STATE AND FINANCE IN HISTORY (Ec565)

Christophe Chamley e-mail

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

Assignment 1: Rome
Answer to Part one of the assignment

Assignment 2: Coins

due date Monday 2/18, 8am. Ignore the due date on the assignment. It's a mistake. (Thank you, Jiawei).

  • Lecture notes are posted separately on the pages of the relevant topics. Again, these notes are in an evolutive stage...
  • FOR ALL THE READINGS: always focus on WHY? Don't get distracted by information that you do not find useful for the main question. They can be memorized only if they contribute to an answer.

PREPARATION for Monday, 2/18

  • First, do the assignment
  • Second, the readings.

Advice on the readings for 2/18

 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 It is written for professional (otherwise it would not be published) and with little pedagogical motive.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.