Boom and Bust: Macroeconomic History of the Modern World

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Jason Lennard


This course is available on the BSc in Economic History, BSc in Economic History and Geography and BSc in Economics and Economic History. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

Business cycles have destabilised societies for centuries. These fluctuations are mini-disasters that are associated with drops in welfare and economic growth. Beyond the economic costs, business cycles have other adverse effects, such as on health and politics.

This course explores the short-run in a long-run perspective to understand the causes and consequences of business cycles. The first part of the course covers the basics: how to define and measure business cycles, the costs of business cycles, the key business cycle facts, and models of the business cycle. The second part investigates propagation mechanisms, such as sticky prices and wages. The third part of the course focuses on impulses, such as shocks to technology, economic policy, financial crises, expectations, and uncertainty.

The course studies advanced and developing economies from the Industrial Revolution to the present. This interval of modern economic history includes deep recessions, major financial panics, reversals of expectations, and episodes of nominal inertia.


10 hours of lectures and 9 hours of classes in the MT. 10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT. 1 hour of lectures and 1 hour of classes in the ST.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 2 essays in the MT and LT.

Indicative reading

  • Alexopoulos, M., and Cohen, J. S., ‘The Media is the Measure: Technical Change and Employment, 1909–49’, Review of Economic and Statistics, 98 (2016), 792–810.
  • Baker, S. R., Bloom, N., and Davis, S. J., ‘Measuring Economic Policy Uncertainty’, Quarterly Journal of Economics, 131 (2016), pp. 1593–636.
  • Bernanke, B. S., and Carey, K., ‘Nominal Wage Stickiness and Aggregate Supply in the Great Depression’, Quarterly Journal of Economics, 111 (1996), pp. 853–83.
  • Cloyne, J., ‘Discretionary Tax Changes and the Macroeconomy: New Narrative Evidence from the United Kingdom’, American Economic Review, 103 (2013), pp. 1507–28.
  • Jalil, A., ‘A New History of Banking Panics in the United States, 1825–1929: Construction and Implications’, American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, 7 (2015), pp. 295–330.
  • Jordà, O., Schularick, M., and Taylor, A. M., ‘Macrofinancial History and the New Business Cycle Facts’, in M. Eichenbaum and J. A. Parker, eds., NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2016 (Chicago, 2017), pp. 213–63.
  • Jordà, O., Schularick, M., and Taylor, A. M., ‘Disasters Everywhere: The Costs of Business Cycles Reconsidered’, NBER Working Paper 26962 (2020).
  • Lennard, J., ‘Did Monetary Policy Matter? Narrative Evidence from the Classical Gold Standard’, Explorations in Economic History, 68 (2018), pp. 16–36.
  • Nakamura, E., Steinsson, J., Sun, P., and Villar, D., ‘The Elusive Costs of Inflation: Price Dispersion during the U.S. Great Inflation’, Quarterly Journal of Economics, 133 (2018), pp. 1933–80.
  • Romer, C. D., ‘Remeasuring Business Cycles’, Journal of Economic History, 54 (1994), pp. 573–609.
  • Temin, P., and Wigmore, B. A., ‘The End of One Big Deflation’, Explorations in Economic History, 27 (1990), pp. 483–502.


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

Key facts

Department: Economic History

Total students 2021/22: Unavailable

Average class size 2021/22: Unavailable

Capped 2021/22: No

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
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills