Lectures: MW 10:10am to 11:25am
Location: CAS 229
Professor James Feigenbaum
Department of Economics
270 Bay State Road, Room 307
The course will examine a selection of the major themes in the economic development of the United States (with briefer coverage of the rest of the world for certain topics). There is no textbook; instead, we will read research papers written by economists and other scholars relevant to each topic. We begin with an overview of some of the empirical methods commonly used in modern economics and their application in economic history, as well as a discussion of new sources of historical data, the lifeblood of economic history. Then, we will study themes including institutions and the long run development of the US; slavery and emancipation; immigration and migration; the Great Depression, the New Deal, and the economics of WWII; human capital (including education, health, and crime); technology adoption; and inequality and intergenerational mobility (including race and gender gaps).
This course is intended for economics majors. It is helpful if students have a good understanding of microeconomics at the intermediate level and some exposure to economic statistics. However, all necessary economic tools (theories, econometrics, etc) will be covered in lecture.
My office hours are Monday from 2pm to 3:30pm and Wednesday from 11:30am to 1pm. Please make an appointment at https://calendly.com/feigenbaum. If you cannot make my office hours, please send me an email and we will figure out a time to talk.
Our TF is Chelsea Carter, a PhD candidate in the Economics department. She will be holding office hours on Tuesday from 9am to 11am or by appointment. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is no textbook for this course. All readings will be available on the course website.
There are two in-class midterms and a final exam. The final exam is cumulative but will be weighted towards the material after the second midterm.
The first midterm will be on February 20 (this is a Tuesday but we meet on this Tuesday because the previous Monday is a university holiday). The second midterm will be on March 28. The final will be as scheduled by the registrar, May 7 from 9am to 11am. Put these dates in your calendar ASAP, as there will be no make-up exams without a note from a dean.
In addition, we will have four short research question assignments. Writing a complete original research paper during a semester-long course is very hard (and in economic history, with a premium on collecting new old data, it is nearly impossible). Instead, I want to help you to start thinking about how to come up with possible questions you could ask (and answer) in a full project. Think of this as the very first step you would take before starting original research. Getting familiar with this step will deepen your understanding of the social science research process. These assignments will be maximum one page each (seriously, I will stop reading after one page). See below for more detail on the question assignments.
Your course grade weights the two midterms at 20 percent each, the final at 30 percent, 20 percent for the short assignments (5 percent each), and 10 percent for class participation. I will not review any grades before at least 24 hours have passed. Remember that grades can be adjusted down just as easily as they can be adjusted up.
I will hand out detailed prompts and instructions for the questions closer to when they are assigned, but this should give you an idea of what you’ll be working on. Assignments will be graded with letter grades. Late assignments may be penalized one-third of a grade each day (i.e., an A- becomes a B+ on the first day past the due date).
Maps as Data
The Effect of an Invention
Genealogy for Economic History
New Outcome, Same Strategy
While I will allow laptops during lecture, you should be aware that current research shows that students retain information far more effectively when they take notes by hand. Taking notes about graphs and figures and tables on a computer might also be quite difficult. If you choose to use your laptop during class, please try not to live-tweet or live-stream or live-anything, at least not without the class hashtag (hashtag TBD). It should go without saying that cellphone use is absolutely forbidden during lecture. Please silence and put away your phone before class begins. It is really that easy. I promise not to play on my phone during lecture either.
I have a zero-tolerance policy for academic dishonesty. If you submit work that is fully or partially plagiarized—defined as appropriating someone else’s words or ideas without proper attribution—you will receive a failing grade. Please check with me if you are unsure of how to cite material in your written work. You can consult BU’s academic integrity policy here: https://www.bu.edu/academics/policies/academic-conduct-code/
As you can see from the schedule below, each class has three or four papers listed. I will lecture on all papers (maybe more!), but you should absolutely read the FIRST paper in each class before lecture (they will be the most important for the exams, and you will understand the lectures much better if you have read the paper first). The other papers will be covered in lecture, and an understanding of the research questions and the results (that is, what we cover in class) will suffice for exams.
February 20 (this is a Tuesday)
May 7 from 9am to 11am