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Option Courses

Option Courses

Student 1

Students are required to select two options, normally one in Michaelmas Term and one in Lent Term. All options are taught as two-hour weekly discussion seminars over eight weeks and attendance is compulsory.

For each option, students will be required to write a 3–4,000 words essay which will count towards 10% of the overall mark.

Please note that this list of options changes from year to year and options may not run depending on demand and staff availability.  

At the discretion of the MPhil Director and Course Convener, students may be able to take options from the Faculty's other MPhil courses in place of an option on their home MPhil, or they may be able to audit additional classes. 

Options for 2018-19

Money, Trade and Politics: from the Gold Standard to the Euro crisis

Convenor: Dr Duncan Needham

John Maynard Keynes (right) and Harry Dexter White, 1946
This course introduces the theory and practice of the various institutions that have facilitated international trade and wealth creation since the nineteenth century. Some of these emerged organically, others were planned responses to economic collapse and global conflagration. All relied upon some level of credibility and cooperation between competing nation states. We look at the emergence of the classical Gold Standard that underpinned globalisation in the late nineteenth century. The First World War shattered the intricate web of international trade and, despite the attempt to reconstitute the pre-war Gold Standard, the global economy collapsed with the competitive devaluations and protectionism of the 1930s. At Bretton Woods in 1944, the planners of the post-war international economy sought to combine the discipline of the Gold Standard with the flexibility of adjustable exchange rates. Over the next quarter-century, the world enjoyed unprecedented economic growth as international trade returned to levels not witnessed since before the First World War. However, the Bretton Woods Gold Exchange Standard contained the seeds of its own destruction, and its collapse in the early 1970s marked the abrupt end of the Golden Age of Capitalism. The leading European nations used the ensuing period of economic improvisation to develop the European Monetary System that ultimately gave birth to the European single currency. The course finishes by examining how the flaws within this system produced the Euro crisis.

Health, Politics and Economic Growth since 1750

Convenor: Prof Simon Szreter

Vaccine estimation apparatus, invented by H. Vincent. Credit: Science Museum, London
Most developed countries have experienced dramatic increases in health during the last two centuries, associated with the economic growth of the modern period. This paper examines more closely the relationship between economic growth and health according to the detailed historical record. The richly-documented British case will provide a central focus but comparative material will be considered. The course will explore the complexities of the relationship between economic growth and health, and the need to understand the crucial role of social institutions and political conflict in determining health outcomes for populations participating in rapid economic change. Students will be encouraged to pursue contemporary implications of policy relevance.

The History of Economic and Social Thought

Convenor: Dr Alexandra Digby

This course focuses upon a number of basic themes in the history of economic and social thought through intensive study of the writings of certain seventeenth, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century authors: mercantilism; the nature of money and monetary relations (John Locke and John Law); regulation and laissez-faire (Adam Smith); economic and social reform; the Industrial Revolution; the state and social change; the development of capitalist modernity and social theory (Marx, Weber); the 'Marginal Revolution'; paradigms of economic thought; recurrence of themes in twentieth-century thought.

History and Public Policy

Convenor: Dr Lucy Delap

This course introduces students to the broad landscape of policy making – the processes and actors within government, civil society, and discusses the ways in which an understanding of history can be relevant and enriching to policy makers. It surveys a series of key policy areas, ranging across social, economic, environmental and foreign policy, aiming to give students both a broad understanding of the relevant policy issues, as well as the way in which policymaking has changed over time. Each session will be themed around a problem, such as the regulation of prostitution or the challenges of an ageing population. The sessions will be interactive, and will provide space for discussion of the present-day relevance of historical perspectives and the uses of history in public life. The overall aim will be to give students a broad grounding in historical and contemporary policy making, and the practical skills to shape their own research for impact outside of the academy.

This module will be assessed by the preparation of a 3,000 word policy paper, modelled on those published by History & Policy, and an accompanying 1,000 word action plan for policy influence. The policy paper will present an aspect of contemporary policy, and show how understanding the issue in historical perspective can connect it to wider/novel agendas, offer new policy options/forms of delivery/implementation, or recast the issue. The action plan will outline practical, evaluable means of gaining the attention of diverse audiences of policy makers and opinion formers.

British Industrialisation in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

Convenors: Dr Sara Horrell and Dr Leigh Shaw-Taylor

Credit: Wellcome Collection
Interior of cotton factory showing use of child labour. Credit: Wellcome Collection
Until around 1800 economic growth was the exception not the rule and all economies were very poor by today’s standards. Malthusian pressures were the norm and increases in population were normally accompanied by declines in living standards. The Industrial Revolution saw the British economy escape from Malthusian constraints and marks the world’s first transition to modern economic growth. The course considers the processes by which Britain became the first nation to overcome growth constraints and embark on a path of sustained expansion of per capita income. It looks at the roles played by structural change, new sources of energy and raw materials, agricultural improvement, high wages, new technology, changes in labour supply and much else. The course covers key debates both on the causes of industrialisation and the consequences for the people who lived through it.

British Currency and Credit Markets Since the Seventeenth Century

Convenor: Dr Anthony Hotson

The Bank of England and the Royal Exchange
The history of London’s money and credit markets is one of intermittent crises interspersed with successive attempts to find ways and means of stabilising the system. The currency reforms of the eighteenth century and the banking ones of the nineteenth were followed by a period of remarkable confidence in London’s financial institutions that lasted until the 1960s. Recent scholarship has emphasised the importance of the Bank of England’s role as lender of last resort, and its modern extension, deposit insurance. Less heed has been paid to various principles of sound banking practice, developed in the late nineteenth century, that helped to stabilise London’s markets. These principles informed a range of market practices that sought to limit aggressive forms of funding, and discourage speculative lending. A tendency to downplay the importance of these regulatory practices encouraged a degree of complacency about their removal, and the deregulation that started in 1971 created a financial structure that disregarded these principles of banking. The events of 2007-8 suggest a reappraisal is needed, and this course offers a revised interpretation of developments in London’s markets since the great currency crisis of 1695.

'Late Development': The Uneven Spread of Industrialisation in Asia, Africa and Latin America

Convenor: Prof Gareth Austin

The incomplete process of global industrialisation continues to transform the world. We examine the history of industrial growth and industrialisation beyond the West, focusing on the debates about how far, and why, ‘late’ industrialisations have differed from the original industrial revolution and from Western models generally, notably in the role of the state, the organization of production, and the relative preference for capital and labour intensive technologies respectively. We focus on the economic strategies and changes in their domestic and international political contexts, and (more briefly) discuss the social and cultural dimensions. Not least, we consider the interactions of economies with their physical environments. While the weekly seminars will be framed comparatively, students may focus on individual regions or countries for their essays. The overall aim is to enable students to acquire a critical understanding of the key concepts, empirical methods, and evidence adduced in the debates on this theme.

Institutions and Economic Growth in Historical Perspective

Convenor: Prof Sheilagh Ogilvie (MPhil in Economics)

This course provides an introduction to the role of institutions in long-term, historical economic growth. It brings together the theoretical assumptions about institutions adopted in the literature on economic growth on the one hand, and the empirical findings on these institutions by economic historians on the other. It does not assume any prior knowledge of either institutional economics or economic history. The course is organised around the following themes:

1. Public-order versus private-order institutions
2. Generalized versus particularized institutions
3. Property rights
4. Contract enforcement
5. Parliaments
6. Serfdom and slavery
7. Family and marriage patterns
8. Institutional systems
9. Theories of institutions

The aims of this course are to introduce the main debates, conceptual tools, and empirical findings relevant to understanding how institutions – the ‘humanly devised rules of the game’ – influenced economic growth between the medieval period and the Industrial Revolution.

Institutions and Development

Convenor: Dr Shailaja Fennell (MPhil in Development Studies)

This paper explores the role of institutions in human development. The course is devised using a wide canvas with the intention of exploring the manner in which institutions have been conceptualised and analysed across individual disciplines in the social sciences. The lecture course brings together theoretical perspectives alongside both historical and current evidence on the interrelations between institutional structures and social and economic actions. The course undertakes an institutional analysis drawing on concepts and frameworks provided by the disciplines of economics, sociology, political science, law and anthropology. The lectures examine the institutions of the state, notably the role of the bureaucracy and judiciary; societal institutions such as NGOs and social groups, customary norms such as culture and caste that affect human development. Individual lectures explore institutions such as the market, firm and the state, examine the perspectives of different academic schools such as New Institutional Economics, Marxism, Human Development and Capability theory on institutional changes, and give due consideration to how key development concerns such as poverty, environment and education can be examined through an institutional lens.



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