Survey Courses in the History of Economics

What follows is a list of undergraduate survey courses in the history of economics. Each entry, which contains the name of the instructor, the institution at which the course was offered, and the year the course was offered, provides a download to the syllabus for 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.


Erich Pinzón-Fuchs, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Spring 2020

This is an upper-level undergraduate course that studies the way in which the interaction between economics, the economy, and the political and social spheres has affected the production of economic knowledge in the twentieth century. Readings include Desrosières's The Politics of Large Numbers (Harvard University Press, 2002), Backhouse and Nishizawa's No Wealth but Life (Cambridge University Press, 2010), Leonard's Illiberal Reformers (Princeton University Press, 2016), Erickson et al. How Reason almost Lost Its Mind (University of Chicago Press, 2013), and Adelman's Worldly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman (Princeton University Press, 2013).

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).

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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.

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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. 

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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."

Download Kuchar Course (pdf - 68.5 KB)

Calla Wiemer, University of the Philippines, Fall 2016

Organized around seminal works in economics. Each week features one or two towering figures, focusing on key selections from their oeuvres. Secondary sources provide interpretation and context. The capstone is a filmed debate between followers of Keynes and followers of Hayek on the origins of the financial crisis of 2008 and the appropriate policy response.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Craufurd Goodwin, Duke University, Fall 2010

Writing-intensive course that begins by reviewing historiographical methods. Major thinkers from Aristotle to Keynes. Textbook (Spiegel, Growth of Economic Thought) supplemented with many readings in primary and secondary sources. Series of short papers that form the basis of a final paper. Excellent source of primary and secondary readings. Course meets three times a week. Combines lectures with class discussion. Syllabus contains useful description of the writing assignments, including selecting a topic.

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Wendy Rayack, Wesleyan University, 2010-11

Syllabus for an eight-week tutorial. Consists mainly of a list of readings and sources. For assignments, see the supplementary document.

Download Rayack Course (pdf - 111.57 KB)


Dieter Boegenhold, Free University of Bolzano, Spring 2008

Course begins with Marx and ends with the rise of mathematics in economics. The syllabus consists mainly of an extensive list of readings. The course is perhaps unusual in the extent to which it deals with recent developments in economics, such as the work of Gary Becker.

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Fletcher Baragar and A. M. C. Waterman, St. John's College (Manitoba), 2005-6

Syllabus is for the first term of a two-term course. Begins with the ancients and ends with Marx. Syllabus consists of a list of readings and contains an extensive list of essay topics, an annotated bibliography of secondary sources, and a list of classic primary texts.

Bruce Caldwell, Univ. of North Carolina - Greensboro, 2004

Traces the history of economic thinking from the Scholastics to John Maynard Keynes. Ends with a consideration of "discordant currents" (institutionalism and the Austrian school) and of twentieth-century economics as a whole. Textbook: Henry Speigel, The Growth of Economic Thought. Primary sources include Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations; and Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Marx-Engels Reader. Among the secondary-source readings are Caldwell, Hayek's Challenge; Phil Mirowski on the marginal revolution; and Brad Bateman on Keynes. Requirements: essays, participation in a class debate, lead a class discussion. Course designed for undergraduates as well as graduate students.

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Kevin D. Hoover, UC Davis, Fall 2003

This is the first part of a two-part survey course on the history of economics. This part covers the classical period of economics, from Smith to Marx. The syllabus largely consists of a series of essay prompts and "gobbets," brief quotations from economic works that students are expected to identify and comment on.

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Kevin D. Hoover, UC Davis, Fall 2002

This is the second part of a two-part survey course on the history of economics. This part covers the period from the 1870s to the 1930s, from Jevons to Keynes. The syllabus largely consists of essay prompts and "gobbets," brief quotations from economic works that students are expected to identify and comment on.

Download Hoover Course (pdf - 201.08 KB)

Jerry Evensky, Syracuse University, Spring 2000

This ten-page syllabus has a lot of personality--just like Jerry! Textbooks are Heilbroner's Worldy Philosophers and Spiegel's Growth of Economic Thought. Course begins with the ancients and ends with a consideration of the modern discourse. The extensive syllabus includes, among other things, directions for citing sources, extensive reflections on the research process--including identifying sources, collecting and analyzing data, and writing--and questions about the readings.

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Kirsten K. Madden, Millersville University, Fall 2001

Readings from Heilbroner's Worldy Philosophers and original sources, especially Smith, Marx, and Keynes. The course as well gives attention to "non-orthodox" thinkers such as Hobson, George, and Veblen.

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