History of Economic Thought

Course content

The course gives students the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the development of economic theory from Adam Smith to the 1970s. Obviously, only the major writers and the most controversial issues will be considered. Notice! This course is not an introduction to economics but a reflection upon the development of economic ideas. All participants must have a solid background in economic theory.

The basic philosophy of this courses stems from the selected textbook – that economics is an emerging science, where evolution happens continuously. We see how the major concepts have been suggested, constructed, and further developed.

The textbook will be the frame of the course. It will be read by participating students and discussed at the lectures. The participating students will be writing a midterm paper; we will also have a discussion of the recent Thomas Piketty challenge related to capital and labor – a central theme in the history of economic thought.

The papers will be based on independent research of relevant literature (the expositions can be focusing on writers – i.e. Wicksell – or themes – i.e. the evolution of the idea of external effects).


MSc programme in Economics – elective course

Bacheloruddannelsen i økonomi – valgfag fra 3. år

The Danish BSc programme in Economics - elective from the 3rd year

Learning outcome

After completing the course, the student should be able to:


  • Participating students should obtain an overview over economic thinking and will understand in broad terms how economic theory has evolved over time

  • The course should enable students to see the historical and theoretical preconditions for contemporary economic theory.

  • Students must be able to work not only with textbook material but also with examples of original texts.

  • Coming so far, participating students will have a deeper understanding of the power and coherence of economics and thereby realizing the said science’s limitations as well as strengths when working with real life issues.


  • Depending on a successful completion of the course, students should be able to understand the process that creates economic theory and to read, analyze and understand historical texts.

  • Participating students, therefor, will receive skills that complements their learning in other economics courses.


  • One may become a splendid economist without doing history of economic thought; however, the aim of the course is that participants should obtain a deeper, yet more critical approach to the implementation of economic.

  • Students will learn to work with issues in the history of economic thought based on knowledge of basic economic theory,

  • Students will learn to read and digest selected works in the history of economic thought and

  • By means of this backbone, students successfully completing this course will be able to work with economics in a humbler, more critical and therefore safer way!


Lectures, discussions, supervision and paper writing.

Agnar Sandmo: Economics Evolving: A History of Economic Thought, Princeton University Press, 2010. ISBN 978-0-691-14842-7

Thomas Piketty & Gabriel Zucman: Capital is back: Wealth-income Ratios in Rich Countries. 2014. The Quarterly Journal of Economics 2014 (pp. 1255 – 1310). ISSN 0033-5533

General knowledge about economic theory equivalent to Microeconomics II and Macroeconomics II in the Copenhagen BSc program is required. We assume that you have been doing economics for approx. two years! This is needed to participate in and understand the course's discussion of economic thinkers' ideas and texts. Participating students must be able and willing to write and speak in English.

2x2 hours of lectures every week from week 6 to 18 (except holidays).

The overall schema for the BA 3rd year can be seen at https:/​/​intranet.ku.dk/​polit_ba/​undervisning/​Lektionsplan-F18/​Sider/​default.aspx
or the Master at https:/​/​intranet.ku.dk/​ECONOMICS_MA/​COURSES/​COURSECATALOGUE-F18/​Pages/​default.aspx

Timetable and venue:
To see the time and location of lectures please press the link/links under "Se skema" (See schedule) at the right side of this page (E means Autumn, F means Spring).

You can find the similar information partly in English at
-Select Department: “2200-Økonomisk Institut” (and wait for respond)
-Select Module:: “2200-F18; [Name of course]”
-Select Report Type: “List – Weekdays”
-Select Period: “Forår/Spring – Week 5-30”
Press: “ View Timetable”

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment, 7 days
individual take-home exam. It is not allowed to collaborate on the assignment with anyone. The exam assignment must be answered in English.
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
The course can be selected for external assessment.
Criteria for exam assessment

Students are assessed on the extent to which they master the learning outcome for the course.

To receive the top grade, the student must with no or only a few minor weaknesses be able to demonstrate an excellent performance displaying a high level of command of all aspects of the relevant material and can make use of the knowledge, skills and competencies listed in the learning outcomes.

To obtain the grade of 12 in this course, one must possess a strong overview of the history of economic thought and a good command of original texts (their knowledge). Students will also be able to put the material covered convincingly to use in real life work and while doing other courses (their skills). The ability to work deeper and more critical is also weighted in (the competencies).

When these elements are mastered error-free and convincingly, the grade 12 is awarded. When the mastering of these components is considered just acceptable, the grade 02 is given.

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 42
  • Preparation
  • 129
  • Exam
  • 35
  • English
  • 206