History of Economics: How Theories Change

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Guillaume Yon SAR 6.15


This course is available on the BSc in Econometrics and Mathematical Economics, BSc in Economic History, BSc in Economic History with Economics, BSc in Economics, BSc in Economics and Economic History, BSc in Economics with Economic History, BSc in Government and Economics, BSc in International Social and Public Policy and Economics, BSc in Philosophy and Economics, BSc in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, BSc in Politics and Economics and BSc in Social Policy and Economics. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

The course examines the ways in which economics has developed from the Mercantilists of the 17th century to the Neoclassical thinking of the later 20th century.

The course will explore how the theories, concepts and methods of economics have changed over the lasts 250 years, focusing on Europe and North America. We will use the original texts in order to understand how economists of the past approached perennial questions (about for example, the sources of growth or the role of money) and resolved them in the context of the economic conditions of their own time and place; and use theories about scientific change to understand the longer history of economics.


This course is delivered through a combination of classes and lectures totalling a minimum of 40 hours across Michaelmas Term and Lent Term. This year, some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of virtual classes and flipped-lectures delivered as short online videos. This course includes a reading week in Week 6 of Michaelmas and Lent Term.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to discuss assigned texts and produce several pieces of written work.

Indicative reading

A reading list of original texts and secondary literature will be given at the beginning of the course. For an introduction, students may read R L Heilbroner's, The Worldly Philosophers; for general background, consult Roger E Backhouse's, The Penguin History of Economics or David Colander & Harry Landreth's, History of Economic Thought.


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

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Economics

Total students 2019/20: 50

Average class size 2019/20: 13

Capped 2019/20: Yes (60)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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