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Literature Seminar: Issues in Economic History


Admission requirements


Economic development, whether viewed as growth, increasing prosperity, or modernization, is closely related to the functioning of markets. Markets can be domestic places of exchange, but can also form a meeting place for different countries or ethnic groups. Markets did not at all times function freely and without government invention. Often, government intervention stimulated or supported economic growth, but at other times, forms of institutional sclerosis hindered the expansion of markets.
In this course we start with the debate on the historical circumstances that precluded sustained economic growth, the expansion of capitalism and the rise of the western world. Next, we discuss industrialisation and the development of business and entrepreneurship during the Liberal Era (1870-1914), followed by the period of increasing regulation and trade barriers (1914-1945). In the post-war global economic development two major trends can be discerned: an increasing liberalisation of capital and trade flows, and the simultaneous development of global institutions regulating the world economy. We examine these developments and pay ample attention to one of the most important inventions of moden culture: the welfare state.

Course objectives

  • Develop background knowledge and skills to conduct research in economic history

  • gain insight in developments and debates in economic development

  • Be informed and take part in the on-going historical debate on this subject


See course-schedule

Mode of instruction

Tutorial (attendance compulsory)

Assessment method

Students will be required to:

  • Write short-essays weekly

  • Make an oral presentation

Reading list

Week 1:

  • Gregory Clark, A farewell to alms. A brief economic history of the world (Princeton 2007).

Week 2:

  • Jack A. Goldstone, ‘Efflorescences and economic growth in world history. Rethinking the ‘Rise of the West’ and the Industrial Revolution’, Journal of World History 13-2 (2002) 323-389.

  • D. Held & A. McGrew & D. Goldblatt & J. Perraton, Global transformations. Politics, economics and culture (Stanford Ca, 1999), introduction (1-28) & conclusion (415-452).

  • Douglass C. North & Robert P. Thomas, ‘An economic theory of the growth of the Western world’, The Economic History Review 23-1 (1970) 1-17.

  • Patrick O’Brien, ‘A critical review of a tradition of meta-narratives from Adam Smith to Karl Pomeranz’, P. C. Emmer, O. Pétré-Grenouilleau & J. V. Roitman (eds.), A Deus ex Machina revisited. Atlantic colonial trade and European economic development (Leiden 2006) 5-20.

  • P. H. H. Vries, ‘Governing growth: a comparative analysis of the role of the state in the Rise of the West’, Journal of World History 13-1 (2002) 67-135.

Week 4:

  • R. Lloyd-Jones & M. J. Lewis, ‘The long wave and turning points in British industrial capitalism: a new-Schumpeterian approach’, Journal of European Economic History 29-2/3 (2000) 359-404.

  • Immanuel Wallerstein, The Modern World-System, vol. 1 (New York etc. 1974), chapter 7 (347-357).


  • Avner Greif, Institutions and the path to the modern economy. Lessons from Medieval trade (New York etc 2006), chapter 1 (3-54) & chapter 5 (377-406).

  • Douglass C. North, ‘Institutions’, _The Journal of Economic Perspectives 5-1 (1991) 97-112.

  • Douglass C. North, ‘An economic theory of the growth of the Western World’, The Economic History Review 23-1 (1970) 1-17.


  • C. Bekar & R. G. Lipsey, ‘Science, institutions and the Industrial Revolution’, Journal of European Economic History 33-3 (2004) 709-755.

  • Joel Mokyr, ‘The market for ideas and the origin of economic growth in eighteenth century England’, Tijdschrift voor Sociale en Economische Geschiedenis 4: 1 (2007) 3-38.


  • Richard Grassby, The business community of seventeenth-century England (Cambridge etc 1995), conclusion (395-418).

  • Roland Marchand, Creating the corporate soul. The rise of public relations and corporate imagery in American big business (Berkeley etc. 1998), introduction (1-6) & chapter 1 (7-47).

  • William N. Parker, ‘Entrepreneurship, industrial organization, and economic growth: a German example’, The Journal of Economic History 14-4 (1954) 380-400.

  • Sidney Pollard, ‘Reflections on entrepreneurship and culture in European societies’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 40 (1990) 153-173.

Week 5:

  • Crafts, Nicholas and Gianni Toniolo, ‘Postwar growth: an overview’, in: Nicholas Crafts and Gianni Toniolo, eds., Economic Growth in Europe since 1945 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996) 1-37.

Week 6:

  • Susan Strange, States and markets (London 1994).

Week 7:

  • Lindert, Peter H., Growing public: social spending and economic growth since the eighteenth century. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004) Volume 1, selected chapters.

  • Korpi, Walter, ‘Power resources and employer-centered approaches in explanations of welfare states and varieties of capitalism. Protagonists, consenters and antagonists’, World Politics 58 (2006) 167-206.


See enrolment-procedure

Contact information

dr. C.A.P. Antunes, dr. L..J. Touwen