Christophe Chamley e-mail

Office hours: 270, Bay State Road, Room 401, Wednesday 4-7pm (send a message before Wedenesday).

TA: Max McDevit office hours 6:15-8:15PM in the Union next to Mugar library.


First mid-term exam: Wednesday, October 11.

Questions in past exams for this course.

Second mid-term exam: Wednesday, November 20. (The date has been changed)

PREP for October 18: reading of the first item in "Required readings" of "Italian cities" and browsing (or reading) of the second item (by Epstein).


 Assignment 1 (due Tuesday, Sept 19, 1pm, to be sent by e-mail to the TA).

IMPORTANT: Write the assignment as good historians: any statement should be supported by precise references. Don't hesitate to make quotes, even long quotes if they are relevant. All the arguments in history should be as close to the evidence as possible. The reader should be have direct access to the evidence and be able to evaluate the validity of the argument.

Assignment 2 (due Tuesday, Sept 26, 1pm, to be sent by e-mail to the TA). Please follow the instructions of the TA that he sent to you.

Assignment 3 due Wednesday, October 4, 11:59pm.

Assignment 4 due Tuesday, October 24, midnight.


1. Mesopotamia
2. Egypt
3. Coins: preliminary slides
4. Fueros and Cortes in Spain
5. Charters in England

1. Mesopotamia

Lecture Notes 1 (09/12/17)


They overlap to a fair extent. Focus on the pages that are indicated. If no page is indicated, the reading is not required. (However, it is on the list for a reason...).

  • Algaze, Guillermo. "The Sumerian Takeoff".  Pages 343-349 are on methodology and can be skipped. Focus on 350-368. Much overlap with the other articles.
  • Ur, Jason (2010). "Southern Mesopotamia," text. He is an archeologist and very careful about the inference from the evidence. Very healthy reading. Focus on Sections 3 and 4 (540-545).
  • Ur, Jason (2010). "Cycles of Civilization in Northern Mesopotamia, 4400-2000 BC," text. Optional, more specialized (for us). Some of the content is incorporated in the lecture notes.
  • Garfinkle, Joe (2013). "Ancient Near Eastern City-States", Peter Fibiger Bang and Walter Scheidel, eds, chapter 3 in The Oxford Handbook of the state in the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean. Optional.

2. Egypt


Required readings

  • Ray, John (2002). Reflections of Osiris: Lives from Ancient Egypt, Oxford University Press, Chapter 2, "A Farmer's Problems," pages 23-39. If you can get the book, buy it. There is a very short summary of the history of Egypt which is required knowledge.

Get into the mood of Heqanakhte. It may be useful to have the right mind frame. To undo our packaging of the past, let us look into the future: for Heqnakhte, the pyramids look like Saint Denis for us. If he could have predicted the future, from our point of view, Julius Caesar would be coming in the year 4000 and we would be in the year 6000.

Other readings (optional)

  • Manning, Joe (2013). "Egypt", Peter Fibiger Bang and Walter Scheidel, eds, chapter 2 in The Oxford Handbook of the state in the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean. BROWSE, TO BE READ LATER.
  • For an in-depth analysis of the Heqanakhte letters: Baer (1993).

3. Money as coins

Readings (none of them very useful for the mid-term)

  • Velde, François (2013). "On the Origin of Specie," (August 15, 213). (You will appreciate the singular). Skip for the mid-term. 

To be read later (optional):

  • Bresson, Alain (2016). "Money and trade in the world of the Greek City-State," 261-278, in Chapter 10 (Money and Credit) of The Making of the Ancient Greek Economy

On seignorage around of the time of Joan of Arc:

  • Sussman, Nathan (1993). "Debasements, royal Revenues, and Inflation in France During the Hundred Years' War, 1415-1422," Journal of Economic History, 44-70. It's the article that provided the basis for the lecture on seignorage with coin, but it is written for the professional and I don't think that it is very useful for you.

4-5. Millenium

REQUIRED readings

  • The travel through Northern Spain (1779) by John Adams (from Mc Cullough's celebrated biography of John Adams), p. 228-231.
  • Letter by John Adams about  that travel: text.
  • Engerman, Stanley L. and Kenneth L. Sokoloff (2005). "The Evolution of Suffrage Institutions in the New World," Hoover Institution, (for this course, p. 75-95). 
  • Fueros, article from Medieval Iberia: an Encyclopedia.
  • Cortes, article from Medieval Iberia: an Encyclopedia.

6. Philip II, the Cortes and the Genoese merchant-bankers

Readings (what is useful for the mid-term will be discussed in class on Oct 4).

Other references.

7. Public finances in England, 1200-1500

Parliaments and taxation in England

Figures to remember in this lecture

Tacitus, Marc Bloch, Tocqueville, English parliament, Edward I, sovereing lending.