ECON 491 - The History of the American Economy
Section: 001
Term: FA 2019
Subject: Economics (ECON)
Department: LSA Economics
Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
With permission of instructor.
Enforced Prerequisites:
ECON 401 (completed with a minimum grade of C- or better); OR Graduate standing.
May not be repeated for credit.
Rackham Information:
Rackham credit requires additional work.
Primary Instructor:

Economic development and institutional change in the U.S. from colonial times to the present. Timing, pace, and sources of economic growth; structural change; economic activity; industrialization; government intervention; and income distribution. The history of the American economy is full of drama, controversy, amazing institutions and colorful characters. This course studies the questions of history using the theoretical and empirical tools of economics.

Among these questions are:

  • How did land abundance and labor scarcity affect the development of the American economy?
  • How did the American population grow? Immigration, births, deaths?
  • Why did the American colonists seek independence from England?
  • How important was the railroad to the growth of the American economy?
  • How did Americans conquer the continent “from sea to shining sea”?
  • Why did slavery persist so long in America? Why did it take a war to get rid of slavery?
  • How did the American economy thrive without a unified currency, a banking system or a Central Bank?
  • What caused the Great Depression? Could it happen again?
  • What was the impact of wars on the American economy?
  • Course Requirements:

    This course requires substantial writing. Students will submit a minimum of 6 short (2 page) papers in the form of answers to questions distributed in advance and write a major research paper. Grades are based on performance on these writing assignments and on two in-class essay exams.

    Intended Audience:

    Students who are interested in applying the tool of economic analysis to questions in American Economic History and who want a course with substantial writing.

    Class Format:

    Students are expected to attend all class meetings. Lecture is the predominant instructional method, but students are encouraged to raise questions and are required to participate in periodic structured discussions and group exercises.

    ECON 491 - The History of the American Economy
    Schedule Listing
    001 (LEC)
    MW 2:30PM - 4:00PM
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