World economic history from growth to sustainable development

A.Y. 2019/2020
Overall hours
Learning objectives
This course intends to present a broad overview of world economic history in a long run perspective, from ancient economies up to modern age, debunking the dominant comparative model, i.e. the hermeneutical logic allowing to judge a historical/economic reality by comparing it to the growth of England, the country that first achieved a modern economy, making it the ideal pattern to emulate.
Indeed, the purpose of the lectures is favoring global comparisons, in which different economic realities are historically examined in order to comprehend their interaction as well as their specific and peculiar economic paths from the XIth-XVIIth centuries, in which Malthusian pressures on population were the dominant historical features, to XVIIIth-XXIst centuries in which population growth and rising per capita income had become the norm.
Some attention will be paid to the different two paths of economic growth, undertaken by Europe and Asia. Since late 18th century the industrialization that had affected Europe - England first - turned out to be an irreversible and unique process and something peculiar to the West, leaving untouched the East. The rapid economic growth of China in the last three decades has forced us to rethink the Western economic growth model as the one-best solution, and to reconsider and better analyze the Eastern world, along with its path of development. Similarities and differences of the two areas will be examined before and after the Industrial Revolution, as the watershed dividing the West from the "Rest". Specific attention will the devoted to the environmental strains and responses that the two areas gave to the ecological pressures; the manufacturing system and the role of formal and informal institutions on economic growth.
The goal of the course is to display how surprisingly the economic evolution of several regions was already consistent with a 'sustainable development', which addressed the utilization of local natural resources, the state of the environment and intergenerational equity. Under a global historical perspective too, it will emerge that economic growth - defined as an increase in national output per capita - has often been an instrument toward the achievement of higher-level goals rather than as a goal in itself.
As by-product, it will be evident that history is important to economics and law for several reasons. First, the past is a gigantic experiment station that we can use to see economic and law ideas/policies at work. Second, the economic histories of the developed world are informative, and often provide examples of dos and don'ts for current developing economies. Finally, "remnants of the past, which shape the realm of the possible today, are always with us as laws, norms, structures, institutions, and even people. In short, only the oblivious can ignore history in modern economics, and only the unenlightened would choose to do so" (Goldin, Claudia, "Cliometrics and the Nobel", Journal of Economic Perspectives, Spring 1995).
Expected learning outcomes
· to develop a good command of the evolution of the timing, facts, and discontinuities of world economic history from the Medieval Age up to Modern Time.
· to be familiar with the major influential economic paradigm since 1700
· to be able to discuss technological, cultural, and institutional factors responsible for changes in economic history
· to appreciate historical developments that led to different trajectories of economic change in different regions and in different periods, to understand the emergence of capitalism, its spread and alternatives
· to appreciate the potential role of history in guiding current economic policies and debates
· to evaluate the trade-offs in social and economic policy
· to be able to articulate with confidence and data, personal views concerning significant social and economic issues in historical perspective.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
Second semester
SECS-P/12 - ECONOMIC HISTORY - University credits: 6
Lessons: 42 hours
Professor: Landoni Matteo