Human beings in all times and places have faced similar economic problems: producing and consuming, buying and selling, working and employing. In some cases the solutions they arrived at were remarkably alike despite radically different contexts. From ancient times to the present, some producers have exploited bonded or semi-free labor to maximize their output. In other cases, however, solutions that were possible in some contexts were not possible in others. Officials in Ptolemaic Egypt and Song-dynasty China were able to solve the myriad property-rights and collective-action problems associated with building and maintaining local irrigation systems, whereas officials in France under the Old Regime often failed miserably.
Superimposed on these striking patterns is a long-run trend of unparalleled importance. Before the eighteenth century some areas of the world were richer and others poorer than most, but the differences occurred within a relatively narrow band. Since that time a small but growing number of countries has broken away from the pack and achieved stunning advances in productive capacity and in the standard of living of their populations. Why have only a few countries experienced what has variously been called the industrial revolution, the transition to modern economic growth, or more simply economic development? What is the relationship between economic development and political democratization? What has been the role of the state in class formation, trade and commerce, and natural resource extraction? How have the individual and collective experiences of labor shaped societies and polities? Has economic development changed society and culture—changed human behavior—in fundamental ways? These are big questions of vital importance to policy makers and all of us. Addressing them requires historical investigation of societies and economies in different times and places.
Faculty advisers: Jean-Christophe Agnew, Sergei Antonov, Rosie Bsheer, Valerie Hansen, Robert Harms, Matthew Jacobson, Jennifer Klein, Naomi Lamoreaux, Joseph Manning, Joanne Meyerowitz, Edward Rugemer, Stuart Schwartz
Specialist Track requirements: Students specializing in this region must complete at least five of the courses listed below. For additional requirements of the major, see Requirements of the Major.
Course numbers: History course numbers denote region of the world rather than degree of difficulty. 100-level courses are U.S. history; 200-level are European history; 300-level include courses from Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America; 400-level courses are global, covering many regions of the world.
Course numbers also convey information about the type of course being offered. Courses beginning with “0” (i.e. HIST 012) are freshman seminars; courses with a three-digit number (i.e. HIST 113) are lectures, open to all students; courses with a “J” suffix (i.e. HIST 136J) are departmental seminars.
Students may petition the Director of Undergraduate Studies to include other HIST courses within a pathway if their written work for the course is directly relevant to the pathway.