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Unit information: History of Economic Thought in 2015/16

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Unit name History of Economic Thought
Unit code ECON20021
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Birdi
Open unit status Not open

None. A general knowledge of economics appropriate to the second year of an economics degree will be assumed.



School/department School of Economics
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


The course focuses on a series of major writers on economics from the Ancient Greeks to Keynes with an emphasis on Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Karl Marx and John Maynard Keynes. The unit is based on reading extracts from primary texts although some attention is also paid to the secondary literature, the contemporary reception of the works and the historical situations in which they were written.

The course aims to provide an overview of the development of economics since the Ancient Greeks although the main focus is from the mercantilist period to Keynes. It aims to provide a familiarity with some of the major texts and themes in the history of economic thinking and to set these in the context of the development of capitalist economies. Emphasis will be placed on accounts of value, distribution and accumulation.

Intended learning outcomes

At the end of this unit students should be able to display; (i) An ability to discuss the development of major ideas of value, distribution and accumulation in the history of economic thought (ii) An ability to discuss critically the contribution made by major authors in the history of economic thought (iii) An ability to assess and compare economic arguments presented in unfamiliar terminology and with implicit assumptions different from those of modern mainstream economics

Teaching details

18 one hour lectures and 9 one hour tutorials

Assessment Details

The learning outcomes will be assessed by

  • Two hour closed book exam
  • 1500 word essay

In additional there will be a formative 1500 word essay submitted in the first term

Reading and References

Blaug, M. (2006). Economic Theory in Retrospect. Cambridge University Press.

Rima, I. (2009). Development of Economic Analysis. Routledge. 7th ed.

Heilbroner, R (2000). The Worldly Philosophers. Penguin.

Medema, S. and Samuels, W. (eds) (2003). The History of Economic Thought: A Reader. Routledge.