The World Economy in Historical Perspective

The details
Colchester Campus
Full Year
Undergraduate: Level 5
Thursday 03 October 2024
Friday 27 June 2025
20 February 2024


Requisites for this module
EC100 or EC111 or IA151 or IA153



Key module for


Module description

This module studies the process of economic change from early European overseas trading ventures to the upheavals of the early 21st century. It begins with an overview of global economies before the onset of modern industrialization, focusing on Europe together with China, India and the Ottoman Empire in Asia.

The module goes on to examine how trade, finance and industry developed in Europe culminating in the Industrial Revolution. The second part of the module then studies the spread of industrialization both within and beyond Europe, focusing especially on the role of technological progress and international economic relations (trade, finance and migration). Following an examination of the upheavals of two world wars and the Great Depression in the first half of the 20th century, this module continues with an overview of the global economy paying particular attention to trade, monetary regimes and governments' policy objectives to the present time.

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To understand why the modern world economy takes the form that it does.

  • To explore the forces that have driven economic change since the early 16th century, especially technological change in the context of expanding intercontinental commerce.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students will be expected to be able to:

  1. Have an awareness of the historical roots of the modern world economy.

  2. Show how the forces of technological change, international commerce and finance have shaped developments in industrialization and how industrialized economies responded to the upheavals of wars and depression and the challenges of globalization from the late 20th century.

Skills for your Professional Life (Transferable Skills)

By the end of this module, students will also be expected to develop useful skills in the form of:

  • Clear, concise and well-organised professional written work.

  • Personal time management, target-setting to achieve a timely completion of essays and other reading assignments.

  • Reflection on, and response to feedback provided for essays.

Module information

Complimentary learning or prior knowledge

While the topics covered are the same for both EC120-4-FY and EC120-5-FY, the main difference between the two levels is that level 4 students need have no background in economics, while a pre-requisite for level 5 is that students will have completed (at least) an introductory module in the principles of economics (EC111 at Essex or its equivalent). This means that level 5 students are expected to apply economic reasoning more explicitly (as needed) in their presentation of arguments, analyses and the assessment of interpretation historical events. In this context this module can be understood as a module in applied economics – with the applications that extend back further in time than are normally studied in other economics modules. Level 4 students cover identical topics but may approach them in a more broadly discursive way relying less explicitly on economic analysis. (This is how the minimal obligatory ‘learning outcomes’ differ in a nuanced way between the two levels.) Level 4 students with a background in economics are, nevertheless, encouraged to make use of their knowledge in this module – the general principle being that students should make use of all the appropriate tools to which they have access.

Given that the coverage of topics is exactly the same, the teaching and readings are the same for both groups: what differs is the manner in which students approach and respond to these resources. In this context for instance, students have some freedom: at level 5 are expected to display the skills acquired from at least one year’s study of economics, while level 4 students are not required to do so (though should if they are able). EC120 students, at least, have shown themselves to be capable without difficulty of grasping what is expected of them.

In order to enable students at each level to demonstrate their knowledge to their best advantage, the assessments (assignment and examination questions) differ, not in the subject matter covered, but instead in the ways in which logical reasoning and economic analysis are applied to answer the questions. In recognising moreover that students are diverse in their range of abilities (at any level), the module's assessments provide opportunities for all students to express themselves to their best advantage, such that the higher reaches of level 4 may overlap with or surpass those of some students at level 5. The assessment of these differences requires the exercise of academic judgment, of which the examiners are aware and take into account.

Learning and teaching methods

The module is delivered via:

  • Two lecture hours per week in the Autumn term and in the Spring term.
  • Classes in designated weeks for specific purposes, mainly to support Assignment preparation.
  • Revision sessions in the Summer term, designed to aid students in preparing for the final examination.

Learning methods:

  • Students learn from absorbing lecture materials, and by contributing to discussions held during lectures and classes.
  • Students learn from guided reading associated with each module topic.
  • Students learn by their researches and reading in preparing Assignment essays.


The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course.
The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students.
Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Assignment 1    33.3% 
Coursework   Assignment 2    33.3% 
Coursework   Assignment 3    33.40% 
Exam  Main exam: In-Person, Open Book, 180 minutes during Summer (Main Period) 
Exam  Reassessment Main exam: In-Person, Open Book, 180 minutes during September (Reassessment Period) 

Additional coursework information

The two best marks of the assignments are taken to calculate the coursework aggregate of the module.

The student will be provided with a feedback sheet that comments on the strengths of the assignment and details the scope for improvements that could be made, as well as providing the mark. Students are then invited to come to academic support hours, when it is possible to explore their individual submission in the light of the issues identified on the feedback sheet.

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
50% 50%


Coursework Exam
50% 50%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Mr Roy Bailey, email:
Prof William Kennedy, email:
Lectures and classes: Roy Bailey (Autumn and Spring) & Prof William Kennedy (Spring)
For further information send an email message to



External examiner

Mr Teng Ge
Available via Moodle
Of 7 hours, 6 (85.7%) hours available to students:
1 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s), module, or event type.


Further information

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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