Department of Economics University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720
Introduction to Economic History
Course: Economics 210a is required of Ph.D. students in Economics, and is taken in the first year of the graduate program. Graduate students in other degree programs may enroll subject to the availability of space and with the instructors' approval. The course is designed to introduce a selection of themes from the contemporary economic history literature. While themes are presented chronologically, the purpose of the course is not to present a narrative account of world economic history. Instead, 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.
It is naturally required that you do the reading and attend class. Informed participation in the latter is encouraged. Class meetings will consist of a mixture of lecture and discussion. When the course goes well, it is primarily discussion; when the course goes badly, it is primarily lecture. Because discussion will focus on the issues raised, resolved, and left unanswered by the assigned readings, readings should be completed before class.
Readings: Readings are either available on the web or on reserve at Haas. Access to readings available through Jstor and other proprietary sources may require you to log on through a university-recognized computer and/or enter your Calnet ID. Note that there can be high demand for the readings at peak times, and the library can make available only limited numbers of copies. In past years, students have found it useful to purchase some of the books from which material is assigned through their favorite online book seller and to assemble the materials for reproduction at a local copy shop. (Students should note that about half the reading materials are new; readers produced for previous versions of this course will contain only a subset of the material.)
Grades: Your grade will be an equally-weighted average of two components: your weekly memos and the Economics 210a research paper.
Weekly memos: Each week your instructors will post an Economics 210a question on their websites. You will then write a memo of two pages (double-spaced, 12-pitch) on that question, which is due at the beginning of lecture the following Wednesday. Two page memos cannot be exhaustive, nor can they provide definitive answers on the basis of what may still be unfamiliar material. But they can explain why the question is important, summarize what the articles assigned for the upcoming lecture have to say about it, and provide a provisional assessment of their conclusions.
Research paper Your research paper is due on the Friday before spring vacation. We take the word research seriously: the paper should provide new information or evidence on a topic in economic history. It should not merely summarize an existing literature in the field. The writing and submission process requires that you meet an intermediate benchmark: submit approximately ten pages' worth of a literature review and a statement of your hypotheses by the last day of the fall semester.
Aim for roughly 20 pages for the final paper.
This paper should go beyond summarizing or synthesizing a literature: students should use the tools of economic theory and empirical analysis to pose and answer an historical question. Warning: the paper must have historical substance. This is not a requirement in applied economics or econometrics that can be satisfied by relabeling the variables in theoretical models taught elsewhere or by mechanically applying modern statistical techniques to old data.