ECON 4659: Topics in North American Economic History


You will write a 1,500-2,000 word essay on one of the topics covered in class, and listed below. Your essay will take the form of a literature review, which should make reference to at least 5 academic papers on your chosen topic. The paper listed under your chosen topic below should feature very prominently in your literature review. Your literature review should address the following questions:

1) What are the important questions or “puzzles” in your chosen area of economic history, and why are they interesting or important?

2) Which methods do economic historians use to address these questions?

3) To what extent do economic historians agree or disagree about the answers to these questions?

4) How does the central paper in your literature review (i.e. the paper from the following list) fit into this literature?

5) What is your opinion of this literature, and its ability to answer the questions you have identified? Which papers do you find most and least convincing, and why?

As with any formal essay, you should begin with an introductory paragraph that presents the topic and outlines your key arguments. And, you should close with a concluding paragraph, which restates your key ideas and ties them together. The important content of your literature review should be contained in the intermediate (body) paragraphs.

Tips: 1) Start with a detailed, point-form outline of your essay. This will help you organize your thinking, and will stop you from meandering. 2) Write as though I don’t know anything about your topic. Avoid jargon, or, if you use it, explain what you mean. 3) Try to avoid vague statements like, “the author uses advanced statistical methods to prove her point” without further elaboration. 4) Proof read your essay AT LEAST twice, and look for instances of unclear or imprecise writing, not just spelling or grammar mistakes. 5) When selecting papers to include in your literature review, start with the key paper listed below, and look for related work in the paper’s reference list. Also look for scholarly work that cites this key paper, using google scholar. 

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