Monetary and Financial History

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Albrecht Ritschl SAR 606


This course is available on the MRes/PhD in Accounting (AOI) (Accounting, Organisations and Institutions Track), MSc in Economic History, MSc in Economic History (Research), MSc in Global Economic History (Erasmus Mundus) and MSc in Political Economy of Late Development. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course has a limited number of places (it is controlled access) and demand is typically high.  This may mean that you are not able to get a place on this course.


There are no specific pre-requisites for this course. Nevertheless, some preliminary background in introductory macroeconomics and introductory statistics could be useful. 

Course content

Where does money come from? How did financial markets first develop and integrate? What has been the impact of financial markets on economic development, growth, and business cycle fluctuations? When did financial crises first arise, and how did they develop in the twentieth century, up to the subprime and Euro crises of 2008-2015 and the Covid-19 pandemic? This course offers an opportunity to delve into these questions and analyse the evolution of the role of money in Western economies over centuries, from the Middle Ages to the 2000s.

The first part of the course will allow students to acquire a broad overview of the origins of financial markets from 800 to the eve of World War 1. It will explore the creation of mints and central banks, the role of finance in processes of long-run growth such as the Industrial Revolution, how financial bubbles and banking panics first arose, and how financial markets integrated in the 19C with the Gold Standard.

The second part of the course will start with a focus on the financial turmoil of the Great Depression, looking at the mechanisms leading to hyperinflation, bank failures, debt crises and capital flight on both sides of the Atlantic. It will then move on to analysing the evolution of financial institutions under Bretton Woods, sovereign debt crises, the 1990s bubbles, bank bailouts during the Great Recession in the US and in the Euro area, and demand management in high-debt worlds such as one affected by Covid-19. In the end, students will have a firm grasp of the evolution of financial markets over centuries up until now.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the MT. 10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the LT.

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, while we are planning for most classes and seminars to be delivered in-person, it is possible that some or all of this teaching may have to be delivered virtually.  Lectures will either be recorded or given in the form of live webinars.

This course includes a reading week in Week 6 of Michaelmas Term and week 6 of Lent Term.

Formative coursework

Students are expected to write two essays or equivalent pieces of written work.

Indicative reading

  • Aliber, R., & Kindleberger, Charles P. (2015). Manias, panics and crashes : A history of financial crises (Seventh ed.). Palgrave.
  • Eichengreen, B. (2015). Hall of mirrors: The Great Depression, the great recession, and the uses-and misuses-of history. New York: Oxford University Press. 
  • Ferguson, N. (2009). The ascent of money : A financial history of the world. London: Penguin.
  • Rajan, R. (2011). Fault lines : How hidden fractures still threaten the world economy (1st pbk. ed.). Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
  • Gorton, G. (2012). Misunderstanding financial crises : Why we don't see them coming. New York: Oxford University Press.


Essay (50%, 5000 words) in the MT.
Essay (50%, 5000 words) in the LT.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 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 differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching 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 2020/21: 55

Average class size 2020/21: 19

Controlled access 2020/21: Yes

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