20th Century Finance

imagesThis course examines the changes that took place in North American financial systems in the 20th Century. The century began with a push towards regulation of the markets and ended with the opposite. Why? To what extent do these changes reflect changes in the ideological and political landscape? What has changed for corporations? What has changed for individuals? Students will be expected to produce a lengthy paper exploring, in detail, one aspect of 20th Century financial systems. To do so, students will master academic standards for citations, the use of research databases, and the practice of revision which is so essential for the production of strong essays. I am offering two versions of this course this semester, the first is an Advanced History and the second is an Integrative Seminar.

Students will write papers on one of the following topics:

  • Technological Changes and their economic impact (Solar Power, Computers, Robots)
  • State-Corporate alliances  (e.g. United Fruit Company, Ford, Google)
  • Key figures (e.g. George Soros, Elon Musk, Ali Al-Naimi)
  • Trade-Blocks (Mercosur, the Eurozone, NAFTA) and their relation to a specific commodity
  • the IMF, the World Bank, etc
  • Different economic models–from Marcus Mauss’ Gift Economy to the currently developing Sharing Economy (write about tool libraries, Zipcar, Sharedearth.com and the move away from ownership).

This course will build on student’s knowledge of the 20th Century and will prepare them for producing lengthy academic papers that make use of both primary and secondary sources. By the end of the semester, students will be familiar with terms including: The free market/ capitalism, Social Democracy, The Gold Standard, Globalism, the IMF, the World Bank, Import Substitution Industrialization (ISI), inflation, protectionism, OPEC (and the concept of cartels or price-fixing more generally), The Federal Reserve, Foreign Investment and the concept of  the commodity. Some commodities we’ll try to cover in the course of the semester will include fast fashion, coffee, oil, and possibly even water. In the words of Harvard Professor of International Peace,  Jeffry Frieden, “Globalism is still a choice, not a fact. It is a choice made my governments that consciously decide to reduce barriers to trade and investment, adopt new policies towards international money and finance, and chart fresh economic courses. Decisions made by each government are interconnected; international finance, international trade, and international monetary relations depend on the joint actions of national governments around the world. National policies and relations among national governments are the sources of globalization and determine its staying power” (xvii).


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