Econ 210A, Introduction to Economic History
Economics 210A is required of Ph.D. students in Economics in the first year of the graduate program.
The course is designed to introduce a selection of themes from the contemporary economic history literature, not to present a narrative account of world economic history.
Emphasis is placed on the uses of economic theory and quantitative methods in history and on the insights a knowledge of history can give to the practicing economist.
We have three topics for April 25: The Great Divergence, the Great Moderation and the Great Recession. Try to sum up your thoughts on one--and only one--of the three:
--What, in your view, is right and what is wrong with Lant Pritchett's attempt to document and account for the rise in global relative inequality from 1800 to 1980?
--Why didn't Raghu Rajan's fears about the dangers of increased "financial sophistication" have more purchase in economists' thought as of the mid-2000s?
--What do we really know and not know about why the economy falls to pieces after a financial crisis?
The onset of the Great Depression, as opposed to its subsequent worsening and then the
recovery, remains the most difficult phase of this historic business cycle to
understand. Do you agree, and if so why? Do the best you can, in this short essay,
to provide a convincing account of the onset of the Depression.
Several prominent presidential candidates have recommended that the United States should
return to a form of the gold standard. Are there aspects of historical experience with the
gold standard discussed in this week's readings that have not been adequately addressed in
that public discourse, but should be?
From our present perspective, what did Barry Eichengreen and
Michael Bordo miss back in 2002 when they tried to draw lessons for the
then future about financial crises from the pre-1914 record of growth,
development, and financial deepening?
Which were more spatially integrated in 19th century United States: capital or labor markets?
What do you see as the most important economic, historical and institutional factors
accounting for the difference?
Most of the literature on 19th century finance focuses on banks rather than
capital markets as vehicles for financial intermediation. Is this emphasis
an accurate reflection of the historical reality? If so, what can account for it?
By the end of the nineteenth century, the classic Industrial Revolution
technologies of coal, steam, textile machinery, rails, locomotives, and
precision metalworking--plus a large number of follow-on technologies, as
witnessed by the growth of a Johannesburg centered around leading-edge
organic chemicals--were or could be profitable pretty much everywhere in
the world, if the organization and resources could be assembled. Why then
did industrialization spread from Britain in the years up to 1900 only to
western Europe, the temperate zones of the Americas and Australasia, and
Japan? What answers do this week's readings suggest to you?
Robert Allen for Britain and Peter Temin for the U.S. (in Temin's case,
channeling earlier historians like Rothbarth and Habakkuk) both argue that
high real wages combined with abundant resources led to a distinctive
pattern of industrialization. Along with obvious similarities, their
arguments also display important differences. What are these differences
and for what do they matter?
To what extent should we view the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in Britain
as a unique turning point in economic and social development?
Slavery and Serfdom
Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations has a theory about unfree labor. It is, he says,
economically inefficient. But wherever demand is very high relative to supply masters
will resort to slave labor because it yields them powerful psychic income:
The experience of all ages and nations, I believe, demonstrates that the work done by slaves,
though it appears to cost only their maintenance,is in the end the dearest of any….
Whatever work he does beyond what is sufficient to purchase his own maintenance,
can be squeezed out of him by violence only, and not by any interest of his own.
In ancient Italy, how much the cultivation of corn degenerated,how unprofitable it
became to the master, when it fell under the management of slaves, is remarked both by
Pliny and Columella….
The pride of man makes him love to domineer, and nothing mortifies
him so much as to be obliged to condescend to persuade his inferiors. Wherever the law allows
it, and the nature of the work can afford it, therefore, he will generally prefer the
service of slaves to that of freemen. The planting of sugar and tobacco can afford
the expense of slave cultivation. The raising of corn, it seems, in the present times,
cannot. In the English colonies, of which the principal produce is corn, the far greater
part of the work is done by freemen…. The profits of a sugar plantation in any of our
West Indian colonies, are generally much greater than those of any other cultivation
that is known either in Europe or America; and the profits of a tobacco plantation,
though inferior to those of sugar, are superior to those of corn, as has already been
observed. Both can afford the expense of slave cultivation…
Was he right? Was he wrong?
Does the Agricultural Revolution deserve its "R"? That is, is it
well-conceptualized as a "Revolution" rather than as something much slower
and much more gradual?
"The treasure captured outside Europe by undisguised looting, enslavement and murder,
floated back to the mother-country and were there turned into capital." -- Marx, Capital
, Vol. 1 Ch. 32.
Do the assigned readings provide any basis for assessing the general truth of this passage
from Marx? In what sense did colonial trade in the 1497-1800 period contribute to capital formation in Europe?
Lecture notes can now be found on the Econ 210A course site on bSpace. Log in with your Cal ID.
April 4 Lecture, "19th Century International Money and Finance"Exchange-Rate Regimes and International Trade: Evidence from the Classical Gold Standard Era, J. Ernesto López-Córdova and Christopher Meissner
Bimetallism, Angela Redish
A new world order: explaining the international diffusion of the gold standard, 1870-1913
, Christopher Meissner
Money and the Price Level Under the Gold Standard, Robert Barro
"Some Evidence on the Real Price of Gold, its Costs of Production, and Commodity Prices," Robert Barro, in Michael Bordo and Anna Schwartz (eds), A Retrospective on the Classical Gold Standard, 1821-1931
"Bank of England Operations, 1893-1913," John Pippenger, in Michael Bordo and Anna Schwartz (eds), A Retrospective on the Classical Gold Standard, 1821-1931
"On the Balance of Trade,", David Hume, in Essays, Moral, Political and Literary
Target Zones and Exchange Rate Dynamics,, Paul Krugman
A Treatise on Money,, J. M. Keynes
Competition in the Underwriting Markets of Sovereign Debt: The Baring Crisis Revisited,, Juan Flores
Effects of Financial Globalization on Developing Countries: Some Empirical Evidence,, Eswar Prasad, Kenneth Rogoff, Shang-Jin Wei and M. Ayhan Koses
Does Financial Integration Spur Economic Growth? New Evidence from the First Era of Financial Globalization, Moritz Schularick and Thomas Steger
March 14 Lecture, "The Development of Modern Labor Markets"
Economic growth in America: Historical parables and realities, Moses Abramovitz and Paul David
Historical Labor Statistics Project
Turnover in the Labor Force, Robert Hall
The Importance of Lifetime Jobs in the U.S. Economy, Revisited, Manuelita Ureta
The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same: Trends In Long-Term Employment In The United States, 1969-2002, Ann Huff Stevens
Out of Work, Alexander Keyssar
Employment Duration and Industrial Labor Mobility in the United States, 1880-1980, Sanford Jacoby and S. Sharma
Internal labor markets before World War I: On-the-job training and employee promotion, William Sundstrom
Changes in the Cyclical Sensitivity of Wages in the United States, 1891-1987, Steven Allen
The Changing Cyclical Behavior of Wages and Prices, 1890-1976, Jeffrey Sachs
Real wages in manufacturing, 1890-1914, Albert Rees
Was There a Golden Age of Flexible Wages? Evidence from Ohio Manufacturing, 1892-1910, William A. Sundstrom
The Development of Nominal Wage Rigidity in the Late 19th Century, Christopher Hanes
Did Henry Ford Pay Efficiency Wages?, Daniel M. G. Raff and Lawrence H. Summers
Was There a National Labor Market at the End of the Nineteenth Century? New Evidence on Earnings in Manufacturing, Joshua L. Rosenbloom
March 7 Lecture, "Modern Financial Markets"
Voting Rules and the Success of Connected Lending in 19th Century
New England Banks, Meissner, C.
Substitutes for legal protection: corporate governance and dividends in Victorian Britain, Campbell, G. and J.D. Turner
"Man to Loan $1500 and Serve as Clerk": Trading Jobs for Loans in Mid-Nineteenth-Century San Francisco, Rogers, F.H.
A More Perfect Union: Regional Interest Rate Differentials in the United States, Bodenhorn, H. in Michael Bordo and Richard Sylla, Anglo-American Financial Systems: Institutions and Markets in the Twentieth Century
Mortgage Interest Rates in the Populist Era, Eichengreen, B.
Federal Policy, Banking Market Structure, and Capital Mobilization in the United States, 1863-1913, Sylla, R.
Regional Interest Rates in Antebellum America, Bodenhorn, H. and Hugh Rockoff in Claudia Goldin and Hugh Rockoff (eds) Strategic Factors in Nineteenth Century American Economic History: A Volume to Honor Robert W. Fogel
Economic Backwardness in Historical Perspective, Gerschenkron, A.
Universal Banks and German Industrialization, Edwards, J. and Sheilagh Ogilvie
Universal banking networks in pre-war Germany: new evidence from company financial data, Fohlin, C.
The Development of Corporate Financial Markets in Britain and the United States, 1600-1914: Overcoming Asymmetric Information, Baskin, J.B.
The South Sea Bubble, Carswell, J.
Did J. P. Morgan's Men Add Value? An Economist's Perspective on Financial Capitalism, DeLong, J.B.
February 22 Lecture, "American Exceptionalism"
The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto, Rostow, W.W.
“The Mechanization of Reaping in the Ante-Bellum Midwest,” David, P. in Rosovsky, H. (ed),
Industrialization in Two Systems
The Mechanization of Reaping and Mowing in American Agriculture, 1833-1870: A Comment, Jones, L.
The Mechanization of Reaping and Mowing in American Agriculture, 1833-1870, Olmsted, A.
The Specification Problem in Economic History, Fogel, R.
Railroads and American Economic Growth: Essays in Econometric History, Fogel, R.
American Railroads and the Transformation of the Antebellum Economy, Fishlow, A.
The Resolution of the Labor Scarcity Paradox,, James, J. and Skinner, J.
Anglo-American Technological Differences in Small Arms Manufacturing,, Rosenbloom, J.
The Modern Corporation and Private Property , Berle, A. and Means, G.
Markets and Hierarchies: Analysis and Antitrust Implications, Williamson, O.
Endless Novelty: Specialty Production and American Industrialization, 1865-1925 , Scranton, P.
The Second Industrial Divide: Possibilities for Prosperity, Piore, M. and Sabel, C.