Global History of Capitalism

What is capitalism? How has it changed over time? And why do we need a global perspective to fully understand its development and impact? Explore the complex history of capitalism from 1919 until today.

Since the global financial crisis of 2008, there has been an explosion of interest in the history of capitalism. Some narratives focus on enormous waste, environmental destruction, overpowered corporations, exploitation of workers, or outrageous inequality. Others are more positive, telling a story about unparalleled prosperity, longer life expectancies, integration of markets, connectivity among peoples, and poverty alleviation. 

In this course, we emphasize the complexity of capitalism over such neat narratives. By looking at capitalism through a global lens, we investigate multiple types of explanations and impacts on local, national, regional and global levels. We also examine a range of different topics deeply connected to the evolution of capitalism, including labor relations, migration, commodities, consumption, finance, war, imperialism, development, energy, and the environment.

Some of the questions we will discuss in this course are:

  • How is capitalism related to globalization? 
  • What are the important institutions of global capitalism? 
  • How can following the production, supply and demand chains of commodities, rubber, sugar or petroleum help us understand consumption and capitalism?
  • What is the role of the state in the development of capitalism, and is there a relationship between capitalism and empire?
  • Is global capitalism environmentally sustainable?
  • Why did some countries industrialize, while others didn’t? 
  • Why do labor markets develop? 
  • Is there an inherent tension between capitalism and democracy?

You will learn: 

  • How to identify major turning points and processes in the global history of capitalism.
  • Key concepts and events in the history of capitalism such as commodity, globalization, and the role of the state and other institutions such as OPEC.
  • How to engage critically with short, but significant, pieces of writing on economic, social, and political trends in the twentieth century. 
  • Ways to analyze and discuss some of the major topics in the history of capitalism with learners from around the world.

Course Status

Archived (open)

What Learners Say

"Thanks to the team for running this course! It has very real issues that are currently before us! First Rate well done!" - Trefork

"I have very little background in economics, so I took the course to understand some of the basic concepts and vocabulary. They tried a different approach in this MOOC—a roundtable discussion rather than lecture/quiz—and I applaud that. I think it was successful." - Karen

"I think the course has been created with very current and successful pedagogical approaches... Thank you very much for all, I really enjoyed it and learned a lot. All guys are brilliant and I send the best energy from the universe for successful careers. Cheers."