Political economy and economic policies: Europe from the High Middle Ages to the French Revolution
This information is for the 2022/23 session.
Professor Oliver Volckart
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.
The course applies the theoretical toolkit of political economy to important questions in medieval and early modern economic history. The first term examines core issues of European history such as the character of feudalism (were feudal principalities states or was feudalism a type of market? what was the link between feudal rule and the structure of society?), state formation (how and why did political organisations invested with monopolies of force emerge?), interstate rivalries (war vs. competition for mobile factors of production - did competition between states contribute to growth?) and constitutional change (Absolutism vs. parliamentarism: How limited was Absolutist rule, and for which reasons? Which factors determined the power of parliaments?).
In the Lent term, we turn to core issues of economic policies: the expulsion of minorities (Why did rulers expel for example Jews and Huguenots?), trade and industrial policies (Mercantilism: Was this a result of interstate rivalries or of state formation?), monetary policies (what motivated debasements? why did premodern countries form currency unions?) and financial and fiscal policies (rent seeking, tax farming vs. bureaucratic taxation). Throughout, the focus is on the consequences these issues had for economic performance and growth.
The course strongly emphasises working with primary sources.
20 hours of seminars in the MT. 20 hours of seminars in the LT.
This course is taught as a seminar, with classes totalling 40 hours across the Michaelmas and Lent Term.
This course includes a reading week in Week 6 of Michaelmas and Lent Term.
One 500-words outline of an existing historical podcast. This is due shortly after the reading week of the MT.
One 1000-words outline of the historical podcast students will produce as part of their summative assessment. This is due early in the LT.
One 1000-words outline of the 4000-words summative essay. This is due later in the LT.
R. Bonney, ed. Economic Systems and State Finance. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.
P. Contamine, ed. War and Competition between States. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
R. B. Ekelund, and A. B. Davidson. 'The Public Choice Approach to Economic History.' In The Elgar Companion to Public Choice, edited by W. F. Shughart II and L. Razzolini, 512-46. Cheltenham, Northampton/MA: Elgar, 2001.
T. Ertman. Birth of the Leviathan: Building States and Regimes in Medieval and Early Modern Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
H. Spruyt. The Sovereign State and Its Competitors: An Analysis of Systems Change. Princeton Studies in International History and Politics. edited by J. L. Snyder and R. H. Ullman Princeton/NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994.
O. Volckart. 'The Open Constitution and its Enemies: Competition, Rent Seeking, and the Rise of the Modern State.' Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 42, no. 1 (2000): 1-17.
Essay (50%, 4000 words) in the ST.
Podcast (50%) in the LT.
Department: Economic History
Total students 2021/22: 17
Average class size 2021/22: 17
Capped 2021/22: Yes (18)
Value: One Unit
Course selection videos
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Personal development skills
- Team working
- Problem solving
- Specialist skills