China's Traditional Economy and its Growth in the Very Long-Term

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Kent Deng SAR 5.17


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

Course content

The course explores the main aspects China's economic growth in the very long term from c.1000 AD to 1800, It begins with a survey of general models/themes in Chinese economic history, followed by particular issues: the formation, expansion and the function of the Chinese empire; Confucian values and state economic polices; property rights; peasantry and peasant economy; proto-industrialisation; commerce and trade; science and technology; demographic fluctuations; living standards; external shocks and foreign influence; internal rebellions and revolutions; reforms and modernisation.


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.

Students are expected to do prior reading and to make presentations on a regular basis.


Indicative reading

A full reading list and course outline are distributed at the beginning of the course. The following readings provide indication of the scope and nature of materials used in the course: K G Deng, 'A Critical Survey of Recent Research in of Chinese Economic History', Economic History Review (2000); J K Fairbank, Chinese Thought and Institutions (1957); M Elvin, The Pattern of the Chinese Past (1973); C A Ronan, The Shorter Science and Civilisation in China (1978-86); J Y Lin, 'The Needham Puzzle: Why the Industrial Revolution did not Originate in China', Economic Development and Cultural Change (1995); G W Skinner, The City in Late Imperial China (1977); J Lee & F Wang, One Quarter of Humanity (1999); K Pomeranz, The Great Divergence, Europe, China and The Making of the Modern World Economy (2000); A Watson, Economic Reform and Social Change in China (1992); R B Wong, China Transformed (1997). ‘Imperial China under the Song and Late Qing’, in Andrew Monson and Walter Scheidel (eds), Fiscal Regimes and Political Economy of Premodern States,  Cambridge University Press: ch. 10 (pp. 308–42). Deng, Kent and Zheng, Lucy (2015) Economic restructuring and demographic growth: demystifying growth and development in Northern Song China, 960–1127 Economic History Review, 68 (4). 1107-1131.


Exam (70%, duration: 3 hours) in the summer exam period.
Essay (10%, 2000 words) in the MT.
Essay (10%, 2000 words) in the LT.
Class participation (10%) in the MT, LT and ST.

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: Unavailable

Average class size 2019/20: Unavailable

Capped 2019/20: No

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