AØKA08214U  Summerschool 2017: The Economic History of Europe

Volume 2016/2017

BSc programme in Economics - elective after the 1.year
MSc programme in Economics – elective course


This comprehensive course offers theoretical and historical insights into the evolution of Europe. We start by tracing the continent’s emergence from being a technological and economic backwater at the end of the first millennium to being able to match the advanced Muslim and Chinese civilizations around 1500. We continue by following the economic advances as Europe forged ahead, becoming the leader of the Industrial Revolution and the source of numerous technological innovations, which were diffused internationally through trade and colonial domination, but with varying impact on the rest of the world. It is shown that Europe was unique in fostering a mentality of rational inquiry into the laws of nature which led to an industrial enlightenment. A special focus will be on the last 200 years of dramatic economic development, when a remarkable increase in income has been accompanied by recurrent crises and increased world inequality but decreasing domestic inequality. This has generated a variety of responses such as the modern macroeconomic stabilization policies, the Welfare State, and attempts to tame the disruptive impact of financial turbulence and unemployment. Although the last 150 years have been a period of remarkable growth, they have also been a period of recurrent crises which require explanation. 

Lecture Plan

1. The making of Europe. How Europe developed into an integrated economic region with intensive trade and cultural similarities across the continent despite endemic political and military conflicts. (Chapter 1)

2. The secrets of pre-industrial growth. Gains from specialization through division of labour before the Industrial Revolution. The restoration of monetary order and international trade. The first general purpose technology at work: water and wind mills. (Chapter 2)

3. The dynamics of population growth. Thomas Malthus versus Adam Smith. The exceptional family planning practiced in Europe (before the pill) which helped the continent escape poverty. (Chapter 3)

4. When and why Europe took the lead. Slow but persistent growth in Europe allowed the continent to forge ahead several centuries before the Industrial Revolution. How to measure economic growth in poorly documented economies. Was the Industrial Revolution really a Revolution? (Chapter 4 and section 1 in chapter 6)

5. Firms, farms and co-operatives. The institutional diversity in economic progress with a special focus on the advantages of co-operative enterprises in Scandinavia. (Chapter 5)

6. Historical foundations of modern economic growth. Science and technological catch-up. Why are some nations pioneers and others late-comers in the modernization process? (Chapter 6)

7. The origin and development of money and banks. The anatomy of banking crises and why we have to live with them. (Chapter 7)

8. Trade, tariffs and growth. The evolution of the comparative advantage argument for free trade. How trade policy affects growth. What does the historical record teach us about the wisdom of adopting protectionist measures? (Chapter 8) 
9. International monetary systems in history. Why an international monetary system is necessary. The policy choices available to an open economy. The history of international monetary regimes. The Eurozone crisis in historical perspective. (Chapter 9)

10. From the minimal state to the Welfare State in the 20th century. Economic policy, inflation and unemployment. Do austerity policies work? A comparison between the interwar period (1919-1939) and the present crises in the European Union. (Chapter 10)

11. Trends in inequality between and within nations. We trace inequality from the Roman era to the present. Has the trend towards increasing equality within nations been broken and what is happening to world inequality? (Chapter 11)

12. Globalization is not new! What globalization does to your welfare and the welfare of poor nations. Welfare effects of trade and foreign investments. (Chapter 12)

Learning Outcome

To fulfil the purposes of the course the student must be able to:


  • Identify, explain, and reflect upon the main topics within economic history

  • Understand the difference between the forces at work in the pre-industrial era, when division of labour and trade were major factors in economic development, and science-based technological progress in the modern era

  • Evaluate the impact of the constraints of resources on economic growth and the determinants of population growth in the pre-industrial as well as the modern era

  • Understand the institutional preconditions for transfer of knowledge and convergence of income levels across nations in Europe

  • Explain and reflect upon the economic history of money

  • Understand the forces which shape trade policies (free trade vs. protectionism) and know the general outline of the phases of trade regimes during the last 200 years

  • Understand the mechanisms and workings of international monetary orders such as the Gold Standard, the Bretton Woods system and the euro

  • Describe the changes in inequality over time, and explain how to measure this

  • Describe and reflect upon the history of globalization and the challenges it presents

  • Understand the role and impact of Europe in a global economy


  • Use simple data methods to analyse historical data

  • Apply economic theory as it relates to economic history

  • Read and report from scholarly journal articles


  • Explain the main topics in economic history

  • Apply models and theories related to economic history

  • Work with and process historical time series such as wage, price, and population data


Karl Gunnar Persson and Paul Sharp, An Economic History of Europe: Knowledge, Institutions and Growth, 600 to the Present, Cambridge University Press, 2nd revised edition, 2015 (available in paperback).

Plus a selection of journal articles relevant to the subject which will be available online for participating students. Total reading load: ca. 500 pages.

Economics at the level of first year Principles of Economics is recommended, however ambitious students in history and the social sciences can follow the course since basic economic concepts are explained in the textbook.
The course will consist of lectures, seminars and exercise sessions scheduled in a plan the students will receive from the teacher. In the seminars, the students will present and discuss papers related to topics discussed in the preceding lectures. In the exercise sessions, the students will be taught to use the historical time series on the textbook’s website www.econ.ku.dk/europe http:/​/​www.cambridge.org/​dk/​academic/​subjects/​history/​economic-history/​economic-history-europe-knowledge-institutions-and-growth-600-present-2nd-edition?format=PB&isbn=9781107479388.
Timetable and venue:

To see the time and location of classrooms please press the link:

-Select Department: “2200-Økonomisk Institut” (and wait for respond)
-Select Module:: “2200-B5-5F17; [Name of course]””
-Select Report Type: "List -Week Days"
-Select Period: “Forår/Spring – Weeks 4-29”
Press: “ View Timetable”
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment, 24 hours
take-home exam. signement. The exam assignment is given in English and can be answered in English or in Danish. Language must be chosen at the course registration.
Exam registration requirements

Full participation at the summerschool is mandatory and the student must actively participate in all activities.

All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
100 % censorship
Exam period

The take- home exam takes place the July 29 from 10.00 AM to July 30 at 10.00 AM, 2017.

For enrolled students more information about examination, rules etc. is available at the student intranet for Examination (English),student intranet for Examination (KA-Danish) and student intranet for Examination (BA-Danish).


The re-exam will take place in the exam period December 2017 - January 2018. The exact day and time of the exam will be informed at the  student intranet for Summer schools and in the Self-Service at KUnet during Autumn 2017.

If only a few students have registered for the re-exam, the exam might change to an oral exam including the date, time and place for the exam, which will be informed  by the Examination Office.

Criteria for exam assesment

Students are assessed on the extent to which they master the learning outcome for the course.

To receive the top grade, the student must be able to demonstrate in an excellent manner that he or she has acquired and can make use of the knowledge, skills and competencies listed in the learning outcomes.

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 24
  • Preparation
  • 142
  • Exam
  • 24
  • Exercises
  • 8
  • Seminar
  • 8
  • Total
  • 206