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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 taking the perspective of different regions. We will look at the postwar development of capitalism.

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 here.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

Students will be required to:

  • Write short-essays weekly

  • Make an oral presentation

  • Write a Book Review



Reading list

Week 1:
Gregory Clark, A farewell to alms. A brief economic history of the world (Princeton 2007).

Week 2:
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.

Zanden, Jan Luiten van, The long road to the Industrial Revolution.The European economy in a global perspective, 1000-1800 (Leiden 2009).

Week 3:
Roland Marchand, Creating the corporate soul. The rise of public relations and corporate imagery in American big business (Berkeley etc. 1998)

David Landes & Joel Mokyr & William J. Baumol (eds.), The invention of enterprise: entrepreneurship from ancient Mesopotamia to modern times, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010.

Week 4:
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, ‘An economic theory of the growth of the Western World’, The Economic History Review 23-1 (1970) 1-17.

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:
Robert Reich, Supercapitalism: The Transformaition of Business, Democracy and Everday Life (New York 2007).

Week 7:
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.

Peter A. Hall and David Soskice, ‘An introduction to varieties of capitalism’, in: idem, eds., Varieties of Capitalism. The Institutional Foundations of Comparative Advantage. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001, 1-68.

Touwen, Jeroen, ‘Varieties of capitalism en de Nederlandse economie in de periode 1950-2000’, Tijdschrift voor Sociale en Economische Geschiedenis 3 (2006) 1, 73-104.


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Contact information

E-mail: Dr. C.A.P. Antunes