Economic History

Module code: EC2034

Module co-ordinator: Dr Martin Hoskins

It is impossible to fully understand current economic events and policies without understanding their history.In this module we will explore the background and evolution of mainly international economic and financial matters from the late 19th century to the present day.

It has been said that much of current macroeconomics has been an attempt to understand the chaos which followed the First World War. Much of modern monetarist thinking derives from analysis of the great inflations of the early 1920s. The collapse of world-wide economic activity in the Great Depression of the 1930s led Keynes’ to write The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money.

The policy mistakes, particularly of the American Federal Reserve, in the 1930s have directly influenced responses to the crash of 2008. The international financial institutions, the IMF and the World Bank were created after the Second World War to prevent a repetition of the 1920s and 1930s.

Topics covered

  • The gold standard in the 19th century
  • Economic legacy of the First World War
  • The Versailles ‘peace’ Treaty
  • War debts and German reparations
  • The great inflations of the early 1920s
  • The disastrous attempt to recreate the gold standard
  • Boom and crash in the 1920s
  • The Great Depression
  • The Bretton Woods settlement and its collapse
  • Britain 1945–1980
  • Mrs Thatcher’s Britain
  • The search for financial stability after the collapse of Bretton Woods
  • The 2008 crash


  • 25 one-hour lectures
  • 8 one-hour tutorials


  • Exam, 1 hour (50%)
  • Essay, 5,000 words (50%)