Capitalism and Inequality from the Industrial Revolution to the Present

History 100U

Fall 2017
Barrows 166
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Economic inequality has become one of the central political concerns of our time, but it has only recently attracted scholarly attention. Is inequality a natural and inevitable characteristic of human society, or can it be historicized to a specific origin in time and place? What are its determinants and how has it changed over time? Has the global spread of industrial capitalism increased or decreased inequality between individuals, between groups, and between countries?  Has changes in inequality historically been the product of market forces, or political forces, or both?  Most fundamentally, as the economic historian David Landes once wrote, "Why are some so rich and others so poor?" This course explores the history of global inequality since the British Industrial Revolution, and examines how it relates to the peculiar set of economic institutions that we call "capitalism." The spread of industrialization after 1750 and the accompanying transition to modern economic growth has unleashed wealth and prosperity that have changed the conditions of human life, but the unequal distribution of that wealth is increasingly its defining characteristic.  This course introduces students to the history of European industrialization, the rise and fall of nineteenth century European empires, problems of twentieth century economic development in the global South, the rise of welfare states, and the contemporary political implications of inequality.


If you are an economics student and plan to use this class towards your economics requirements, you will need to email and make a request to use this course as an elective. This course is approved as one time use as Economics elective for Fall 17 but you will need to email the email address above. This course is approved by the Political Science major for the History requirement.