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Modern times: international economic history c.1901-1990 HI2011-05

The focus of this course will be the history of the international economy from the beginning of the twentieth century to the collapse of the Soviet Empire.

Britain’s declining economic importance to the International Economy during this period will be reflected by the increasing emphasis on the strength of other economies (particularly the USA) and supranational institutions of financial management (such as the IMF).

Students will be introduced to this material by emphasising the historical dimension; but will aim to discuss the development of domestic and international economic policy through a series of case studies – surrounding the impact of individual international crises – and to discuss the then level of economic understanding, and political economy considerations, in this historical context


30 Credits

Topics covered

  • International Migration
  • International Investment
  • Free Trade and Protection
  • The International Gold Standard 1870–1929
  • Economic Consequences of International Industrialisation and WWI for Britain
  • The Treaty of Versailles
  • The Economic Effects of the First World War: Britain, 1919–1929
  • The West in the 1920s
  • The Origins and Nature of the Great Depression
  • The Basis of British Recovery in the 1930s
  • The British Economy and British Government Policy in the 1930s
  • The West in the 1930s: Recovery from the Depression in the Interwar Years
  • The Soviet Union in the 1920s and the 1930s
  • The Economics of World War II
  • Planning for the Future – Bretton Woods 1944 and Beyond
  • Recovery and Revival from 1945
  • The Rise of the Golden Age, 1950–67
  • The Fall of the Golden Age, 1967–73
  • OPEC, Stagflation and the End of Keynesianism: The 1970s
  • The Soviet Economy 1945–91: Stagnation and Fall.

Learning outcomes

Students who successfully complete this course will be able to:

  • Demonstrate that they understand the principles of trade theory, balance of payments and exchange rate analysis, and the workings of international monetary systems
  • Explain the reasons for the crises and the main changes in the international economy during the period in question
  • The changing role in the International Economy of major nations, over the period of the course, particularly that of Britain and the United States


  • Exam (80%)
  • Essay (10%)
  • Reflective journal and forum posts (10%)

Essential reading

  • Frieden, J. A. Global Capitalism: Its Fall and Rise in the Twentieth Century, W. W. Norton & Co. 2007
  • Oliver, Michael J. and Derek H. Aldcroft (eds). Economic Disasters of the Twentieth Century. Edward Elgar: Cheltenham, 2007
  • Hobsbawm, E. Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914-91. Abacus: London, 1994