EH428      Half Unit
History of Economics: Making Political Economy into a Social Science

This information is for the 2018/19 session.


This course is available on the MSc in Economic History, MSc in Economic History (Research), MSc in Economics and Philosophy, MSc in Global Economic History (Erasmus Mundus), MSc in International and World History (LSE & Columbia) and MSc in Philosophy of the Social Sciences. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

The course aim is to understand how the nature of economics changed from the verbally argued accounts of political economy and moral philosophy in the 18th century to become a technical social science by the end of the 20th century.

The course will explore the long-term changes over two hundred years in how economists came to know things about the economy by examining the history of their notion of the laws of economics, their analytical practices, and the evidence they used. Primary texts, chosen from a variety of European and American authors, will provide material for the study of these changes. Secondary literature will provide theoretical resources from history and philosophy of science to help analyse, understand and assess these changes in the nature of economics as a science.


20 hours of seminars in the MT.

20 hours over MT, mainly 2hour seminars, with an occasional lecture within that time slot. (Those students without previous study in the history of economics may wish to attend the lectures for EC311).

Students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6, in line with departmental policy.


Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce two pieces of written work (around 2000 words each) during the term.

Indicative reading

The main domain of the course material is explained in "Economics" in T.M.Porter and D.Ross The Cambridge History of Science, Vol 7, The Modern Social Sciences, pp 275-305 (Cambridge University Press). Henry Spiegel's The Growth of Economic Thought (various editions, Duke University Press) provides a general background text for the history of economics. Full reading lists will be given out at the beginning of the course.


Essay (100%, 3000 words) in the LT.

Key facts

Department: Economic History

Total students 2017/18: 5

Average class size 2017/18: 5

Controlled access 2017/18: Yes

Value: Half 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