Survey Courses

What follows is a list of undergraduate survey courses in the history of economics. Each link, which contains the name of the instructor, the institution at which the course was offered, and the year the course was offered, takes you directly to the syllabus for the course. Under each link is a brief description of the course. Some courses have, in addition to the syllabus, supplementary materials: writing assignments, bibliographies and handouts on a particular figure or school, exam questions, and the like.

Tracy Stobbe, Trinity Western University, Spring 2019

An investigation of the overlap of economic history and economic thought all the way from ancient Greeks philosophers to the twenty-first century. Students examine the main economic questions and themes of these various periods including: What is the good life? Is business moral? How do selfish individuals promote societal good through markets? What is the proper role and scope of government? Readings include The Ordinary Business of Life: A History of Economics from the Ancient World to the Twenty-first Century, by Roger E. Backhouse (Princeton University Press, 2002).

Maria Pia Paganelli, Trinity University, 2019

Course organized by themes (commerce, labor, money, etc.). Ends with applications with respect to the lottery puzzle, usury, and knowledge dispersion.

José Edwards, Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez, Summer 2019

Begins with historiographical questions. Surveys economics from before Adam Smith to developments in the 1980s and beyond. Syllabus in Spanish; reading list mostly in English. 

Pavel Kuchar, University of Bristol, 2018-19

Survey course that in part explores gender in the history of economics, induction vs. deduction, and criticisms of political economy. Reading list includes Blaug's Economic Theory in Retrospect and Rima's Development of Economic Analysis, as well as Say's novel Olbie and Smith's "Digression on Corn Laws."

Avi J. Cohen, York University, Winter 2014

Second of a two-part course on the history of economics. Focuses on major developments in economic theory since 1870, the emergence of neoclassical general equilibrium theory (especially in the works of Jevons, Menger, and Walras), and the development of Keynesian economics as a distinctive theory.

Avi J. Cohen, York University, Fall 2013

First of a two-part course on the history of economics. Focuses on the theoretical development of classical political economy up to 1870 in the works of the physiocrats, Smith, Ricardo, and Marx. Emphasizes the contrasts and similarities between classical and neoclassical theories. Required texts are The Worldy Philosophers and Teachings from the Worldly Philosophy, both by Robert Heilbroner.

Michael McLure, University of Western Australia, 2011

This class focuses on the classical tradition (Smith, Ricardo, Mill) and the Lausanne tradition (Walras, Pareto). The required text is Vaggi and Groenewegen, A Concise History of Economic Thought: From Mercantilism to Monetarism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), supplemented with several other readings. Syllabus contains an extensive list of tutorials and essay topics.

Philip Mirowski, University of Notre Dame, Winter 2011

Major sections of the course are as follows: "Should the World Economic Crisis Prompt Us to Rethink the History of Economics?"; "Natural Laws and Social Laws"; "Classical Economics and the Substance Theory of Value"; "Economics as Social Physics: Early Neoclassical Economics"; "How America Got the Orthodoxy It Deserved"; and "The Past as a Glimpse of the Future." Required texts are Backhouse's Puzzle of Modern Economics, Mirowski's More Heat Than Light, and Roncaglia's Wealth of Ideas.

Peter Boettke, George Mason University, Fall 2010

Second part of a two-part course. Begins with the marginal revolution of the 1870s and ends with recent developments such as law and economics, public choice, and the new institutionalism. Readings from Mirowski, Caldwell, Medema, Blaug, and Kirzner. Course meets once a week. Weekly quizzes, take-home final exam, and research paper.

Nancy Folbre, University of Massachusetts, Fall 2010

Course begins with Mandeville's Grumbling Hive. Subjects include virtue and the moral sentiments, the early socialists, and early feminist economists, as well as the roots of the recession that began in 2007–8. Readings are from Folbre, Greed, Lust, and Gender: A History of Economics Ideas (Oxford University Press, 2009); Cassidy, How Markets Fail (Farrar Strauss, 2009); and Hayek, The Road to Serfdom.

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