The Economic History of War

This information is for the 2016/17 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Max-Stephan Schulze SAR 614 and Mr Dudley Baines SAR 608


This course is available on the MA Global Studies: A European Perspective, MRes in Quantitative Economic History, MSc in Economic History, MSc in Economic History (Research) and MSc in Global History. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.


Students enrolled on this course are expected to have completed the equivalent of undergraduate survey courses on European history.  Knowledge of introductory undergraduate level economics is a distinct advantage.

Course content

This course explores the economic history of war(s) from the late Middle Ages to the 20th century within a comparative framework. Key themes examined include: long-term preparation for war - from bullionism to autarchy; state formation and deformation; organising warfare - from Renaissance condottiere to security firms; resource mobilisation - finance, material inputs, human capital; resource allocation - production and consumption; human and economic consequences of war; post-war reconstructions. The historical cases studied include the Hundred Years War, the Thirty Years War, the European wars of the 18th century, the Napoleonic Wars, the American Civil War, the First and Second World Wars.


20 hours of seminars in the MT. 20 hours of seminars in the LT. 2 hours of seminars in the ST.

There are no lectures on this course.  Teaching will consist of 20 seminars of two-hours each in MT and LT; one revision session in LT. There will be pre-circulated papers for the seminars.

Students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6 of both MT and LT, in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

Three 2,000 word essays and one class presentation

Indicative reading

R. Bartlett, The Making of Europe. Conquest, Colonization and Cultural Change, 950-1350 (1993).

S. Broadberry, & M. Harrison, (eds) The Economics of World War I (2005).

J. Brewer, The sinews of Power: War, Money and the English State, 1688-1789 (1989).

R. Chickering & S. Foerster (eds), Great War, Total War (2000).

S. Foerster & J. Nagler (eds), On the Road to Total War: The American Civil War and the German ars of Unification (1997).

D. Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (1997).

J.R. Hale, War and Society in Renaissance Europe, 1450-1620 (1998).

G. Hardach, The First World War, 1914-18 (1977).

M. Harrison (ed) The Economics of World War II (2000).

A.S. Milward, War, Economy and Society 1939-45 (1987).

A. Offer, The First World War. An Agrarian interpretation (1989).

K. O'Rourke, 'The worldwide economic impact of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, 1793-1815', Journal of Global History (2006) 1, pp123-149.

R. Overy, Why the Allies Won (2006).

G.Parker, The Military Revolution: Military Innovation and the Rise of the West, 1500-1800 (1996).

D. Stevenson, With Our Backs to the Wall: Victory and Defeat in 1918 (2011).

D. Stevenson, Armaments and the Coming of War: Europe, 1904-1914 (1996).

H. Strachan, Financing the First World War (2004).

A. Tooze, Wages of Destruction (2006).


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: 18

Average class size 2015/16: 18

Controlled access 2015/16: Yes

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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

Course survey results

(2012/13 - 2014/15 combined)

1 = "best" score, 5 = "worst" score

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 75%



Reading list (Q2.1)


Materials (Q2.3)


Course satisfied (Q2.4)


Lectures (Q2.5)


Integration (Q2.6)


Contact (Q2.7)


Feedback (Q2.8)


Recommend (Q2.9)