Teaching War and Economics

When I joined the Department of History at UCR in the fall of 1984 I had never taken a "history course" – much less taught one!  After twenty years of teaching economic theory and economic history in economics departments, I had to completely “retool” my repertoire of courses.   Two decades of teaching the history classes listed below have not obliterated my interest in economics; in fact my explorations in economic history as a historian have greatly increased my conviction that the "economic problem" has been a central challenge to societies from earliest times to the present.   The classes described below constitute the core of my teaching load over the past 25 years.

Materials for the Modern World 
In the fall of 2010 my intellectual adventures in War and Economics prompted me to teach History 207, a graduate level course titled "Materials for the Modern World." This was, in a sense, simply an advanced version of the core of ideas about change in the Twentieth Century that I had developed while teaching History 20. The course focused on way in which the events that transpired between 1914 to 1955 -- a four decade period that witnessed two "world" wars and the greatest economic collapse in modern times -- fundamentally altered the world we live in today.

See the Syllabus for History 207
Introduction to Economic History
History 210 was the only part of my teaching load that I carried over from my days in the Economics Department. My teaching philosophy has always been a sort of "learning by doing". Taking a few topics that are of considerable interest to historians, this course looks at the literature to see cliometricians approach those topics and how their methodology and conclusions have affected the way in which both economists and historians interpret the historical record.

See the syllabus for History 210

The Twentieth Century World

I first taught History 20 in the Spring of 1994. What began as a one quarter experiment with a colleague teaching world history to freshmen and sophomores evolved over the next 17 years into one of the most interesting academic experiences of my career. There are as many ways to teach world history as their teachers who teach it. My approach has been to emphasize what I loosely call "war, sex, and economics". The importance of war and economics are self evident; "sex" is a term I use to identify the dramatic change in the status of women in the 20th century. What makes all this particularly interesting to me is that I have lived and experienced much if it in my own adult lifetime.

See the syllabus for History 20

The American Civil War

History 114 was my first assignment in the UCR History Department. My efforts to explain the causes and consequences of the American Civil War to students in this class caused me to gradually shift my research agenda towards the study of war and economics. I still have not answered all of the questions I had about the Civil War in 1984, but on one point I remain firmly convinced: Slavery may not have been the only issue that contributed to the outbreak of war in 1865, but it was way ahead of whatever was in second place.

See the syllabus for History 114

The First World War
My efforts to explain the American Civil War pale in comparison with the challenge in History 145 to explain how a conflict that began in the summer of 1914 as just another episode in a string of Balkan Crises over the previous four years became a conflagration that engulfed all of the major powers of Europe. My preparations for teaching this course formed the genesis of a research project which I call "Gambling on War" that pushed the issues raised by the outbreak of war in 1914 forward to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

See the Syllabus for History 145

Methods and Themes in Economic History

In Mid February the Department Chair of Economics called to ask if I would be willing to teach a graduate economic history course.  I had not taught a course in the Economics Department since 1994.  After  moment of thought I said "Yes, I'd love to!"  The result will be a combination of two courses I taught in the History Department (207 and 210); revised for an audience of economists.  The topics covered will include Slavery and the Civil War, the Industrial Revolution, the "Great Divergence", and of course, War and Economics in the 20th Century.
        See the Tentative Syllabus for Economics 213
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