The Economic History of North America: from Colonial Times to the Cold War

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Christopher Minns SAR 5.12


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


Students taking the course as an outside option must have completed at least one other economic history course.

Course content

The course surveys major developments in the economic history of North America between 1600 and 2000. Colonial development; the American Revolution; Early North American Industry; Slavery; Westward expansion; the American Civil War; Regional Economic Development; Railroads and growth; International and internal trade; Finance and banking in the 19th century; Migration and labour markets in the 19th Century' World wars and North American Economies; the Great Depression; Post-war economic development and policy.


This course is delivered through a combination of classes and lectures totalling a minimum of 40 hours across Michaelmas Term and Lent Term. Teaching may 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

At least one essay and a mock examination.

Indicative reading

Atack and Passell, A New Economic View of American History (1994); Engerman and Gallman, The Cambridge Economic History of the United States, vols 1,2,3 (2000); Hughes, American Economic History (1990); Haines and Steckel (eds.), A Population History of North America. (2000).


Exam (70%, duration: 2 hours) in the summer exam period.
Essay (30%, 3000 words) in the MT.

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: Economic History

Total students 2019/20: 15

Average class size 2019/20: 15

Capped 2019/20: Yes (15)

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