ECON4951 – Economic History and Inequality

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

This course covers central topics in the global economic history since 1500. The topics are chosen from the comparative history of the development of nations. The course emphasizes the dynamic process of historical change. The method is in part applied economics with a critical attitude towards timeless explanations of the wealth of nations.

The list of questions includes: Why and how has the world become increasingly unequal? Why did some countries industrialize before others? What was the role of income distribution, endowments and political institutions for economic progress? What role did high wages play to induce change? Why was it Europeans who conquered the world? How was the Americas incorporated into the global economy? Why has Africa remained the poorest region in the world?

This course addresses these and other similar questions using simple tools and by contrasting them to contemporary and modern economic theories for understanding the role of economic incentives, inequality and institutions for economic and social development.

Learning outcome

Students who complete this course will be able to:

  • Identify the main factors and stages of global economic development after 1500.
  • To explain theories connecting economic growth, inequality and institutions.
  • To understand how economic principles can explain global patterns of industrialization and the integration of the global economy.
  • To discuss the relationships between economic growth, standards of living and inequality.


Students admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

Students not admitted to the Master’s programme in Economics or the Master’s programme in Economic Theory and Econometrics (Samfunnsøkonomisk analyse), can apply for admission to one of our study programmes, or apply for guest student status.


Formal prerequisite knowledge

You must fulfill one of these prerequisites:

Overlapping courses

10 credits overlap with ECON2951 – Economic History and Inequality

If you have passed the exam in ECON2951, you cannot take the course ECON4951 as part of your Master degree.


Lectures and seminars.

The course is structured around lectures and seminar discussions. The lectures provide a broad overview over the topics both for students who take the course for the bachelor degree and for students who take the course for the master degree. There will be separate seminars for the two groups of students. The basic goal for both seminar series is to help students understand how one can bridge the gap between economics and economic history.

The master seminars for ECON4951 offer a possibility to specialize in a few listed topics or periods. Students are expected to explore the historical processes more in depth and, when feasible, to use statistical and economic methods more than the lectures. Each seminar centers on a critical discussion of material prepared by students.  Parts of the seminars discuss how to write an essay and how to acquire further skills in economic history.


The examination consists of a take home exam over five days, and an oral exam. The take home exam may be built on the student’s specialization. Both the written assignment and the oral exam will together determine your grade in ECON4951. You will receive your grade after the oral exam.

Home exam

You will have five days to write and submit your exam paper.

The take home exam will not be the same as in ECON2951. 

Oral exam

The oral exam will be held before Christmas (in week 49 or 50). Each candidate will have 15 minutes with the committee.

The purpose of the examination is threefold:

  • to confirm that students indeed wrote the home exam themselves
  • to investigate students' understanding of the topic

Thus, the questions that will be posed during the oral examination will be linked to the home exam paper and will inquire about the relevant knowledge, skills and competencies of the student.

Immediately after the oral examination, the committee will set the final grade. Students are then notified and given a short explanation. The grade will be based on the home exam paper, and will also take account of the performance at the oral examination.

Previous exams

Exam papers with comments from examiner

Submit assignments in Inspera

You submit your assignment in the digital examination system Inspera. Read about how to submit your assignment.

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Examination support material

All examination support material is allowed.

Language of examination

You may write your examination paper in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish or English.

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

Resit an examination

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.

Facts about this course






Every autumn


Every autumn

Teaching language