Advanced Paper Synopsis

Macro-economic Behaviour of the British Economy since 1870

(Mr N H Dimsdale)

Course Objectives

The course is designed to provide an introduction to the main macroeconomic trends and issues in the British economy since 1870 for students who have not studied the subject before. It also provides a basis for going more deeply into selected topics for those who have taken papers on recent British economic history in their undergraduate degree. The course is therefore flexible and provides for the needs of students from a wide variety of backgrounds. The topics covered include longer-term issues, such factors determining economic growth in the twentieth century, in addition to more period specific topics, such as the return to the gold standard in the 1920s. The main issues, which are covered include: the causes of the decline in the rate of growth of the British economy before1914, the impact of capital exports and the working of the international gold standard; inter-war unemployment, the return to gold and the recovery of the 1930s; explanations of post-war growth with international comparisons, inflation and demand management, the end of the golden age in the 1970s.


This course will examine growth and cycles in the British economy and will include a discussion of debates over economic policy. The topics to be covered will include capital accumulation, the growth of the labour force and technical progress during each of the three main periods: pre-1914, the inter-war years, and post Second World War. Trends in the price level and money supply will be discussed and exchange rate regimes, including the gold standard, flexible exchange rates and the Bretton Woods system of fixed exchange rates. The behaviour of the labour market and real wages will be covered, together with the operation of fiscal policy and the theoretical controversies associated with them.


Teaching is in small tutorial groups or classes. Students write 8 essays for meetings, which are normally held fortnightly in Hilary and Trinity Terms. The questions set in the examination are directly related to the material which has been discussed in tutorial groups. Most students have a good grasp of basic macroeconomics and they are encouraged to make full use of this on the course. Tutorial groups are taught by Mr N H Dimsdale, Queen's College, who is Convenor for the course.
The paper is taken regularly by 2–3 students each year studying for the MPhil or MSc in Social and Economic History. It is offered to students taking the MPhil in Economics but no one has selected this option to date.

General Reading

Full bibliography