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Richard N. Langlois is Professor of Economics at the University of Connecticut.


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322 Monteith
341 Mansfield Road
Storrs, CT
06269-1063 USA
(860) 486-3472
(860) 486-4463 (fax)

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Economics 201W

Economic History of Europe

Fall 2006

TTh 12:30-1:45

Monteith 101

Course syllabus


 Icon Objectives.

 Icon Textbooks.

 Icon Internet.

 Icon Course requirements.

 Icon Writing assignment.

 Icon Sequence of topics and reading list.



 Icon Notes on Writing.

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This course studies the economic development of Europe from prehistoric times to the early twentieth century. Although the course is chronological, the vastness of such a history necessarily means that we will be selective in our treatment, focusing on a few episodes and approaches.


In general, the course will try to explain the uniqueness of Western Europe. Why was Western Europe (including Great Britain) able to achieve sustained economic growth in a way that no other part of the world - including the great civilizations of history - was able to do?





As there is no single text that covers the material in the way I wish to present it, the lectures in this course will be extremely important. (Do not expect to do well if you do not come to class religiously). The closest thing we will have to a textbook is:



Rondo Cameron and Larry Neal, A Concise Economic History of the World. New York: Oxford, 4th ed., 2003.



There are four other books at the bookstore from which I will assign readings.



Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel. New York: Norton, 1997.


Douglass C. North, Structure and Change in Economic History. New York: Norton, 1981.


Nathan Rosenberg and L. E. Birdzell, Jr., How the West Grew Rich. New York: Basic Books, 1986.


Book Cover

Niall Ferguson, Empire. New York: Basic Books, 2004.



As this is a “W” course, I have also asked the bookstore to order the following.  See also my notes on writing.



Book Cover

Deirdre McCloskey, Economical Writing. Waveland Press, 2nd edition, 1999.



Course Requirements.


Your grade will be based on a midterm and a final.






Term Paper



The final will be cumulative, but will stress the material covered after the second midterm.  The exams will be mostly essay, but they may also contain some matching, identification, or true/false components.  .


This is a “W” course, which means heavy emphasis on writing.  It also means that the writing component of the course must count for (at least) half the grade, and one cannot pass the course without passing the writing component.  For this course, the writing component is a structured paper in which you will survey the economic history of one European country of your choice.



Sequence of topics.


1. Introduction: social institutions and economic development.


Richard N. Langlois, “The Great Question,” Manuscript 2003.  (On Vista.)


Rondo Cameron and Larry Neal, A Concise Economic History of the World, chapter 1.


Douglass C. North, Structure and Change in Economic History. New York: Norton, 1981, chapters 1-6.


Mancur Olson, “Dictatorship, Democracy, and DevelopmentThe American Political Science Review 87(3): 567-576 (September 1993).


2. Prehistoric and Ancient precursors.


Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel, as much as you can, but especially the prologue and chapters 1, 3, 4, 5, 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14.


Jane Jacobs, The Economy of Cities.  New York: Random House, 1969, chapter 1.  (On Vista.)


Cameron and Neal, chapter 2.


North, Structure and Change, chapters 7-9.


Robert C. Allen, “Agriculture and the Origins of the State in Ancient EgyptExplorations in Economic History 34(2): 135-154 (April 1997).


Peter Temin, “The Economy of the Early Roman Empire,”The Journal of Economic Perspectives 20(1): 133-151 (Winter 2006).  (On Vista.)


Bruce Bartlett, "How Excessive Government Killed Ancient Rome," The Cato Journal 14(2), Fall 1994.


3. Feudalism.


Cameron and Neal, Chapter 3.


North, chapter 10.


Stefano Fenoaltea, "Transaction Costs, Whig History, and the Common Fields," Politics and Society 16(2-3): 171-217 (Summer, 1988).  (On Vista.)


4. The revival of trade.


North, chapter 11.


Nathan Rosenberg and L. E. Birdzell, Jr., How the West Grew Rich, chapter 4.


Meir Kohn, The Origins of Western Economic Success: Commerce, Finance, and Government in Pre-Industrial Europe. Manuscript, Dartmouth College, as much as you can, but especially chapters 1, 3, 4, 17, 18, and 19.


Milgrom, Paul, Douglass C. North, and Barry R. Weingast, "The Role of Institutions in the Revival of Trade: the Law Merchant, Private Judges, and the Champagne Fairs," Economics and Politics 2: 1-23 (March 1990).  (On Vista.)


Avner Greif, “The Birth of Impersonal Exchange: The Community Responsibility System and Impartial Justice,” Journal of Economic Perspectives 20(2): 221–236 (Spring 2006).  (On Vista.)


5. The guild system.


Kohn, Chapter 16.


Avner Grief, Paul Milgrom, and Barry Weingast, "Coordination, Commitment, and Enforcement: the Case of the Merchant Guild," Journal of Political Economy 102(4): 745-776 (1994).


6. Mercantilism: comparative economic growth.


Cameron and Neal, chapters 5 and 6.


EH.Net encyclopedia entry on the Glorious Revolution.


Douglass C. North and Barry R. Weingast, "The Evolution of Institutions Governing Public Choice in 17th Century England," Journal of Economic History 49: 803-32 (1989).


Niall Ferguson, Empire. New York: Basic Books, 2004, chapter 1. 


7. The Industrial Revolution.


Cameron and Neal, chapter 7.


Rosenberg and Birdzell, chapter 5.


North, chapter 12.


8. The Factory System.


Rosenberg and Birdzell, chapters 6-9.


Axel Leijonhufvud, "Capitalism and the Factory System," in R. N. Langlois, ed., Economics as a Process: Essays in the New Institutional Economics. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986, pp. 203-223.


Richard N. Langlois, "The Coevolution of Technology and Organization in the Transition to the Factory System," in Paul L. Robertson, ed., Authority and Control in Modern Industry. London: Routledge, 1999.


9. The nineteenth century.


Cameron and Neal, chapters 8-12.


Ferguson, Chapters 3, 4, and 5.