History of Economic Analysis

Key information

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Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of Economics

Module overview

The primary implication of creating a pluralistic economics curriculum should be the realization of a situation in which students practice reality economics. John Kenneth Galbraith (1987:1) states in the Introduction of “A History of Economics: the Past as the Present” that “there can be no understanding of economics without an awareness of its history”. Although this is fully acknowledged, history of economic thought courses have almost disappeared from the economics curricula worldwide. Any ‘good’ economist would argue that a respectable economics programme couldn’t do without a course in The History of Economic Thought. Two powerful arguments can be provided for this. Firstly, this would challenge implicit beliefs that many of the ideas and theories of the old ‘folks’ are by definition obsolete or what we have now in terms of economics represents a more refined current economic theory and economic policy. Secondly, History of Economic Thought has shown that new ideas have been inspired by classical economics. This course will fill this existing gap in the SOAS economics curriculum. Presenting microeconomics and macroeconomics concepts using historical methods will enable students to gain an understanding of the key concepts in the context of the historical origins of such ideas and the role these concepts have played in the development of economic theory. Furthermore, students will develop a critical understanding of economics in terms of its tools and methods of inquiry but also the possibility to question economic ideas whilst developing their own abilities to scrutinize economic ideas and perspectives.

Students pursuing a degree external to the Department of Economics should contact the convenor for approval to take this module.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this course, a student will be able to:

  • Gain a systematic understanding of economic knowledge and of methodological techniques applicable in economics;
  • Gain originality in the application of knowledge to current economic affairs with a practical understanding of how we can interpret knowledge in economics;
  • Evaluate competing economic methodologies and methods used by economists and develop adequate critiques;
  • Address complex economic issues in a systematic and creative way and to demonstrate autonomy in tackling and solving economic problems.

Method of assessment

Exam 70% / coursework 30%. All coursework is resubmittable.

Suggested reading

The course will draw mainly on Robert Heilbroner (1999), The Wordly Philosophers (7th ed.), New York: Simon and Schuster and Joseph Schumpeter, History of Economic Analysis (ed. Elizabeth Boody Schumpeter), New York: Oxford University Press, 1954, but will be supplemented by journal articles that will add to the complexity of the material introduced both in lectures and tutorials.

Essential journal articles:

  • Paul A. Samuelson (1977), "A Modern Theorist's Vindication of Adam Smith", American Economic Review, vol. 67, no.1, February, pp. 42-49.
  • Paul A. Samuelson (1978), "The Canonical Model of Classical Political Economy", Journal of Economic Literature, vol.16, No.4, December, pp.1415-1434.
  • Emma Rothschild (1992), "Adam Smith and Conservative Economics", The Economic History Review, New Series, vol.45, no.1, pp. 74-96.
  • Friederich von Hayek (1934), "Carl Menger", Economica, vol.1, no.4, November, pp.393-420.
  • Oskar Lange (1936), "On the Economic Theory of Socialism: Part One", The Review of Economic Studies, vol.4, no.1, October, pp.53-71.

Also recommended:

  • Paul Sweezy (1968), Theory of Capitalist Development, New York: Modern Reader.
  • Joan Robinson (1969), An Essay of Marxian Economics, second ed., London: Macmillan and Co.


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