Watch An Economic History of the World Since 1400

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Economics created our world. As the process through which societies provide for their citizens, it has driven everything from trade and politics to warfare and diplomacy. There's not a single aspect of history that has not been influenced by economics. Discover a riveting, centuries-long story of power, glory, and ideology that reveals how economic ideas emerged, evolved, and thrived or died.

An Economic History of the World Since 1400 is a series that is currently running and has 1 seasons (48 episodes). The series first aired on August 29, 2016.

An Economic History of the World Since 1400 is available for streaming on the The Great Courses Signature Collection website, both individual episodes and full seasons. You can also watch An Economic History of the World Since 1400 on demand at Amazon Prime, Amazon, Kanopy, The Roku Channel online.

The Great Courses Signature Collection
1 Season, 48 Episodes
August 29, 2016
Cast: Donald J. Harreld
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An Economic History of the World Since 1400 Full Episode Guide

  • Discover how the Asian financial crisis of 1997, the Great Recession of 2008, and the Greek debt crisis of 2009 each, in their own way, highlight the interconnected nature of today's new global economy. As you'll learn in this final lecture, the two economic changes we now face include a new phase of globalization and the reorientation of capitalism toward debt-driven growth.

  • Take a trip to the new frontiers of the world economy. You'll learn how India, by promoting its wealth of human capital, and China, by promoting foreign investment, have become two of the world's great economic powers. You'll also consider the influence played by political figures, including Gandhi, Mao Zedong, and Deng Xiaoping.

  • Why have some parts of the world been left behind in terms of economic development? Should we read the economic histories of Nigeria and Bangladesh as success stories or cautionary tales? What are the different types of foreign aid that exist, and how can they best combat issues like hunger and lack of housing?

  • Ultimately, the communist system of the Soviet Union (despite the best efforts of leaders like Gorbachev and Yeltsin) was unable to offer a viable alternative to the market economy, and it collapsed in 1989 and 1990. Follow the story of the end of communist rule, from failed reforms and populist action to shortages of consumer goods and the absence of open political life.

  • Go back in time to examine the political economy of foreign trade (the relationships between markets and the state). Examine some of the various forms that international trade can take, including unilateralism and multilateralism, and study some of the modern world's most important, influential (and even controversial) trade organizations, including the Arab League and NAFTA.

  • First, probe the beginnings of the European Union in the uncertain days after World War II. Find out why supranational organizations would be attractive to potential member states, and witness the development of an early supranational organization: the European Coal and Steel Community. Lastly, follow the economic events that led to the formation of the European Union in 1993.

  • Thanks to a global shift in fuel consumption, oil has been a weapon in geopolitical disputes for quite some time. In this lecture, discover how the global economy got to this point and how the developing countries of the Middle East began to play a central role in world economic affairs in the last quarter of the 20th century.

  • Ground the ongoing fierce debate about social-welfare programs in economic history. Here, you'll explore the origins of state-sponsored social welfare, the important role played by British economist and social reformer William Beveridge, the genesis of the welfare state during the Great Depression, the welfare race.

  • It took just 10 years after World War II for Japan's economy (along with that of Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Singapore) to reemerge stronger than ever. Uncover the roots of this economic resurrection, including technology exchanges, expanded global trade, rising standards of living-and the humble transistor radio.

  • From Ghana to Algeria to Indonesia, many European colonies came under the influence of Marxist theories of self-determination. The result was a new generation of native leaders who either admired or reviled the Western capitalist movement. Go inside the post-World War II economic battle between communist and capitalist economic systems in the newly disputed colonial territories.

  • The Marshall Plan (also known as the European Economic Recovery Plan) was a major step toward returning the world to the free-trade policies of the pre-World War I period. Who was the man behind Europe's postwar economic miracle? How did these grand plans play out for nations that had been beaten down by the costs of war?

  • First, learn why Japanese domination of Manchuria did little to solve Japan's economic problems after the Great Depression. Then, take an intriguing comparative look at the economic motives of imperialist Japan and Nazi Germany-both of which adopted some Keynesian economic policies to get out of their respective economic depressions.

  • Learn how John Maynard Keynes, a founder of macroeconomics, shattered the predominant economic thinking of the 19th and early 20th centuries. What made governments the best source for moderating swings in economic performance? What did economic policymakers fail to consider in the years leading up to the Great Depression? How did tariffs and cartels work to eliminate much of free trade?

  • After World War I, the industrialized world turned its attention to a return to the gold standard. Go inside the stabilization of the international monetary system and examine the pros and cons of the gold standard. See why some industrialized countries failed to recover from the war, delve into the structural deflation" of the world economy, and consider the role played by U.S. isolationism."

  • Professor Harreld explains the socialist ideology of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, which became the widely accepted variety of socialism in the early 20th century. You'll learn Marx's stages of development; how Lenin steered Russia on the path of war communism"; and how Stalin rejected the economic path laid out for Russia in favor of something much worse."

  • World War I was a global catastrophe that had an important effect on the world economy. First, focus on how the war put an end to free-trade policies and allowed governments to take more direct control of economic affairs. Then, survey the post-war economic world: a period of decline filled with falling production, population loss, enormous debts, and a return to protectionism.

  • In the late 19th century, Europe and the United States established control over much of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Examine the international treaties that decided the fate of nations and civilizations, the Opium Wars, theories of social Darwinism, and how nationalistic competition among industrialized countries came to dominate how the West interacted with the non-industrialized world.

  • Welcome to the world of mass consumption, which brought humanity into the modern economy for good. After examining what, exactly, the middle class" is, you'll ponder the economic important of mail-order catalogs, the dawn of department stores in the United States and Europe, and the birth of modern advertising."

  • How "free" is the idea of free trade? Did all nations benefit from free trade? How were people convinced that free trade was the best option for the world economy? Learn why Great Britain was an early champion of free trade, and see how the economic crisis of 1870 led to a reversal of free-trade ideals."

  • Turn now to some of the factors that affected late 19th-century industrialization and, in some cases, led to uneven economic development among different countries. You'll learn how this unequal power in economic relationships contributed to a significant resentment toward capitalist systems in the West, with some countries feeling that industrialization had exacerbated economic disparity.

  • Professor Harreld introduces you to the origins of modern banking. First, explore the major banking revolutions that took place in Great Britain, Belgium, and Germany. Then, examine how insurance companies developed in tandem with banks; how banks fostered industrialization; and how central banks played an important role in creating a stable economic environment.

  • The Haymarket Affair in Chicago perfectly illustrates the social tensions industrialization generated-and which have yet to be solved. First, learn what we mean by class" and "class consciousness." Then, explore the unique goals of trade unions. Lastly, examine the growing politicization of labor, including the use of labor strikes and the philosophies of Marx and Engels."

  • By 1910, the population of Europe had tripled-and this expanding population provided manufacturers with a growing base of consumers to whom they could market goods. Professor Harreld uses 19th-century Paris as the perfect example of how a city handles (and mishandles) rapid urbanization and a huge influx of immigrants.

  • Railroads, steamships, telegraphs, telephones-each of these 19th-century innovations helped create the globalized, interconnected world that we currently inhabit in the 21st century. Follow the trajectory of the history of modern transportation and communication (with its emphasis on speed) as it relates to the story of economics.

  • From land reform to scientific farming techniques to new farm technology, explore the factors that transformed agricultural production in Europe and the United States. Topics include how America became the world's dominant agricultural power, the peasant rights that came from the French Revolution, and how farmers used new practices like crop-rotation systems.

  • Meet Cornelius Vanderbilt, the man who was a veritable centerpiece of the Industrial Revolution. You'll learn how this iconic industrialist amassed great wealth and influence, he formed his massive railroad empire, sparked the rise of the modern firm and management hierarchies, and came to epitomize the idea of the self-made individual.

  • What makes the Second Industrial Revolution so different from its predecessor? Learn why the United States (thanks to close ties with Great Britain) was an early participant in this second phase, which saw the dawn of the American system of interchangeable parts and a stronger bond between science and industry.

  • Coal wasn't the only fuel in use during the Industrial Revolution. First, Professor Harreld introduces you to other power sources that were in use at the time (including peat and animal power). Then, he takes you inside the dramatic evolution of the steam engine-a new power source that would have an irrevocable impact on the progression of the world economy.

  • During the Industrial Revolution, Western Europe learned to make iron products better, faster, and cheaper than ever before. Travel back to the age of iron and steel in this lecture that covers everything from new smelting processes and coke fuel to Henry Cort's inventions and the construction of early iron-frame buildings.

  • Discover what Great Britain's burgeoning textile trade in the 18th century reveals about why this nation was the heart of the Industrial Revolution. Consider how the introduction of a popular new product generated significant market demand, how inventors solved problems, and why the steam engine is rightly considered the decisive factor that facilitated large-scale industrial production.

  • Using Great Britain as a microcosm for Western Europe, examine several key changes in the relationship between agriculture and production that laid the groundwork for the Industrial Revolution. These changes include the increased centralization of government and the increased concentration of labor in the cities.

  • Explore the two centuries from 1600 to 1800 known as the industrious revolution." First, examine the early rise of the first factories (which guilds and states initially opposed). Then, study the slow change of the household economy, consumption patterns, and consumer behavior (including the introduction of cotton cloth)."

  • How did the printing press shape the modern economy of the Western world? The answer, as you'll learn, is inextricably linked with scientific and technological progress, including the rapid circulation of new ideas, the rise of a lay intelligentsia, and the establishment of new ways of organizing knowledge.

  • The English East India Company. The Dutch East India Company. Go inside these and other joint-stock companies, in which a group of merchants monopolized trade with certain parts of the world. In the process, you'll discover how these companies were granted sweeping powers, including the right to make war when they felt it necessary.

  • According to Adam Smith, if labor creates value, then the amount of wealth in the world could increase by the collective efforts of a nation. Welcome to the dawn of mercantilism, which, as you'll learn here, radically redefined how rulers used economic policy-specifically to further the process of state building.

  • At the heart of many European colonies were plantations, an economic system that relies on one mass-produced cash crop and a large, inexpensive labor force. How did Europeans solve labor supply problems in the colonies they established around the world? When (and where) did race-based slavery begin? Why did it last for so long?

  • Go inside the creation of large, state-sponsored joint-stock companies in the 17th century-including the Bourse in Antwerp and the Exchanges in London and Amsterdam-and discover how negotiated public spaces became essential commercial institutions. Also, consider the importance of merchant manuals, which collated commercial rules and best practices.

  • By 1500, the Iberian kingdoms of Portugal and Spain opened up immense possibilities for the backwater European economy to take the lead on the world stage. As you follow the story of how they did it, you'll encounter the landmark Treaty of Tordesillas; the development of Crown Trade Routes; Spanish hidalgos and conquistadors; and the link between slaves, gold, and spices.

  • What did the age of exploration mean to the European economy? Find out in this lecture that covers the voyages of explorers like Columbus and Magellan, the reasons why Asians didn't succeed at discovering a sea route to the West, the new European commercial systems created in the Americas, and much more.

  • After the Black Death, urban revolts placed a strong emphasis on the rights of European peasants. This also led to the creation of guilds and monopolies that reflected the self-interests of those in control of urban power structures. Find out how these systems helped carry the European economy through subsequent centuries.

  • Learn how Europe's manorial societies helped develop the structures and institutions that would lead to the medieval commercial revolution. You'll find out what everyday life was like on a manor, how serfs were exploited by elites, the importance of medieval trade fairs, how wool-cloth production redefined northwestern Europe, and more.

  • Examine the state of the global economy circa 1400, when Europe was surprisingly at the bottom of the economic success ladder. Along the way, you'll examine the broad economic outlines of China, India, and the Islamic world and discover how Europe laid the groundwork for the new capitalist world system that exists today.

  • How is economic history different from a history of economics? What are the primary concerns of today's economic historians? What are some watershed economic moments of the last 500 years? Why does modern economic history "begin" around 1400? Find out in this introductory lecture to the remarkable journey ahead.