period of increased economic growth in certain parts of the world and the lack of that growth in others, resulting in the incredible global inequality during and after the  nineteenth century.

Requisite: ECON 300/301 and ECON 330/331. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Barbezat. 

How to handle overenrollment: Priority given to Economics majors.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: An understanding of the material in the prerequisites above. Also, reading journal articles, problem sets, tests, discussions, and short papers.


2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2014