BA Politics and Modern History / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Capitalism in Historical Perspective: 1700-1913

Unit code HIST10182
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by History
Available as a free choice unit? No


Historically, capitalism developed in a variety of ways and took various forms. The course surveys these patterns in a comparative European context between c1700 and c1913, surveying key debates including:
  1. The first modern economy (Holland) was not the first to industrialize and why the first industrial nation (Britain) was not the first modern economy.
  2. The early development of capitalism was accompanied by increased state involvement rather than less intervention.
  3. Capitalism and industrialization was accompanied by increased inequalities, such as the place of women in society, the emergence of a working or industrial class and shifting power from the rural to urban locations.
  4. European capitalism should be understood within the context of imperialism, rather than globalization

Using various disciplinary approaches, the course uncovers the complex narrative of the historical origins and development of modern capitalism. Students will study how capitalism is the result of a number of parallel transformations: industrial revolution, changing economic thought, shifts in demographics, transformation of social life and relations, and rethinking of political and moral ideas. They will confront themes including contemporary criticisms of capitalism, gender and social inequalities, speculation, fraud, and financial crime, commercial networks and finance, protests, competition and cooperation, trust and reputation within markets, and many more. 


HIST10182 is restricted to History programmes, History joint-honours programmes, and Economics and Social Studies (please check your programme regulations for further details).

This module is only available to students on History-owned programmes; History joint honours programmes owned by other subject areas; and BA Econ programmes. Available to students on an Erasmus programme.


This course will

  • introduce students to a broad range of relevant themes and historiographical debates associated with the economic and social history of capitalist development in industrializing countries
  • engage students with critical concepts relating to the study of economic history and social history
  • encourage students to adopt a critical perspective to their own understanding of capitalism and the rise of the modern economy.
  • facilitate independent study by developing key skills in terms of locating, analyzing and evaluating both primary and secondary source material related to important themes introduced in the course.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will be able to:


Indicative Topics:

  • Patterns of industrialization in Britain and Europe.
  • The transformations from mercantilist to capitalist policies in industrialising nations
  • Growing influence of merchant networks, corporations and multinational firms (industrial, financial and managerial capitalism)
  • Contemporary criticisms of capitalism
  • Extent of moral economy and how it operated
  • Empire, trade and export markets
  • Financial frauds, scandals and crises
  • ‘Forging ahead, catching-up and falling behind’: States, economic management and international competition.
  • The politics of capitalism and industrialisation

Teaching and learning methods

The course will be taught by a combination of weekly lectures (2 hours per week) and seminars (1 hour per week)

In seminars, students will work predominantly in smaller groups, debating, examining source material, discussing, analyzing and making presentations. Students will also get an opportunity to reflect upon their own practice, become aware of how they develop their understanding of concepts, and generate ideas to refine their study methods.

The course will be supported by Blackboard. This will be used to provide seminar readings, and where possible extracts from primary sources, and other relevant course materials. All coursework would be submitted and feedback returned via Blackboard.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Possess an awareness of the ways in which historians have examined and understood the economic and social history of Britain and Europe over the period 1700 to 1913
  • Articulate key themes related to the emergence of capitalist institutions in modern Britain and Europe.
  • Explore the extent of historical changes associated with the ‘emergence’ of capitalistic and modern industrial societies.
  • Possess familiarity with key historiographical texts related to histories of specific nations in the context of modern capitalism.

Intellectual skills

  • Confront how ideas of social justice and inequality shaped past societies.
  • Articulate the relationship between people and institutions in their social and economic contexts.
  • Develop awareness of how historians use primary sources in historical research to examine these relationships.
  • Possess awareness of how economic and social history methods can be applied to specific historical periods and issues.

Practical skills

  • Locate, retrieve, assimilate and interpret relevant information and key concepts from primary and secondary sources.
  • Develop and present informed historical argumentation in written and oral form.
  • Extend and apply oral and group skills by participating in and leading seminars.


Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Work independently through individual research.
  • Writing well-structured pieces of assessed work.
  • Developing written and oral fluency that are crucial for both academic work and future careers.
  • Develop skills in engaging with unfamiliar modes of knowledge and communication, accepting responsibility for meeting deadlines and co-operating with others, developing confidence in their own abilities.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
The written coursework will help students develop their abilities to undertake independent research using a wide variety of sources of information, and enable them to develop their analytical abilities and their writing skills.
Oral communication
The oral work, and the feedback on it, will enable students to improve their reading and speaking skills.
Written communication
The written coursework will help students develop their abilities to undertake independent research using a wide variety of sources of information, and enable them to develop their analytical abilities and their writing skills.
The intellectual and knowledge skills will prepare students for a range of careers requiring knowledge of historical changes to economic, social and political institutions, businesses and firms, markets and organisations, commodities and products, etc. Such careers could include law, business and management, advertising and communications, politics and administration, charities and voluntary organisations, private sector enterprises, self-employment and entrepreneurship, etc.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 40%
Written assignment (inc essay) 60%

Feedback methods

  • Oral feedback in seminar discussions
  • Written feedback on all coursework and assessments
  • Additional one-to-one feedback (during consultation hour or by making an appointment)

Recommended reading

Broadberry, Stephen & O’Rourke, Kevin (eds.), The Cambridge Economic History of Modern Europe Vols 1 & 2 (Cambridge, 2010).

Daunton, Martin, Progress and Poverty: An Economic and Social History of Britain, 1700 – 1850 (Oxford, 2010)

Daunton, Martin, Wealth and Welfare: An Economic and Social History of Britain, 1851 – 1951 (Oxford, 2007)

Floud, Roderick & Johnson, Paul (eds.), The Cambridge Economic History of Modern Britain – Vols.  1 & 2 (Cambridge, 2004).

Millward, Robert, The State and Business in the Major Powers: An Economic History, 1815 – 1939 (Abingdon, 2013)

Neal, Larry and Williamson, Jeffrey (eds.), The Cambridge History of Capitalism: Vols. 1 & 2 (Cambridge, 2014).

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 1.5
Lectures 11
Seminars 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 165.5

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Aashish Velkar Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Assessment Methods

Exam - summative, 1.5hrs, 40%

Essay - summative, 1500 words, 35%

Source Analysis - summative, 750 words, 25%

Short Introduction, formative


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