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Unit information: History of Economic Thought in 2020/21

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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 Dr. Kuchar
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

Description including Unit Aims

Does economics have a useful past? Or is it the case that all truly important contributions of the past are incorporated in our present theory? Is the discovery of the errors made by earlier thinkers a waste of time? In this course we will examine the efficiency of the market for ideas. We will see that there are arguments in the work of earlier thinkers which remain unincorporated in our contemporary theory and which, once incorporated, can improve our understanding of matters.

The course focuses on both themes (such as the labour theory of value, the Law of Markets, gender in economics) to detailed studies of selected authors (e.g. Hume, Smith, Say, Malthus, Keynes). The unit is largely 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.

Intended Learning Outcomes

At the end of this unit students should be able to display;

(i) An ability to discuss key ideas in the history of economic thought including how those ideas were transmitted, contested and developed by various authors.

(ii) An ability to discuss critically and in depth the contribution made by major authors in the history of economic thought.

(iii) An ability to support their writing with appropriate attribution through quotation and citation.

(iv) An ability to assess and compare economic arguments presented in unfamiliar terminology and with implicit assumptions different from those of modern mainstream economics.

(v) An ability to reflect on modern economics through an historical perpective.

Teaching Information

Teaching will be delivered through a combination of synchronous and asynchronous sessions such as online teaching for large and small group, face-to-face small group classes (where possible) and interactive learning activities

Assessment Information

  • Best 5 out of 8 MCQs (20%)
  • Essay on key economic ideas (40%)
  • Essay on major authors within their intellectual communities (40%)

Reading and References

Blaug, Mark. Economic Theory in Retrospect. 5 edition. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Heilbroner, Robert L. The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times, and Ideas of the Great Economic Thinkers. Revised. New York: Touchstone Pr, 1999.

Medema, Steven G, and Warren J Samuels. The History of Economic Thought a Reader. London; New York: Routledge, 2003.

Weekly reading guides and further resources are available through TALIS.