Not available in 2022/23
EH436      Half Unit
Economic History of the Early Modern New World (The Americas)

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Alejandra Irigoin, SAR 6.11


This course is available on the MSc in Economic History, MSc in Economic History (Research), MSc in Empires, Colonialism and Globalisation, MSc in Financial History, 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). We hope to be able to provide places for all students that apply, but this may not be possible.

Course content

This course surveys the economic history of the expansion and interaction of Europeans in the Americas in the early modern period (1500-1820). It focuses on the role of the New World in the origin and development of the World Economy, modern Europe and Asia before modern economic growth. The course mirrors mainstream interpretations of economic development centred on European and Old World trajectories on the New World’s, to explain the global Smithian growth of the region in the period. It also poses a reciprocal comparison for particular developments in North and South America, as an empirical test for theories of long run development based on institutional legacies of colonialism, culture and factor endowments.

Combining a thematic approach with a loose chronological sequence, the course discusses topics such as: 1) the New World in Eurasia’s Great Divergence, 2) Demographics and Living standards, 3) Factor Endowments and Agriculture, 4) The production of global commodities, 5) Labour institutions and markets in mining and agricultural commodities, 6) The world demand for sugar and silver; consumption and markets; 7) Trade, finance and commercial institutions over the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans, 8) Colonialism and European mercantilism overseas, 9) governance, war and state capacity in the sovereign states 10) The legacy of colonialism in the long run: the divergence within the New World by 1820s and the Great Divergence revisited.  More specific topics are: the interaction with aboriginal societies and the establishment of market relations; the Columbian exchange and the transfer of knowledge to and from Europe; the slave trade; the scope for domestic and overseas markets, the colonial trade.


20 hours of seminars in the LT.

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.

Formative coursework

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

Indicative reading

  • Neal, L. and Willamson, J (2014). The Cambridge history of capitalism: Volume I: The rise of capitalism : from ancient origins to 1848. Cambridge, United Kingdom, Cambridge University Press.
  • Bulmer-Thomas, V., et al. (2006). The Cambridge economic history of Latin America. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.                    
  • Elliott, J. (2009). Spain, Europe and the Wider World, 1500-1800. New Haven, Yale University press
  • Engerman, S., & Gallman, Robert E. (1996). (1996). The Cambridge Economic History of the United States New York, Cambridge University Press
  • Findlay, R. and K. O'Rourke (2009). Power and Plenty, Trade, War and the World Economic in the second millenium. Princeton, Princeton University Press.
  • Lockhart, J. and S. Schwartz (1999 (1983)). Early Latin America. A history of colonial Spanish America and Brazil. Cambridge, Cambridge.
  • Pomeranz, K. (2000). The Great Divergence, China, Europe and the making of the modern world economy. Princeton Princeton University Press.
  • Frank, A. (1998). ReOrient : Global Economy in the Asian Age. Berkeley, University of California Press.
  • Irigoin, A. (2018). The New World and the Global Silver Economy. Global Economic History. G. Riello and T. Roy. London Bloomsbury: 271-286
  • de Zwart, P. and J. Van Zanden (2018). The Origins of Globalization. World trade in the making of the Global Economy, 1500-1800. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Additional Reading:

  • AA.VV (2015). The Cambridge World History: Volume 6Part 2: The Construction of a Global World, 1400-1800 CE. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
  • Irigoin, A (2018). "Global silver: Global silver: Bullion or Specie? Supply and demand in the making of the early modern global economy." LSE Economic History working papers(285).
  • Irigoin, A. and R. Grafe (2013). Bounded leviathan: Fiscal constraints and financial development in the Early Modern Hispanic world Questioning Credible Commitment; Perspectives on the Rise of Financial Capitalism. D. Coffman, A. Leonard and L. Neal. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press 199-227.
  • Irigoin, M. (2009). "The end of the Silver era: the consequences of the breakdown of the Spanish silver peso standard in China and the US, 1780s- 1850s." Journal of World History 20(2): 207-243.
  • Klein, H. S. (2010). The Atlantic slave trade. Cambridge New York, Cambridge University Press.
  • Lamikiz, X. (2010). Trade and Trust in the 18th century Atlantic World. Spanish Merchants and their overseas networks. London The Royal Historical Society
  • Leonard, A. and D. Pretel (2015). The Caribbean and the Atlantic world economy: circuits of trade, money and knowledge, 1650-1914. New York, NY, Palgrave Macmillan
  • Mangan, J. (2003). Trading Roles. Gender, ethnicity and the urban economy in Colonial Potosi. Durham, Duke University Press.
  • McCusker, J. (1978). Money and Exchange in Europe and America, 1600-1775. A Handbook. Chapel Hill, NC, North Carolina University Press.
  • North, D. C. (1961). The economic growth of the United States, 1790-1860. Englewood Cliffs, N.J., Prentice-Hall.
  • Pearce, A. (2007). British trade with Spanish America, 1763-1808. Liverpool Liverpool University Press.
  • Tracy, J. D. (1990). The rise of merchant empires: long-distance trade in the early modern world, 1350-1750. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
  • Tracy, J. D. (1991). The political economy of merchant empires: state power and world trade, 1350-1750. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
  • Tutino, J. (2011). Making a new world : Founding capitalism in the Bajio and Spanish North America  Durham NC, Duke University Press.
  • Viotti da Costa, E. (2000). The Brazilian Empire. Myths and Histories. Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press.
  • De Vries, J. (2010). "The limits of globalization in the early modern world." The Economic History Review. 63(3): 710-733.


Essay (100%, 5000 words) in the ST.


Key facts

Department: Economic History

Total students 2021/22: 3

Average class size 2021/22: 3

Controlled access 2021/22: Yes

Value: Half Unit

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Personal development skills

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