Christophe Chamley e-mail

Office hours: 270, Bay State Road, Room 401, Wednesday 2-5pm (send a message before Wednesday).

TA: Chelsea Carter, office hours Friday 11-12:30pm (no office hour on 2/22).

PAPER for the course: More people than expected have expressed an interest for writing a paper in the course and some more formal rules have to be set. Let me repeat that a paper is not required and you certainly can have an A without writing a paper. If you want to write a paper (not more than 20 pages), you are welcome, and I will provide interactions during the process. The rules are the following

  • If you write a paper, you do not have to take the 2d mid-term and the weight of the final (cumulative) will be decreased a little to make room for the weight of the paper. You can also take the 2d mid-term and have the best grade of the two options with and without paper.
  • You have to write a one page memo to be sent to me not later than Sunday March 24, midnight descriing the type of the paper you want to write. This memo can be a full proposal or just an intention to write a paper in a particular subject/form (with your motivation) in which case I will suggest something more concrete, probably the replication of some published paper with data on the internet and the testing of the robustness of the results. (Stata knowledge would be required). 
  • The paper does not have to be with econometrics. It can be a synthesis of an issue, articles or book.
  • The paper can be done in combination with a paper that you have to do in some other course (econometrics or poli science, for example).
  • The paper has to be on economic history.
  • The main requirement is that it should be on something that really interests you. (Again, you don't have to write a paper).

MID-TERM EXAM, Wednesday, March 6, Room CAS 116, 7-8:15pm

In your preparation, always ask, "why", "what is the cause", "what may be the consequence".

Mid-term 1 with answers.

LECTURE NOTES (and slides)

All lecture notes put here for easy access. Some material has not been written in lecture notes. For this material, the notes are replaced by slides. For the material of the lecture notes, additional slides have been distributed in class. They are not posted here

These notes are complemented by the readings (some of them required) that are listed in the pages on the right.


You may do the assignment with someone else, in which case turn in only one answer. I extend the deadline because communication may be difficult during the break. (If another assignment will be allowed in pairs, you will be asked to have a different coauthor).

Due Thursday 21, midnight.

Proceed in the following steps:

  1. Browse the paper. The depth of your reading is up to you. That paper will provide the support for the lecture on 3/18. A better understanding of the paper will improve your understanding of the lecture.
  2. For the assignment 5, read carefully the first paragraph of Section III that provides a (very short) introduction to asientos.
  3. Read this introductory text on an asiento that was written in the 1590s.
  4. Do the analysis of the contract in the assignment. (For those interested in calligraphy, the contract is on the page about the finances of Philip II.)

Advice on readings

For all of you, the material is new. It is written for professional (otherwise it would not be published) and with little pedagogical motive. And you have other courses to think about.

But you have an advantage, which is the main line of the course. Here the issue is the gradual building of the states in Europe from the fiscal point of view and right now the connection with the emergence of parliaments. It is as if one knows perhaps not where the road is ending but at least the direction. This is a kind of teleological view of history (check the meaning). It is not recommended, but as a first approach and for the main them of this course, it is a good way to organize the thinking about historical facts and issues. 

As an illustration for Monday, the big topic is the rise of parliaments, in particular (but only) in England. Then the questions are

Why did the parliament rise? What was the context? Who had an incentive to push for it? Was there some resistance to the evolution? And then extracts the details from the readings that support your argument. When did the parliament meet and why? What kind of tax was raised and why that type of tax? Was there any relation between the type of fiscal system and the type of army (since most fiscal revenues are for the army). Remember the competing and growing monopoly argument of Elias. Any sign of that here?  

Develop an active reading: with a growing understanding, you should gradually anticipate this of that about the development of fiscal tools, policy, institutions. Of course all that is subject to random events that one cannot predict accurately. Or you should at least narrow the set of questions and the possible outcomes as history unfold. And surprises are opportunity to learn, but to be surprised one first must develop some idea of what could happen and why.

If you think that some part of the reading is not enlightening you on explanations for the evolution of the fiscal state, then skip it. Read what makes your understanding grow, what makes sense to you, who has a training in economics, and by this I mean more than supply and demand. It is to explain as much as possible with as little as possible, but not too litte! One should always have the highest respect the evidence of history.