The Wealth (and Poverty) of Nations: Historical Economic Divergence across the Globe

  • Summer schools
  • Department of Economic History
  • Application code SS-EC104
  • Starting 2019
  • Short course: Open
  • Location: London

This course considers the most important questions in economic history: How have modern societies become so rich? How has humanity shifted from a centuries-long state in which lives were brutish and short, to a situation today where people live significantly longer and are much better off? Yet, still, why are some countries rich and others poor? Why has this been the case in history, and why is it the case today? 

Often, answers to these questions begin with the Industrial Revolution, but recent work across the social sciences makes it increasingly clear that the important antecedents are found further in the past. The course takes students from the Neolithic Revolution to the present day. It will focus on the deep roots of divergence, considering economic and social structures before industrialization, exploring arguments about how and why living standards and economic performance have improved markedly, while at the same time, looking at how development has diverged between different societies and across societies at the same point in time. It endeavours not just to describe these processes, but also to suggest and consider explanations for them.

Session: Three
Dates: 29 July – 16 August 2019
Lecturers: Dr Jordan Claridge and Dr Karolina Hutkova


Programme details

Key facts

Level: 100 level. Read more information on levels in our FAQs

Fees:  Please see Fees and payments

Lectures: 36 hours 

Classes: 18 hours

Assessment*: One essay (50%) and one written examination (50%)

Typical credit**: 3-4 credits (US) 7.5 ECTS points (EU)

 *Assessment is optional

**You will need to check with your home institution

For more information on exams and credit, read Teaching and assessment



Programme structure

  • How did we get here? Introduction to Long-Run Economic Development
  • The Neolithic and The (First) Agricultural Revolution
  • Escaping the Malthusian Trap
  • Trade and Manufacturing in the Preindustrial World
  • Capitalism? Values and Early Modern Governance
  • A Great Divergence?
  • Empires and the Age of Discovery
  • The Industrial Revolution and Catch-Up Growth in the Western World
  • Rise of Global Finance and Business Corporations
  • From The Gold Standard to Bretton Woods
  • Import-Substitution or Export-Led Growth: Latin America and The Asian Tigers

Course outcomes

This course is aimed at anyone who wants to understand global economic trends in the very long run. It focuses on issues that are very relevant to today’s world. Therefore, the course is highly appropriate for students from a wide range of social science disciplines, especially anthropology, economics, development and international relations. The core concepts taught in the course are very transferrable and would also be suited for practitioners or policy makers working in relevant fields.


The LSE Department of Economic History is home to a huge breadth and depth of knowledge and expertise ranging from the medieval period to the present day and covering every major world economy. It is one of the largest specialist economic history departments in the world.

Following in a long, distinguished tradition of research and teaching, the Department of Economic History uses concepts and theories from the Social Sciences as a starting point for studying the development of real economies and understanding them in their social, political and cultural contexts.

On this three-week intensive programme, you will engage with and learn from full-time lecturers from the LSE’s economic history faculty.

Reading materials

Kenneth Pommeranz, The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000).

Robert C. Allen, Global Economic History, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011).

Douglass C. North and Robert P. Thomas, The Rise of the Western World: A New Economic History, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973).

Giorgio Riello and Tirthankar Roy, eds., Global Economic History, (London: Bloomsbury, 2018).

*A more detailed reading list will be supplied prior to the start of the programme

**Course content, faculty and dates may be subject to change without prior notice

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