China's Traditional Economy and its Growth in the Very Long-Term

This information is for the 2016/17 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Kent Deng SAR 6.05


This course is available on the BSc in Economic History, BSc in Economic History with Economics and BSc in Economics and Economic History. This course is not available as an outside option nor to General Course students.

Course content

The course explores the main aspects China's economic growth in the very long term from c.1000 AD to 1800, It begins with a survey of general models/themes in Chinese economic history, followed by particular issues: the formation, expansion and the function of the Chinese empire; Confucian values and state economic polices; property rights; peasantry and peasant economy; proto-industrialisation; commerce and trade; science and technology; demographic fluctuations; living standards; external shocks and foreign influence; internal rebellions and revolutions; reforms and modernisation.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the MT. 10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the LT. 1 hour of lectures and 1 hour of seminars in the ST.

Students are expected to do prior reading and to make presentations on a regular basis.

There will be a reading week in Week 6 of MT and LT

Indicative reading

A full reading list and course outline are distributed at the beginning of the course. The following readings provide indication of the scope and nature of materials used in the course: K G Deng, 'A Critical Survey of Recent Research in of Chinese Economic History', Economic History Review (2000); J K Fairbank, Chinese Thought and Institutions (1957); M Elvin, The Pattern of the Chinese Past (1973); C A Ronan, The Shorter Science and Civilisation in China (1978-86); J Y Lin, 'The Needham Puzzle: Why the Industrial Revolution did not Originate in China', Economic Development and Cultural Change (1995); G W Skinner, The City in Late Imperial China (1977); J Lee & F Wang, One Quarter of Humanity (1999); K Pomeranz, The Great Divergence, Europe, China and The Making of the Modern World Economy (2000); A Watson, Economic Reform and Social Change in China (1992); R B Wong, China Transformed (1997). ‘Imperial China under the Song and Late Qing’, in Andrew Monson and Walter Scheidel (eds), Fiscal Regimes and Political Economy of Premodern States,  Cambridge University Press: ch. 10 (pp. 308–42). Deng, Kent and Zheng, Lucy (2015) Economic restructuring and demographic growth: demystifying growth and development in Northern Song China, 960–1127 Economic History Review, 68 (4). 1107-1131.


Exam (100%, duration: 3 hours) in the main exam period.

Teachers' comment

Survey questions on feedback to students may be non-informative because assessed work comes later in the term than the survey.

Key facts

Department: Economic History

Total students 2015/16: 4

Average class size 2015/16: 4

Capped 2015/16: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

PDAM skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Specialist skills