This course deals with the classical question in development economics, growth economics and economic history: Why are some countries rich and some countries poor? And is being rich the same as being developed, and what is development anyway? Since they unfold over longer periods of time and in different ways in different places, socioeconomic development and economic growth are genuinely historical processes. Nevertheless, the development and growth paths of different societies might (or might not) follow common patterns, and understanding these allows to give answers to the classical question beyond the description of individual country experences. We will therefore combine historical experiences and theoretical explanations from economics and other social sciences in trying to get closer to the issue. Hereby we follow a thematic approach and look at different factors used to explain development, growth and the lack thereof, instead of a chronological or comparative case study approach. We thus treat, for example, the importance of politics and institutions, of religion and culture, of geography, of education, of foreign influence and colonialism, trade and the financial system. We systematically look at connections between the different 'drivers' and, for example, discuss whether they turned out to be complement, substitutes or completely unrelated in different circumstances.
Why is such an approach to development through economic and social history useful? This course argues that economic history is relevant for economists, social sciences, managers, and policy-makers for at least three reasons. First, events that happened in the past may harbor important lessons for the design of economic policy and thus the organization/allocation of resources in a firm, a country, a region or even on a global level. Second, we often observe that events in the past have long-lasting persistent effects that continue to play a large role today: a solid understanding of the channels behind this persistence is thus crucial to understand our current world. Third, economic history provides a huge arsenal of events and policies that researchers in economics, business, and management can draw upon to test modern theory with regard to its empirical validity.