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Level 5

5AAH2008 British Economic History, 1700-1939

Credit value: 30
Module convenor/tutor: Dr Gabriel Mesevage
Teaching pattern: 20 x 2-hour seminars (weekly)
Availability: Please see module list for relevant year
Assessment: 1 x 3 hour examination (60%), 2 x 2,000 word essays (15% each) & 1 x oral presentation (10%)

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment by the following methods: 1 x 3 hour examination (60%); 2 x 2,000 word essays (15% each); 1 x 1500 word essay (10%)

N.B. This module cannot be taken in conjunction with 5AAH1029 The British Economy 1840-1914 due to possible overlap of content.

The modules offered in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand: there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary between years.

The changing nature of and fluctuations within economies do much to determine the structures of societies and their polities. Because the transformation of Britain’s economy after 1700 had repercussions both nationally and internationally, this course will touch upon global developments as well as the remarkable growth of the world’s first industrial nation. Within the span of a generation, industrial production superseded agriculture as the mainstay of British prosperity and much of the population came to inhabit large towns instead of the traditional rural village. The Industrial revolution, the success and decline of English farming, the altering character of the workplace, the origins of foreign competition, the dominance of London in international finance, the effects of the Great War and the inter-war slump are all studied. How the British economy adapted both to events in the world beyond and to shifts within Britain’s own population forms an essential theme throughout. There are many historical debates regarding Britain’s economic performance, both successes and failures, within the period 1700 to 1939 – an appreciation of all of which will be required.

Provisional teaching plan

Semester 1

1.    A Landed Society 1700-1760
2.    The Expansion of Commerce 1700-1793
3.    Population and Society in the C18th
4.    Revolution in Agriculture
5.    Industrial Revolution 1760-1820
6.    Financing industrialisation
7.    Workshop of the World
8.    Golden Age and Decline in English Agriculture 1850-1890
9.    Retardation or Depression? 1873-1896
10.  Entrepreneurial Failure

Semester 2

11.  The Tertiary Sector 1870-1914
12.  Workplace and Workforce in the C19th
13.  The Expansion of the Professional Classes 1840-1900
14.  New Industries and Edwardian Boom 1696-1914
15.  London:the World's  Banker 1870-1914
16.  The Great War and the Economy 1914-1929
17.  Recession and Recovery 1929-1939
18.  State Intervention and Government Policies 1918-1939
19.  Science and Technology since the Industrial Revolution
20.  An Economic Perspective

Suggested introductory reading

This is suggested reading and purchase of these books is not mandatory.

R. Allen, The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective (2009)

J. Mokyr, The Enlightened Economy:British Economic History 1700-1650 (2009)

R. Floud & D. McCloskey (eds). An Economic History of Britain since 1700 (1994)

R.S. Sayers, A History of Economic Change in England 1880-1939 (1967)


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