History of Economics: How Theories Change

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

to be confirmed


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 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 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.


Take-home assessment (100%) in the ST.

The course will be assessed by a take-home exam (100%) in the Summer exam period.

Key facts

Department: Economics

Total students 2021/22: 56

Average class size 2021/22: 15

Capped 2021/22: Yes (60)

Lecture capture used 2021/22: Yes (MT & LT)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

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.

Personal development skills

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