The European Economy in the Twentieth Century: The Paths to Prosperity

History 103B.002

Fall 2014
Day & Time: 
F 12-2P
During the twentieth century, Europe witnessed a dizzying variety of economic regimes, each promising to deliver prosperity. The First World War ushered radical communist and fascist solutions for achieving modern economic growth as the laissez faire capitalism based on international trade and the gold standard lost legitimacy. The Superpowers directed the reconstruction of their respective spheres after Second World War, giving rise to welfare states across Western and Northern Europe and transforming Eastern and Southern Europe into urbanized industrial societies. The 1970s slowdown delegitimized public policies promulgated during the Great Depression and economic planning in general. During the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher epitomized the return of market-based solutions, as had privatization schemes across Eastern Europe in the 1990s. Whatever the influence of neoliberal approaches, by the end of the century, the European Union appeared a success story of supra-national economic integration. The Great Recession raised questions about the Euro’s demise and the efficacy of austerity, and invites us to think historically about various proposed paths to prosperity voiced across Europe.
In this reading seminar, we will examine the main economic regimes across Europe, and try to understand their successive attempts to achieve or to maintain -- prosperity. In the relentless search for growth, how did different regimes see the proper role of the market and the state, the collectivity (family, class, etc.) and the individual, and how did they define and apportion the benefits and costs of economic activity? To trace continuity and change among the regimes, we will examine recent synthetic historical writing about the European economy as well as biographies, country-specific and thematic studies. Writing assignments include brief reviews of the weekly readings and a longer literature review or a preliminary prospectus for your thesis."

Course Books

Communism Unwrapped: Consumption in Cold War Eastern Europe by Paulina Bren (Editor), Mary Neuburger (Editor) Oxford University Press. ISBN: 978-0199827671 Required
The Battle of Bretton Woods: John Maynard Keynes, Harry Dexter White, and the Making of a New World Order by Benn Steil Council on Foreign Relations - Princeton UP. ISBN: 9780691162379 Required
Women at the Gates: Gender and Industry in Stalin's Russia by Wendy Z Goldman Cambridge University Press. ISBN: 9780521785532 Required
The European Economy since 1945: Coordinated Capitalism and Beyond by Barry Eichengreen Princeton University Press. ISBN: 9780691138480 Required
An Economic History of Twentieth-Century Europe: Economic Regimes from Laissez-Faire to Globalization by Iván Berend Cambridge University Press. ISBN: 9780521672689 Required
The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy by Adam Tooze Penguin. ISBN: 9780143113201 Required
Free Trade Nation: Commerce, Consumption, and Civil Society in Modern Britain by Frank Trentmann Oxford University Press. ISBN: 9780199567324 Required
Great Interwar Crisis and the Collapse of Globalization by Robert Boyce Palgrave. ISBN: 9780230302433 Required
test by test test. ISBN: 1234567891234 Optional