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Unit information: Capitalism (Level H Reflective History) in 2018/19

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Unit name Capitalism (Level H Reflective History)
Unit code HIST30073
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Julio Decker
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts


The modern world rests on capitalism and the numerous ways in which it was reshaped and took hold globally. As a mode of production and exchange, it not only informs market dynamics but also shapes social and gender relations as well as cultural and political systems. After falling out of fashion in the historical profession after the end of the cold war, historians have recently re-engaged with the history of capitalism, often in the emerging field of global history. Combining classic approaches in the interpretation of capitalism as a historical force with these new perspective, this unit aims to explore fundamental questions about the organization of modern societies. How did capitalism emerge and what forces led to its worldwide dominance? Does capitalism need free labour? How can we explain the Great Divergence and Western dominance and does it relate to the history of the production and consumption of global commodities? What are the dynamics of resistance, revolution, and reform regarding the economic, political, and social organization of societies? Does capitalism control the state or do national and international institutions shape markets and economies?

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will be able to demonstrate:

(1) an advanced understanding of the relationship between capitalism, markets, labour, and society;

(2) the ability to analyse and generalise how market forces, states, and individual agency have interacted in diverse geographical and temporal settings;

(3) the ability to select pertinent evidence/data in order to illustrate/demonstrate more general issues and arguments drawing on the wide range of methodological approaches discussed in the unit;

(4) the ability to identify a particular academic interpretation, evaluate it critically, and form an individual viewpoint.

Teaching details

One 2 hour seminar per week.

Assessment Details

2-hour exam (100%) [ILOs 1-5]

Reading and References

Appleby, Joyce, The Relentless Revolution: A History of Capitalism (New York: Norton, 2010)

Beckert, Sven, Empire of Cotton: A Global History (New York: Knopf, 2014)

Kocka, Jürgen, Capitalism: A Short History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016)

Pomeranz, Kenneth, The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000), The Princeton Economic History of the Western World

Thompson, E. P., The Making of the English Working Class (London: Penguin, 1980)