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LPS-EH201 Rebalancing the Global Economy: China, Europe and Latin America in long-run comparative perspective

Professor Colin Lewis, Emeritus Professor of Latin American Economic History, LSE

Dr Kent Deng, Reader in Economic History, LSE

Course outline

Rebalancing the global economy explores the history and development of China and the West over the last 500 years.  It offers a unique, long-run comparative perspective on the political economy of growth and institutional change in the Americas, Europe and East Asia.  Accounting for approximately one-third of global production and probably a larger share of population, by 1500 China was already the most technologically advanced and culturally sophisticated society in the world, a diverse, productive economy and a large unified polity.  At the other end of the Eurasian land mass, western Europe consisted of a patchwork of backward territories, not yet nation-states, while the Americas have only recently been ‘encountered’.  By 1800 China accounted for around forty percent of global Gross Domestic Product and an and an even larger share of the value of industrial production and trade.  In the West, although the Industrial revolution was gathering momentum, Asia still  produced the most desired commodities and goods - silks, cotton textiles, ceramics and tea, though the Americas were already established suppliers of precious metals, tobacco and sugar, and soon raw cotton.  By the end of the nineteenth century, the West was commercially and financially, and politically, dominant - and would remain so, notwithstanding challenges, until approximately the beginning of the new millennium.  EH201 seek to explain how this shift in global economic polarity came about.  Focussing on economic change and modernisation it explain why China, once the most advanced society in the world, may yet be so again, contributing to an understanding of the origins of the global economy today and in the future.

The course addresses these issues by considering the development trajectories of Europe, Latin America and East Asia in comparative and global perspectives.  It begins with a general overview of role of natural endowments and institutions in shaping growth, and the links between state-formation and development, before discussing specific themes.  These include: the causes and outcomes of population expansion; production and consumption - the formation and significance of markets; agriculture and rural development; models of industrialisation; trade and growth; international finance; imperialism; the impact of political shocks and economic crises.  The course concludes with an assessment of the impact of long-run growth on poverty and inequality.

Full course outline|

About the Instructors


Professor Colin M. Lewis is Professor of Latin American Economic History at the London School of Economics & Political Science, and a Professorial Fellow of the Institute of the Americas, University College, London, and an overseas member of the Argentinian Academy of History. He has been a visiting professor at several universities in the Americas, Asia and Europe, including the University of São Paulo, the University of Buenos Aires and Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi. He has written various books and articles about development, the history of social protection and welfare, economic imperialism and the political economy of state formation, and is currently finishing a book about British businesses in the Argentine and articles about the labour market in Latin America.


Dr Kent Deng is Reader in Economic History at London School of Economics & Political Science and a Fellow of Royal Historical Society. He has been a visiting professor of Turino (Italy), Tsinghua, Nankai and Zhejiang universities. His main research interests are premodern and modern growth in East Asia, including the state, the peasantry, the literati, commerce, technology, and living standards.