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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : Economic and Social History

Undergraduate Course: Innovations and crises: the rise and tribulations of financial capitalism, c. 1600 to 1929 (ECSH10109)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits40 ECTS Credits20
SummaryThe development of the practices, institutions, and instruments of financial capitalism starting in the Early Modern period, the periodic crises that punctuated this development, and the accompanying debates that surrounded both.
Course description This special subject addresses the development of the practices, institutions, and instruments of financial capitalism, the periodic crises that punctuated this development, and the accompanying debates that surrounded both. It should be of equal interest to aspiring economic, social and intellectual historians, and is well suited for interdisciplinary study. It is envisaged both as a purely financial history course, but also as an analysis of contemporary discourse on matters of finance and the wider economy. The course gives strong emphasis to crisis episodes. Financial innovation and financial crisis have an inherently symbiotic relationship. The first can often create the conditions for the outbreak and propagation of financial distress. Crises in their own turn inform contemporary discourse, and often aid lead to the adoption of regulatory and financial responses, to the development of economic thought, and to the evolution of cultural tropes that enter the collective mind-set.

The main geographical focus will be on Britain and the United States, but the Netherlands, France, and Italy enter this story both as originators/imitators of Anglo-Saxon institutions and practices, and as geographical locations where the various crises under investigation either originated or later spread to from initial Anglo-Saxon outbreaks. Students will be introduced to a number of theoretical frameworks explaining capitalist innovation, government regulation of finance, and financial bubbles and crises, and to a variety of primary sources residing in physical archives in Edinburgh and in digital repositories.

Content note: The study of History inevitably involves the study of difficult topics that we encourage students to approach in a respectful, scholarly, and sensitive manner. Nevertheless, we remain conscious that some students may wish to prepare themselves for the discussion of difficult topics. In particular, the course organiser has outlined that the following topics may be discussed in this course, whether in class or through required or recommended primary and secondary sources: suicide. There is a discussion on the literary trope of financier suicide (particularly the stereotype of bankers jumping out of high windows) during financial crises. This is not a matter that is central to the course, but it is instructive. I always provide a trigger warning ahead of time. While this list indicates sensitive topics students are likely to encounter, it is not exhaustive because course organisers cannot entirely predict the directions discussions may take in tutorials or seminars, or through the wider reading that students may conduct for the course.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Students MUST NOT also be taking Innovations and crises: the rise and tribulations of financial capitalism, c. 1600 to the present (ECSH10099) OR Innovations and crises: the rise and tribulations of financial capitalism, c. 1600-1914 (ECSH10098)
Other requirements A pass in 40 credits of third level historical courses or equivalent.

Students should only be enrolled on this course with approval from the History Honours Programme Administrator.
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  0
Course Start Full Year
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 400 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 44, Summative Assessment Hours 3, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 8, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 345 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 40 %, Coursework 40 %, Practical Exam 20 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Coursework:
2000 word primary source analysis (15%) in Semester 1
5000 word long essay (25%) in Semester 2

Non-Written Skills:
Class participation (10%)
Oral presentation, linked to long essay (10%)

Written Exam:
3 hour exam (40%)
Feedback Students will receive written feedback on their oral presentations and essays. Sufficient time will be given between assignments so that feedback can be incorporated into correcting and improving future performance. Students will have the opportunity to discuss their feedback with the Course Organiser during their published office hours or by appointment.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Understand the principles of banking and finance in the period covered by the course.
  2. Use a number of conceptual frameworks to analyse the causes of financial crises, their mode of propagation, the principles behind crisis containment policies, and the structures put up to prevent their future reoccurrence.
  3. Locate, collect and evaluate primary sources used by financial historians, residing both in physical archives around Edinburgh and in digital repositories.
  4. Analyse these primary sources, in both written and oral presentations.
  5. Work independently with these primary sources to produce an original financial history essay on a subject of their own choosing.
Reading List
Cassis, Y. (2012) Capitals of Capital (Cambridge)

Chancellor, E. (1999), Devil Take The Hindmost: A History of Financial Speculation (Macmillan)

Davis, L. E., and Gallman, R. E. (2001) Evolving financial markets and international capital flows: Britain, the Americas, and Australia, 1865-1914 (Cambridge)

Kindleberger, C. and Aliber R. (2015) Manias, Panics, and Crashes: a history of financial crises (Palgrave)

Murphy, A (2009), The Origins of English Financial Markets: Investment and Speculation before the South Sea Bubble (Cambridge)

Murphy, A. (2023), Virtuous Bankers: A Day in the Life of the Eighteenth-Century Bank of England

Neal, L. (1990), The Rise of Financial Capitalism: International Capital Markets in the Age of Reason (Cambridge University Press, 1990)

Neal, L. (2015) A Concise History of International Finance (Cambridge)

Quinn S. and Roberds W. (2024), How a Ledger Became a Central Bank: A Monetary History of the Bank of Amsterdam (Cambridge)

Quinn W. and Turner J. (2020), Boom and bust: a global history of financial bubbles (Cambridge)

Shiller, R. (2005) Irrational Exuberance (Princeton)

Turner J. (2014) Banking in Crisis, (Cambridge)
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills The course will help students to develop the following core graduate attributes:
- Skills and abilities in research and enquiry;
- Skills and abilities in personal and intellectual autonomy;
- Skills and abilities in communication;
- Skills and abilities in personal effectiveness
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Paul Kosmetatos
Tel: (0131 6)50 3838
Course secretary
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