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Unit of study_

ECOS3024: Economic History

Semester 1, 2023 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

This unit covers topics in economic history from the advent of European 'modernity' in the 17th century to the late 20th century. A major focus is identifying the main social, institutional and economic forces that explain the unprecedented development of the world economy over the past 300 years. Topics include the first industrial revolution in Britain, the industrialization of Western Europe and the United States, the 1930s Great Depression and recovery, post-World War II reconstruction and 'golden era' of growth, and East Asia's meteoric growth performance.

Unit details and rules

Unit code ECOS3024
Academic unit Economics
Credit points 6
ECOS2001 or ECOS2901 or ECOS2002 or ECOS2902
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Matthew Smith,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Monitored exam
Final exam
Long essays
50% Formal exam period 1.5 hours
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7
Monitored test
Mid-semester test
Short essays and multiple-choice questions
30% Week 08
Due date: 18 Apr 2023 at 11:00
1 hour
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO6 LO7
Assignment Essay
20% Week 10
Due date: 01 May 2023 at 23:59

Closing date: 29 May 2023
1200 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO8

Assessment summary

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a High Distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a Distinction a very high standard, a Credit a good standard, and a Pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100



75 - 84



65 - 74



50 - 64



0 - 49

When you don’t meet the learning outcomes of the unit to a satisfactory standard.

For more information see

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Topic 1 Lecture (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO7
Week 02 Topics 1 & 2 Lecture (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO7
Week 03 Topic 2 Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO7
Topic 1 Seminar (1 hr) LO2 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 04 Topic 3 Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO7
Topic 2 Seminar (1 hr) LO2 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 05 Topic 3 Lecture (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO7
Week 06 Topic 4 Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO7
Topic 3 Seminar (1 hr) LO2 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 07 Topic 4 Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO7
Topic 5 Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO7
Week 09 Topic 5 Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO7
Topic 4 Seminar (1 hr) LO2 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 10 Topic 6 Lecture (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO7
Week 11 Topics 6 Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO7
Topic 5 Seminar (1 hr) LO2 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 12 Topic 7 Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO7
Topic 6 Seminar (1 hr) LO2 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 13 Topic 7 Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO7
Topic 7 Seminar (1 hr) LO2 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8

Attendance and class requirements

  • Attendance: According to Faculty Board Resolutions, students in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences are expected to attend 90% of their classes. If you attend less than 50% of classes, regardless of the reasons, you may be referred to the Examiner’s Board. The Examiner’s Board will decide whether you should pass or fail the unit of study if your attendance falls below this threshold.
  • Lecture recording: Most lectures (in recording-equipped venues) will be recorded and may be made available to students on the LMS. However, you should not rely on lecture recording to substitute your classroom learning experience.
  • Preparation: Students should commit to spend approximately three hours’ preparation time (reading, studying, homework, essays, etc.) for every hour of scheduled instruction.

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings


Economic History, ECOS3024

Semester 1, 2023

Note: Dates shown below are only approximate. Essential readings are starred.


(Week 1, beginning 20 February)
What is economic history? Why is economic history useful? Interpreting economic history and explaining growth and development. Lecturer’s perspective on the interpretation of economic history. Outline of topics covered in the unit and its main objectives.  


O’Rourke, K. H. (2013) ‘Why economics needs economic history’, Vox Centre of Economic Policy Research’s Policy Portal, 24 July.

Smith, M. (2012) ‘Demand-led Growth Theory: A Historical Approach’, Review of Political Economy, 24:4, pp. 543-73.

Smith, M. (2018) ‘Demand-Led Growth Theory in a Classical Framework: Its Superiority, Its Limitations, and Its Explanatory Power’, Centro Sraffa Working Paper no. 29 (March).

Solow, R (1985), ‘Economic History and Economics’, The American Economic Review 75, pp. 328-31.


Topic 1: The Mercantilist Economy and the Birth of Capitalism

(Weeks 1 and 2, beginning 20 & 27 February)

The renaissance, scientific revolution and age of exploration and discovery. What was mercantilism? Britain’s rise to dominance as a mercantile power. The enlightenment and the birth of capitalism.


* Cameron, R. (1989) A Concise Economic History of the World, New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 94-159.

Deane, P. (1979) The First Industrial Revolution, Second Edition, Cambridge: CUP, Ch. 1, pp. 1-19, online.


Topic 2: Britain the Pioneer: The First Industrial Revolution

(Weeks 2 and 3, beginning 27 February & 6 March)

The role of the commercial revolution and mercantilism. Key sectors in Britain’s industrial revolution. Role of transport and communications in building a national (and empire) market. The key role of technological innovation. Consideration of British government policy and economic liberalism. The controversial question of the progress of living standards in the First Industrialisation of Britain.


* Deane P. (1979) The First Industrial Revolution, 2nd edn, Cambridge: CUP, especially chs 1-8, 12-13, 15, online.

*Mokyer, J. (2004) 'Accounting for the Industrial Revolution', The Cambridge Economic History of Modern Britain Volume 1: Industrialisation, 1700-1860, ch. 1, pp. 1-27, online 

Harley, K.C. (2004) ‘Trade: Discovery, Mercantilism and Technology’, The Cambridge Economic History of Modern Britain Volume 1: Industrialisation, 1700–1860, ch. 7, pp 175-203, online.

Mathias, P. (1993) The First Industrial Nation: The Economic History of Britain 1700-1914, Second edition, London: Routledge, Ch. 10 (‘Railways’), online.

Deane, P. and Cole, W.A. (1969) British Economic Growth 1688-1959, Second edition, Cambridge: CUP.

Hudson, P. (1992) The Industrial Revolution, New York: Edward Arnold, pp. 101-32, 166-90, online.

Cameron, R. (1989) A Concise Economic History of the World, New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 160-86.

Landes, David S. (1972) The Unbound Prometheus: Technological Changes and Industrial Development in Western Europe from 1750 to the Present, Cambridge: CUP, pp41-123, online.  


Topic 3: The Industrialization of Germany

(Weeks 4 & 5, beginning 13 March & 20 March)

Relative German economic backwardness. The role of Liberal reforms and the customs union. Locating the industrial take-off: 1850-1870. Key role of the railways as the ‘leading sector’ and development of its iron and engineering industries. Innovative banking, education system and rapid technological progress. Bismark and German unification: a nation born with deadly political defects. A return to protectionism and policy of aggressive mercantilism.    


* Trebilcock, C. (1981) ‘Germany’, The Industrialization of the Continental Powers 1780-1914, London: Longman, Chapter 2, pp. 22-111, online.

Hoffman, W.G. (1965) ‘The Take-Off in Germany’, in W. Rostow (ed.) The Economics of Take-Off into Sustained Growth: Proceedings of a Conference held by the International Economic Association, New York: St. Martins Press, pp. 95-118. [ereader: pp. 95-118]

Fremdling, R. (1977) ‘Railroads and German Economic Growth: A Leading Sector Analysis with a Comparison to the United States and Great Britain’, Journal of Economic History, 37:3, pp. 583-604.

Tilly, R. (1967) ‘Germany 1815-1870’ in R.Cameron (ed.), Banking in the Early Stages of Industrialization: A Study in Comparative Economic History, New York: Oxford University Press, Ch. VI, pp. 151-82.  [ereader 151-82]

Pierenkemper, T and Tilly, R. (2005) The German Economy During the Nineteenth Century, New York: Berghahn Books.


Topic 4: The Rise to Dominance of the United States of America

(Weeks 6 and 7, beginning 27 March & 3 April)

Colonial economic development and the American War of Independence. The birth of an independent United States of America and its early stage of industrialization. The American policy of tariff protectionism in the nineteenth century. Innovation and industrial development in the antebellum period. Transport and communications in building an enormous growing national market. The role of immigration and population growth in the nineteenth century. American innovation and the development of its heavy industry. Financing industrialization with an undeveloped monetary system. Position in the international economy in 1913 as the dominant capitalist economy.              


* Hughes, J. (1990) American Economic History, 3rd edn., New York: Addison-Wesley, Chs. 8, 9, 10, 14, 16, 17. [ereader: Chs 11 & 17]

Gallman, R. E. (2008) ‘Economic Growth Structural Change in Long Nineteenth Century’, in S. L. Engerman and R.E. Gallman (eds), The Cambridge Economic History of the United StatesVolume 2 The Long Nineteenth Century, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, , Ch. 1, pp. 1-56, online  

Engerman, S.L. and Sokoloff K.L. (2008) ‘Technology and Industrialization, 1790-1914’, in S. L. Engerman and R.E. Gallman (eds), The Cambridge Economic History of the United StatesVolume 2 The Long Nineteenth Century, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Ch. 9, pp. 376-402,  online.

North, D.C. (1965)  ‘Industrialization in the United States (1815-60)’, in W.W. Rostow (ed.) The Economics of Take-off into Sustained Growth: Proceedings of a conference held by the International Economic Association, New York: St. Martins Press, ch. 3, pp. 44-62.


Easter Semester Break: Common Week, 10 – 14 April


In-Semester Test (Week 8): Tuesday 18 April


Topic 5: World Wars, the Great Depression and a New World Order

(Weeks 9 & 10, beginning 24 & 1 May)

The economic consequences of the First World War. German hyper-inflation and the rise of the political right. The postwar decline of British economy and the ill-fated return to the Gold Standard. The collapse of agricultural prices in the 1920s. The Great Depression and great policy debates of the 1930s. The economic recovery of Nazi Germany, Britain and the United States in 1930’s and the road to the Second World War. The Keynesian revolution and the making of a postwar new world order.     


* Kenwood, G and Lougheed, A.L. (1984) The Growth of the International Economy 1820-1980: An Introductory Text, `London: George Allen and Unwin, Part II, ‘The Interwar Years’, pp. 174-245, 190-221, online.

* Temin, P. (2008) ‘The Great Depression’, in S. L. Engerman and R.E. Gallman (eds), The Cambridge Economic History of the United StatesVolume 3, The Twentieth Century, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ch. 5, pp. 302-28, online.

Middleton, R. (1985) Towards the Managed Economy: Keynes, the Treasury and the fiscal policy debates of the 1930s, London: Taylor and Francis, online.

Overy, R.  (2010) ‘The “Great Crash”: Capitalism in Crisis’, Chpater 5 of Inter-war Crisis 1919-1939, Revised Second edition, pp. 48-61, online.

Stewart, M. (1986) Keynes and After, Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin.  


Topic 6: The Golden Age ‘1946-1973’

(Weeks 10 & 11, beginning 1 & 8 May)

The postwar international order: multilateral trade, international institutions in the ‘Bretton Woods’ monetary system. Postwar depression in Europe and the Soviet communist threat. The United States takes charge: Marshall Aid, the suppression of ‘Labor Movements’ and restoration of management classes. Social welfare reform and Keynesian full-employment policy. Korean War kicks off a ‘golden age’ of development. Key role of the United States. The collapse of ‘Bretton Woods’. Oil Price hikes with stagflation of the 1970s ends the ‘Golden Age’.     


* Glyn, A., Hughes, A., Lipietz, A. and Singh, A. (1992) ‘The Rise and Fall of the Golden Age’, Marglin S.A. and Shor, J.B. (eds), The Golden Age of Capitalism: Reinterpreting the Postwar Experience, Oxford: OEP, ch 2, online.

* Armstrong, P., Glyn, A. and Harrison, J. (1984) Capitalism since 1945, London: Fontana, pp. 117-230. [ereader]

Epstein, G.A and Schor, J.B. (1992) ‘Macropolicy in the Rise and Fall of the Golden Age‘, Marglin S.A. and Shor, J.B. (eds), The Golden Age of Capitalism: Reinterpreting the Postwar Experience, Oxford: OEP, ch 3, online.

Crafts, N. and Toniolo G. (eds) (1996) Economic Growth in Europe since 1945, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, online.

Topic 7: Japan: The Rising Sun  

(Weeks 12 & 13, beginning 15 & 22 May)

Some historical background: the ‘Edo Period’ and creation of a feudal nation. Meiji: birth of modern Japan in 1869. Laying the foundations for a modern economy 1868-1885: abolition of feudalism, trading with the world, assimilating western technology and building transport and communications infrastructureEarly stages of industrialization of Japan 1885-1920. Rapid population growth and acute problems in agricultural production. Colonialism and nationalism: Japan as an international power. Economic depression and military-based industrial revival of the 1930s. US occupation 1945-51. The Korean War and economic recovery turns to boom. The ‘miracle’ economy’ 1955-1973.      


* Allen, George (1972) Short Economic History of Modern Japan 1867-1937with a supplementary chapter on economic recovery and expansion, 1945-1960, London: Allen and Unwin, online.

*Ohkawa, K and Rosovsky, H. (1978) 'Capital Formation in Japan', P. Mathias and M.M. Postan (eds) The Cambridge Economc History of Europe, Volume 7:The Industrial Economies: Capital, Labour and Enterprise, Part 2, The United States, Japan and Russia, ch. 3, pp. 134-65, online

Tsuru, S. (1993) Japan’s Capitalism: creative defeat and beyond, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

Katz, R. (1998) Japan, the system that soured: the rise and fall of the Japanese economic miracle, Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, ch. 6, online.

Tairo, K. (1978) 'Factory Labour and Industrial Revolution in Japan', P.Matias and M.M postan (eds), The Cambridge Economic History of Europe Volume 7: The Indsutrail Economies: Capital, Labour and Enterprise, Part 2: The United States, Japan and Russia, Ch. 4., pp. 166-214, online.  

Allinson, G.D. (2007) Japan’s Postwar History, Second edition, Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. critically analyse socio-economic forces, empirical evidence and argument in economic history
  • LO2. display an appreciation of the changing nature of knowledge
  • LO3. demonstrate a firm and critical grasp of the key ideas and issues in the history of economic development since 17th century
  • LO4. display an ability to exercise critical judgement
  • LO5. demonstrate a capacity to conduct economic research using libraries, the web and other sources of information
  • LO6. confidently and coherently communicate, orally and in writing, to a professional standard in economic analysis
  • LO7. apply new ways of thinking and appreciate the importance of intellectual curiosity and reflection as a foundation for continuous learning
  • LO8. work with others as well as independently, to plan and achieve goals.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

No changes have been made since this unit was last offered.


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