0575 Elective Course - Economic and Social History / Course - Topics in Economic and Social History
Dr. Wilfried Kisling, Univ.Prof. Dr. Markus Lampe
Weekly hours
Language of instruction
09/05/23 to 09/18/23
Registration via LPIS
Notes to the course
Day Date Time Room
Thursday 10/05/23 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM TC.5.14
Thursday 10/05/23 01:00 PM - 03:00 PM TC.4.16
Thursday 10/12/23 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM TC.5.14
Thursday 10/12/23 01:00 PM - 03:00 PM TC.4.16
Thursday 10/19/23 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM D1.1.074
Thursday 10/19/23 01:00 PM - 03:00 PM TC.4.14
Thursday 11/02/23 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM TC.5.14
Thursday 11/02/23 01:00 PM - 03:00 PM TC.4.16
Thursday 11/09/23 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM TC.5.14
Thursday 11/09/23 01:00 PM - 03:00 PM D4.0.127
Thursday 11/16/23 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM TC.5.14
Thursday 11/16/23 01:00 PM - 03:00 PM TC.4.16
Thursday 11/23/23 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM TC.5.14
Thursday 11/23/23 01:00 PM - 03:00 PM TC.4.16
Thursday 11/30/23 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM TC.5.14
Thursday 11/30/23 01:00 PM - 03:00 PM TC.4.16
Thursday 12/07/23 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM TC.5.14
Thursday 12/07/23 01:00 PM - 03:00 PM TC.4.16
Thursday 12/14/23 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM TC.5.14
Thursday 12/14/23 01:00 PM - 03:00 PM TC.4.16
Thursday 12/21/23 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM TC.5.14
Thursday 12/21/23 01:00 PM - 03:00 PM TC.4.16

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.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, students will have gained an informed and critical view of the role and importance of historical experiences and the main explanations for economic growth and development, and for understanding current economic affairs and international economic relations. They will gain an understanding of how such explanations are elaborated and contrasted with actual experiences and empirical material about them, and how understanding this helps to critically appraise academic work in this field. They will thereby gain an understanding of technicalities of and approaches to empirical research in economic and social history, and of how understanding the economic and social precedents of the present helps contextualizing research in other disciplines as well as it informs policy-makers and managers.

Attendance requirements

According to the current public health regulations at WU the course can take place fully in the class room, thus physical presence on campus will be required. The course is divided into morning classes - dealing with the specific topics - and afternoon classes - dealing with more specific case studies as well as connections between topics and the 'bigger picture'. Students can miss two classes in the morning and two classes in the afternoon without justification, but missing more classes without strong and justified reasons that cannot be influenced by the students (i.e., work or travel is not one of them) will result in un-enrolment from the course. There is thus a requirement to attend at least 80% (9/11) of all classes.

Teaching/learning method(s)

Morning classes introduce the general topic of the week. Students will be required to prepare material in advance, and after a short introduction participate actively in class discussions.

Afternoon classes briefly assess the knowledge from the morning class via short tests, and then introduce - via brief student interventions - specific case studies, deeper insights and/or controversial viewpoints on the topic of the week. These are followed by interactive elements such as exercises and discussion during class hours.

Building on the contents and insights from morning and afternoon classes students are required to hand in a final essay on a topic related to the content of the course.


Participation in discussions, etc. in morning and afternoon sessions: 20%

short tests/quizzes on content of morning classes in afternoon sessions: 15%

presentation/specific inputs into afternoon sessions: 30%

final essay: 35%


90% or more of the points: 1 (excellent)

80% or more: 2 (good)

70% or more: 3 (satisfactory)

60% or more: 4 (sufficient)

less than 60%: 5 (fail)

Prerequisites for participation and waiting lists

None, except those stated in your study plans.

Special requisites for the waiting list apply because of a limited offer of Economic and Social History courses:

* Initially available places will be allocated during the registration period on a first-come, first-served basis.

* If you are unable to attend, please cancel your registration in order to free up your place for others on the waiting list!

* After the end of the registration period, available spots in the course will be increased to ca. 30 and students will be added based on the waiting list. No-shows in the first class will be replaced by present students in the order of the waiting list in the first session.

After the registration period, students from the waiting list, who don't yet have a valid registration, will be assigned to available places in the specific courses. This allotment is not based on a first-come first-served principle. Rather, progress in the studies will be the decisive criterion.


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Recommended previous knowledge and skills

This course combines insights from economic history and applied development economics. It combines insights from case studies (scientific papers) for different countries and time periods, which requires intellectual flexibility and occasional research to grasp the context of the papers and chapters in question. While there is no need (and little chance) to possess such comprehensive background knowledge beforehand, it is one of the aims of this course to foment the intellectual flexibility to use and transfer insights from one context to another. Students should therefore enrol in the course with a sufficiently open mind and openness to such challenges.

Furthermore, some (but clearly not all) of the texts we discuss use econometrics (statistics) to assess the validity of their arguments. While it is not necessary to be able to replicate tor understand the technical details, basic understanding of applied inferential statistics (regression analysis) is helpful to understand and process such texts for presentation. Students who do not feel sufficiently versed in such techniques should pay attention to the methods used in the different texts when signing up for the presentations (in week 1).

Availability of lecturer(s)

Office hours: On appointment (see contact emails).

Last edited: 2023-07-24