The History of Economic Thought (Online)


This course evaluates the development of economic thought through the eyes of Greek, Chinese, Indian and European traditions before exploring economic thought in the context of the 20th century. The course is historical in content and international in perspective allowing students to develop a critical understanding of the influence of evolving economic thought on contemporary global economics.

Listen to Dr Sangaralingam Ramesh talking about the course:

Economic thought has developed over time in a historical context. It can be argued that Economics has always been a philosophy rather than a Science. This is clearly evident from Greek, Chinese and Indian Economic thought. However, in the latter part of the 19th century Mathematics became the dominating force in Economics. This pivotal transformation of a philosophy into a mathematical subject, with the birth of neo-classical economics, had profound consequences for the analysis of the actions and inter-actions of human beings, and for policy debates about the role of the state in regulating national and international markets. Neoclassical economics has emphasised the rational behaviour of self-interested individuals and largely ignored the fact that humans are in essence part of nature, which the philosopher economists of Ancient Greece recognised. In recent years, aspects of economic thought have begun to make use of the insights of biological sciences.

For information on how the courses work, please click here.

Programme details

1. Introduction

  • Lecture: Introduction
  • Perspectives on economic thought
  • Economic theory and economic history
  • History and the history of economic thought
  • The economy
  • Definitions

2. Economic thought in Ancient Greece
This module explores the contribution to economic thought of Aristotle and Plato.

  • Lecture: Greek economic thought
  • Plato and the division of labour
  • Economic history and economic analysis
  • Aristotle’s value theory
  • Xenophon and the division of labour
  • Definitions

3. Indian economic thought from Kautilya to Gandhi
This module explores the contribution to Indian economic thought of Kautilya, Ranade and Gandhi.

  • Lecture: Indian economic thought
  • Kautilyanism
  • Ranade’s economics
  • Indian theory of development
  • Gandhian economics
  • Definitions

4. Chinese economic thought
This module explores Chinese economic thought with respect to Confucianism, Taoism, Moists and the Legalists.

  • Lecture: Chinese economic thought
  • Schools of economic thought in China
  • Money in ancient China
  • Confucian and Legalist perspective
  • The values of Confucius
  • Definitions

5. Adam Smith, David Ricardo and classical European economic thought
This module explores the classical European economic thought especially with regards to the elucidation of a theory of value and a labour theory of value. The focus of classical European economic thought is on the accumulation of wealth and the economic mechanisms by which this occurs.

  • Lecture: Classical European economic thought
  • Economic growth and the division of labour
  • The theory of value
  • Adam Smith, division of labour, mercantilism and physiocracy
  • Malthus and Ricardo
  • Definitions
  • First assignment

6. The economic thought of Karl Marx
The focus of analysis in this module is the economic thought of Karl Marx with an emphasis on the relationship between Capitalism and the worker.

  • Lecture: The economic thought of Karl Marx
  • Das Kapital
  • Marx’s labour theory of value
  • Marx and the business cycle
  • The demise of Marx’s labour theory of value

7. Rise of neoclassical economics
This module evaluates the shift of economic thought from a qualitative perspective to a quantitative one. The emphasis is no longer the accumulation of wealth by society but a shift of focus to the individual.

  • Lecture: The rise of neoclassical economics
  • Jevons
  • Menger
  • Price determination
  • Walras
  • Marshall

8. Keynes and the Keynesian revolution
This module focuses on Keynes contribution to economic thought. Keynes challenged the orthodoxy of the day for its failure to adequately account for the mass unemployment which Keynes encountered in the 1930's.

  • Lecture: The economic thought of Keynes
  • The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money
  • Keynes on employment and demand
  • Money and the economy
  • The market economy in the long run
  • The role of government
  • Second assignment

9. Milton Friedman and Monetarism
The Golden Age from 1945 to 1973 during which Keynesian economic policies led to high levels of economic growth and low levels of inflation and unemployment in many countries failed abruptly in the mid to late 1970's with stagflation. This was rising inflation coupled with low levels of economic growth. Policymakers turned their attention to Friedman and Monetarism.

  • Lecture
  • New classical economics and monetarism
  • Keynesianism and monetarism
  • Monetarists and the transmission mechanism
  • Central bank independence and monetarism

10. Alternative approaches to economic thought
Neo-Classical economics with its Mathematics and Physics background has dominated European economic thought for 100 years. However, now the focus of research is shifting towards the biological aspects of economic activity.

  • Lecture: Current economic thought and conclusion
  • The foundations of traditional economic theory
  • Inconsistencies of the neoclassical model
  • Psychology and economics
  • Evolutionary approach to economics
  • Perspectives on the today’s world
  • Conclusion


We strongly recommend that you try to find a little time each week to engage in the online conversations (at times that are convenient to you) as the forums are an integral, and very rewarding, part of the course and the online learning experience.


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online. If you do not register when you enrol, you have up until the course start date to register and pay the £10 fee.

See more information on CATS point

Coursework is an integral part of all online courses and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework, but only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.

Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.

All students who successfully complete this course, whether registered for credit or not, are eligible for a Certificate of Completion. Completion consists of submitting the final course assignment. Certificates will be available, online, for those who qualify after the course finishes.


Description Costs
Course Fee £350.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


Dr Ramesh Sangaralingam

Sangaralingam Ramesh is an Economics Tutor in the Department for Continuing Education at the University of Oxford and a Senior Teaching Fellow in Economics at University College London, UK. He has been an Associate Professor in Economics at the Université Paris Dauphine GBD and Economics Module Leader at Kings College London

Course aims

Course Aim:
To allow students to understand the evolution of economic thought from early Greek philosophy to its modern day analytical form as well as its advancement into the incorporation of the biological sciences.

Course Objectives:
To develop an understanding of how economic thought has developed over time.

Teaching methods

The course content will be both textbook and journal based. The journal articles assigned to each unit will be easy to read and give students a deeper understanding of the subject matter for that unit. Students will be provided with optional reading materials and each units learning objectives will be supported by online discussion forums. There are also some audio lectures included with this course.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will be expected to understand the development of economic thought in the context of the evolving global economy.

By the end of this course students will be expected to have gained the following skills: An ability to identify the development of economic thought from a historical perspective and how the economic thought of one historical period has contributed to the development of economic thought in a subsequent period. At the end of the course students will also be able to clearly identify how economic theory has developed as a result of the evolution of economic thought.

Assessment methods

You will be set two pieces of work for the course. The first of 500 words is due halfway through your course. This does not count towards your final outcome but preparing for it, and the feedback you are given, will help you prepare for your assessed piece of work of 1,500 words due at the end of the course. The assessed work is marked pass or fail.

English Language Requirements

We do not insist that applicants hold an English language certification, but warn that they may be at a disadvantage if their language skills are not of a comparable level to those qualifications listed on our website. If you are confident in your proficiency, please feel free to enrol. For more information regarding English language requirements please follow this link:


Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

FHEQ level 4, 10 weeks, approx 10 hours per week, therefore a total of about 100 study hours.

IT requirements

This course is delivered online; to participate you must to be familiar with using a computer for purposes such as sending email and searching the Internet. You will also need regular access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.