AØKA08030U  History of Economic Thought

Volume 2017/2018

MSc programme in Economics – elective course

Bacheloruddannelsen i økonomi – valgfag fra 3. år

The Danish BSc programme in Economics - elective from the 3rd year



The course gives students the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the development of economic theory from Adam Smith to the 1970s. Obviously, only the major writers and the most controversial issues will be taken into account.

The basic philosophy of this courses stems from the selected textbook – that economics is an emerging science, where evolution happens continuously. We see how the major concepts have been suggested, constructed, and further developed.

The textbook will be the frame of the course. It will be read by participating students and discussed at the lectures.  We will also have a discussion of the recent Thomas Piketty challenge related to capital and labor – a central theme in the history of economic thought.

The midtterm and exam papers will be based on independent research of relevant literature (the expositions can be focusing on writers – i.e. Wicksell – or themes – i.e. the evolution of the idea of external effects).

Course website: https://absalon.instructure.com/courses/3031

Learning Outcome


After completing the course, the student should be able to:


  • Participating students should obtain an overview over economic thinking and will understand in broad terms how economic theory has evolved over time

  • The course should enable students to see the historical and theoretical preconditions for contemporary economic theory.

  • Students must be able to work not only with textbook material but also with examples of original texts.

  • Coming so far, participating students will have a deeper understanding of the power and coherence of economics and thereby realizing the said science’s limitations as well as strengths when working with real life issues.


  • Depending on a successful completion of the course, students should be able to understand the process that creates economic theory and to read, analyze and understand historical texts.

  • Participating students, therefor, will receive skills that complements their learning in other economics courses.


  • One may become a splendid economist without doing history of economic thought; however, the aim of the course is that participants should obtain a deeper, yet more critical approach to the implementation of economic.

  • Students will learn to work with issues in the history of economic thought based on knowledge of basic economic theory,

  • Students will learn to read and digest selected works in the history of economic thought and

  • Students will be able to frame historically given economic ideas and theories into a contemporary theoretical context.

  • By means of this backbone, students successfully completing this course will be able to work with economics in a humbler, more critical and therefore safer way!



Agnar Sandmo: Economics Evolving: A History of Economic Thought, Princeton University Press, 2010. ISBN 978-0-691-14842-7

Thomas Piketty & Gabriel Zucman: Capital is back: Wealth-income Ratios in Rich Countries. 2014. The Quarterly Journal of Economics 2014 (pp. 1255 – 1310). ISSN 0033-5533

2 years of economic theory is required equivalent to Microeconomics II (Micro B) and Macroeconomics II (Macro B) in the BSc programme of Economics at Copenhagen University. This is needed in order to be able to participate in and understand the course's discussion of economic thinkers' ideas and texts. Participating students must be able and willing to write and speak in English.

Notice! This course is not an introduction to economics but a reflection upon the development of economic ideas. All participants must have a solid background in economic theory.
Lectures, discussions, supervision and paper writing.
The course consists of 2x2 hours of classes (lectures) every week for 10-11 weeks.

Timetable and venue:
The schedule for the semester spring 2018 will be available no later than 7th of November 2017
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment, 7 days
take-home exam.
The exam assignment must be answered in English.
Exam registration requirements

The condition for standing for the exam is that the midterm paper is approved.

Papers can the written individually or in small groups of participating students, normal rules apply.


All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
if chosen by the Head of Studies.
Exam period

The schedule for the exam 2018 will be available no later than 7th of November 2017

For enrolled students more information about examination, rules, exam schedule etc. is available at the intranet for master students (UK) , master students (DK) and bachelor students (DK).


The schedule for the exam 2018 will be available no later than 7th of November 2017

If only a few students have registered the reexam it might change to oral including the date, time and place, which will be informed in KUNet or by the Examination Office.

More information about reexamination, rules, schedule etc. is available at the intranet for master students (UK) , master students (DK) and bachelor students (DK).


Criteria for exam assesment

Students are assessed on the extent to which they master the learning outcome for the course. So when grading the exam paper the emphasis is the obtained knowledge, the obtained skills and the acquired competencies.

To obtain the grade of 12, one must possess a strong overview of the history of economic thought and a good command of original texts (Their knowledge). Students will also be able to put the material covered convincingly to use in real life work and while doing other courses (their skills). The ability to work deeper and more critical is also weighted in (the competencies).

When these elements are mastered error-free and convincingly, the grade 12 is awarded. When the mastering of these components is considered just acceptable, the grade 02 is given

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 42
  • Preparation
  • 129
  • Exam
  • 35
  • Total
  • 206