Economic history since 1900 EC3096

Economic history is a wide-ranging course which uses many economic concepts and theories which can help our understanding of economic changes including those that are occurring in the world at the present time.

This course requires you to have – or to obtain as you study – a grasp of economic concepts. However economic history is different from economics because, like all history, we know what happened next and theories can be applied to real circumstances.

Topics covered

  • The inter-relationships between the development of the international economy and the growth of national economies.
  • The growth of the industrial world economy in the twentieth century.
  • International trade and economic growth in the early twentieth century.
  • The centre and the periphery.
  • Labour and capital mobility, free trade and tariffs.
  • Technology, industrial growth and industrial organisation in Britain, the United States and Germany.
  • Britain’s position in the international economy before 1914.
  • The British Empire and the less developed countries.
  • Why the international economy worked less well after the First World War. (Why fixed exchange rates could be maintained before 1914, but rarely afterwards.)
  • The problems of the primary producing countries.
  • The world economic and financial crisis, 1929-33.
  • Depression, recovery and government policy in Britain, Germany and the United States.
  • The war economies, 1939-45. The dollar in the international economy since the Second World War.
  • Comparative growth rates in the major industrial countries. The effect of the EC.
  • The successes and failures of economic management.
  • The rise of the Japanese economy. (A comparison of motor vehicle production in the major economies as a case study.)
  • De-industrialisation in Britain and the USA.
  • The collapse of the Bretton Woods system and the international economy since 1973.
  • The Oil Crises.
  • Why some less developed countries (eg the NICs) have become major players in the international economy and not others.

Learning outcomes

If you complete the course successfully, you should be able to:

  • How economic growth is transferred from one economy to another
  • How the nature of the international economy affects the transfer of economic growth
  • What the benefits to economic growth and international trade of fixed versus fluctuating exchange rates are
  • How relatively free capital mobility and controls on capital flows compare
  • How the effects of relatively free labour mobility (migration) compare with the effects of controls on mobility
  • Why the ability of a country to ‘catch up’ the economic growth of other countries is affected by the ‘social capabilities’ (the underlying conditions) in the country
  • How technical change affects the economy.
  • Techniques for using simple economic theory to explain how various factors led to economic growth
  • The ability to construct economic reasons for historical events
  • The ability to identify and select the sort of data that is needed to do this, and how to assess how much data is needed to make valid judgements.


Unseen written exam (3 hrs).

Essential reading

  • A.G. Kenwood and A.L. Lougheed. The growth of the international economy, 1820-2000. An introductory text. London: Routledge.
  • Broadberry, B.N. and K. O’Rourke (eds) The Cambridge economic history of modern Europe. Volume 2: 1870 to the present. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Eichengreen, B. Globalising capital. A history of the international monetary system. Princeton University Press.

Course information sheets

Download the course information sheets from the LSE website.