HIS4171 – Diverging Paths: social and economic development in the West and the East since c. 1700

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Course content

A central but as yet unanswered question is why some parts of the world have become rich while others are poor. Today, a growing number of scholars address this question by looking to history. Answers are sought by adopting a global perspective, where the different development paths of countries and regions are analysed and compared.

We know that, in 1800, a gap had opened up between parts of Europe and Asia, and Europe was getting richer. But we know much less about how and why this had happened. North Western Europe experienced technological and economic progress, as part of the industrialization process which first began in the UK. What were the internal conditions that favoured Britain and Europe? And which external and global factors were decisive?

This course discusses similarities and differences between the experiences of some central regions or countries (in particular parts of China and Britain), with regard to a range of issues (such as living standard, agriculture, trade, technology, institutions and market systems). The aim is to increase our understanding of how regional, national and global conditions fostered economic growth in some, but not other parts of the world.

Learning outcome

Students must know the main trends in the development of Britain and China during the 17th and 18th centuries, and be able to discuss this in the context of global developments. Specifically, students must be able to account for institutional and industrial differences, and be familiar with the main aspects of the current debates in the field. Students should master critical reading, independent thought and academic writing, and be able to express his or her knowledge both orally and in writing.


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Recommended previous knowledge

A good ability to read and write English is required for this course.


This course is given in the form of seminars.


Students are assessed by a six-hour written examination.

Examination support material

No examination support material is allowed.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

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Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

Special examination arrangements

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The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

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Facts about this course






This course is currently not offered.

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