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2012/2013  BA-BLM_BA36  Historical Origins of the American Economic and Political System (1600-1860)

English Title
Historical Origins of the American Economic and Political System (1600-1860)

Course information

Language English
Exam ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Elective
Level Bachelor
Duration One Semester
Course period Autumn
Changes may occur.
Thursday 11:40 to 14:15, week 36-41, 43-46.
Time Table Please see course schedule at e-Campus
Max. participants 40
Study board
Study Board for BA in International Business Communication
Course coordinator
  • Jan Gustafsson - Department of International Culture and Communication Studies
  • Jan Gustafsson - Department of International Culture and Communication Studies
Main Category of the Course
  • Globalization, International Business, markets and studies
  • International Political Economy
  • Economics, macro economics and managerial economics
Last updated on 03-05-2012
Learning objectives
The overall objective of the course is to provide students with a broad historical context within which further study of contemporary American society, politics and business can be placed.

Specifically the course aims to enable students to obtain:
• A general understanding of the origins of the American economic and political system.
• A recognition that economic and political developments have jointly shaped the course of American history.
• An ability to bring into play a deeper knowledge and a broader perspective when studying contemporary American economic and political problems.
Additionally, the course aims to enhance the academic capabilities of students by strengthening:
• Critical reading.
• The distinction between analytical and interpretive approaches to historical discourse.
• Creative, coherent, and concise writing.
• The appreciation of the value of cross-fertilization across academic disciplines (in this case history and economics).
US Economic History
US Economic History:
Type of test Home Assignment
Marking scale 7-step scale
Second examiner No second examiner
Exam period December/January
Aids Open Book, Written and Electronic Aid is permitted
Duration Please, see the detailed regulations below

Home assignment 8 standard pages. The problem definition has to be approved by the teacher before end of course.

Retake same as ordinary exam.

Course content
The course offers an introduction to the economic and political history of the United States, spanning the colonial era, the revolutionary era and independence, and the early national era onto to eve of the Civil War. In doing so, the course seeks a departure from the traditional compartmentalization between political history (in the broad sense of including social and cultural history) and economic history. Rather, course lectures and discussions will aim to combine the intellectual assets of economics (macro explanations, lots of numbers, theory of causation, and empirical verification) with those of historical inquiry (context, narrative, interpretation and nuance). Course background readings are intended to provide a broad overview of the economic and political events and developments that shaped the early American republic. Course lectures will focus on a number of selected topics, discussions of which will bring into play both economic and political history perspectives, and which in several cases will add insight to the study of contemporary American problems. Topics include (subject to adjustments):
  1. Misconceptions and myths about the colonial economy.
  2. Chattel slavery: moral and political vs. economic perspectives
  3. The other ‘bound’ labour systems: Native Americans; indentured white servitude; Asian labour; (illegal immigrants).
  4. The Revolution and the adoption of the Constitution: political or economic events?
  5. How land property rights, inherited from English common law, turned into general property rights, becoming the first institution of American capitalism and a constitutive element of “Liberty.” Also, the troubled modern life of property rights: (i) the economic gridlock of too much ownership; (ii) eminent domain, “public use,” and economic favouritism.
  6. A nation founded on credit? The economic and political rationale for a national debt.
  7. The competing national visions of Hamilton and Jefferson (manufacturing and banking vs. an “agrarian empire”).
  8. The economic and political origins of taxes, and the role of taxation in explaining the origins of anti-authoritanism, anti-statism and sectionalism.
Teaching methods
The course consists of 10 weekly double lessons.
Lectures and class discussions (student presentations a possibility).

Expected literature
Suggested background reading assignments:
  • Paul E. Johnson, The Early American Republic 1789-1829 (Oxford University Press, 2007), 194 pages [broad political, social and cultural history].
  • Robert Heilbroner and Aaron Singer, The Economic Transformation of America to 1865 (Harcourt Brace & Company, 1994), 148 pages [economic development and transformation].
  • Cathy Matson, “A House of Many Mansions—Some Thoughts on the Field of Economic History,” in The Economy of Early America—Historical Perspectives and New Directions (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006), 70 pages [the role of economic analysis in understanding early US history].
Readings on the selected topics will be posted at the start of the semester.
Last updated on 03-05-2012