EH429      Half Unit
History of Economics: Ideas, Policy and Performativity

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Professor Mary S. Morgan SAR 609


This course is available on the MA in Modern History, MRes/PhD in Accounting (AOI) (Accounting, Organisations and Institutions Track), MSc in Economic History, MSc in Economic History (Research), MSc in Economics and Philosophy, MSc in Financial History, MSc in Global Economic History, MSc in Global Economic History (Erasmus Mundus), MSc in International and World History (LSE & Columbia), MSc in Philosophy of the Social Sciences 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).  In previous years we have not been able to provide places for all students that apply. Students will be asked to submit a short statement of their reasoning to support their course choice. 


Course content

The course aim is to understand how economics has been used to change the world.  It brings together the long tradition of analysis of economics as a policy science with more recent ideas about the performativity of economics. It draws on the literatures of economic history, history of economics, political economy and sociology of accounting and finance, and philosophy of science to explore the aims and methods used by economists to influence, shape and direct the economy. The focus of study will be on particular episodes from 20th century history in which economics features as a technical art that translates ideas through policy into action (e.g. the transition from colonial to  independent economies; the Soviet and Cuban revolutions; and the reconstruction of depressed and damaged economies).


22 hours of lectures and seminars in the Winter Term.

This course is delivered through a combination of classes, lectures, and, if possible, archival visits, totalling a minimum of 22 hours across Winter Term. 

This course includes an archive visit in Week 6 of Winter Term.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to work in groups and produce one group work and one individual essay, and contribute reading notes to shared Moodle resources.

Indicative reading

Reading lists will be given out at the beginning of the course. Henry Spiegel's The Growth of Economic Thought (various editions, Duke University Press) provides a general background text to history of economics.  T.M. Porter’s Trust in Numbers (1995, Duke University Press) is an important item on the reading list that can be usefully read ahead of the course.


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

Key facts

Department: Economic History

Total students 2022/23: 16

Average class size 2022/23: 16

Controlled access 2022/23: Yes

Value: Half 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
  • Specialist skills