Click here for a list of course readings


Click here for one page with all the lectures.

What is American Economic History?

From wikipedia: economic history is "the study of how economic phenomena evolved in the past". Practically, the meaning of economic phenomena is very expansive.  We study the typical topics --- prices, markets, economic growth, banks, etc --- but economic historians also study things, like slavery, that aren't obviously related to economics.  We study history.  This means we describe the past.  Also, we do economics.  This means that we're interested in answering economic questions.  In fact, economic historians are primarily interested in history because it provides a unique source of data to use for answering economic questions.  Another, perhaps better, definition of economic history is "the testing of economic hypotheses using historical data".  In American economic history, then, we test hypotheses using data generated in American history.

What sort of questions will we study?  Here are a few:
  • What causes economic growth?
  • Why is America so much richer than other countries?
  • What caused the Great Depression?
  • Why was the Great Depression so long?
  • How did the U.S. get out of the Depression?
  • Was slavery profitable?  Did it suppress growth in the South?
  • Did the Civil Rights Act work?
  • What is the effect of immigration on prices and wages?
  • Does inequality increase or decrease growth?
Here's the course syllabus and below is the topics we'll cover:
Subpages (2): Lectures Readings