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Inequality: A Global History

Inequality: A Global History

(Dr. P Paidipaty)

From the Occupy movement to the Millennium Development Goals, inequality has re-emerged as a central topic of debate. But how inequalities between countries, groups and individuals have appeared, evolved and been challenged throughout history is seldom debated. This course will bring together economic, social and political perspectives in exploring how unequal outcomes (such as income, health or capability) have been created, sustained and challenged across the globe and throughout History. This will involve an economic history of distribution and development, intersected with a history of ideas about equality and inequality, and with a social history of the categories that sustain difference, including (but not limited to) gender, race, and religion. How did medieval societies think about fairness, and how did people interact across marked social divides, such as free and serf, townsman and noblewoman? How did traders, missionaries and sovereigns manage increasingly diverse empires, where new opportunities challenged established social hierarchies? How did social categories such as race and gender feature in the postwar ‘Age of Equality’? Working across diverse periods and regions and with both qualitative and quantitative sources, this course will also bring history into dialogue with other disciplines, such as economics, sociology and political theory. 

Seminar Topics 

  1. Dimensions of Inequality: Economic and Sociological Approaches
  2. Ancient Inequality
  3. ‘The Embarrassment of Riches’? The Industrious Revolution and Conspicuous Consumption
  4. Inequality De-naturalised: The French Revolution and Enlightenment Thought
  5. ‘The Great Divergence’: Why did the West become so Rich?
  6. Inequality Rationalised: Utilitarianism and the Science of Difference
  7. ‘Uncertain Victory’: The Limits of Equality in the Post-War Era
  8. Inequality in the Age of Globalisation