The Great Divergence and Economic History in China and Europe, 1500-1900

Semester: Fall

Lecturer: Dr. Manuel Perez Garcia

Credit: 3

Course Description:

  • The so-called western culture and civilization and its differentiation regarding other cultures has been often studied, either as an ensemble of national histories or as a consequence of very undefined transferences and encounters within the Old Continent or between it and the rest of the world. Yet new perspectives are emerging that propose a more complex and promising view. The increasing impact of network theories and of trans-national history (as an approach which deals with social, economic and cultural interference of human groups belonging to different cultures) and the awareness of the complexity of cultural exchanges, which so much emphasize the role of mediators and contexts, are creating a new field in which both the functioning of social networks and the cultural transferences are redefined. The study, analysis, development and impact of Global History in last decades will be paramount in this course, as well as providing students with theories and methods to undertake academic research. An open and wide geographical and chronological scope will be also implemented in this course, not only focusing on Europe and the big powers and empires for the early modern period such as England, France, Spain or Portugal, but also to the Americas, and expansion of European powers in the New World and East Asia.
  • The aim of this course is to deal with some new, and sometimes rather unexplored, dimensions of this view by picking up specific case studies. The goal is to endow students working in different fields with a wide range of approaches that can be useful to contextualize or to see their own research from a broader perspective.


1. Why the West Developed first and not the East? The ‘Great Divergence’ Debate 2 Lecture Perez-Garcia

w2. Fundaments and Theories of Global History and Microhistory 2 Lecture Perez-Garcia

3. Global Flows of Silver in Europe, Americas and Asia 2 Lecture Perez-Garcia

4. Qing Empire and Iberian Empires 2 Lecture Perez-Garcia

5. Qing Empire and American (European dominated) territories 2 Lecture Perez-Garcia

6. Quantitative Methods to Study Qing China 2 Lecture Perez-Garcia

7. Global Consumer societies 2 Lecture Perez-Garcia

8. State Capacity of Qing China 2 Lecture Perez-Garcia

9. Chinese sources for Global History 2 Lecture Perez-Garcia

10. Vicarious Consumption Theory 2 Lecture Perez-Garcia

11. Wallerstein World Economic Model 2 Lecture Perez-Garcia

12. Industrious Revolution Theory 2 Lecture Perez-Garcia

13. Contentious Performances in Europe: The French Revolution, Napoleonic Wars and the New International Order (The Congress of Vienna) 2 Lecture Perez-Garcia

14. The Origins of the EU 2 Lecture Perez-Garcia

15. A World Divided between Rich and Poor Nations 2 Lecture Perez-Garcia

16. The Great Divergence and Today’s World Economy 2 Lecture Perez-Garcia

Grading Policy

Participation, readings and written comments 30% Attendance 20%
Final Essay                  50%

Attendance is required, and active participation is encouraged. Regular attendance and keeping up with the assigned reading is the best way to ensure that you succeed in the class. If you are late or leave early you will be marked absent.

Classroom Environment:
Please arrive on time, and turn off your cell phones. Students may not text or do email during class. All students must pay attention and take notes during each class. You may take notes on a laptop; but you may not make use of the internet unless you are looking up information directly relevant to the class.

Written Comments:
Several times during the semester, you will submit written comments (a page at most) on the readings or on certain issues. These are due at the beginning of class and should be typed, and about a page long. Specific instructions will be provided for each assignment. I indicate most of the due dates below, but there may be a few more. These comments are not given a letter grade, but are an important part of your “participation” grade, and are intended to help you prepare for the longer papers and the exams. Late comments are accepted for up to 3 days, but are only given half credit.

Discussion of historical problems and documents in small teams will be a regular part of this class. Teams will also be called upon to make presentations to the class.

The papers will be based on the primary source documents and books. They are not research papers, but rather analytical exercises. Papers are due at the start of class on the day they are due. Late papers are accepted but are penalized one letter grade if handed in within one day of the due date, and a half grade for each day (including days on which our class does not meet) after that. Papers have to be submitted in hard copy.

Final-term paper: 15 pages length, 1,5 space, 11 size of the letter, Times New Roman format.

Cheating and Plagiarism:
Cheating is unethical and unacceptable. Plagiarism—passing off the ideas or words of others as your own in a paper—is a serious offence and is unacceptable. Do not submit work under your name that you did not do yourself. If you are found cheating or plagiarizing, you will be subject to disciplinary action.

Don’t hesitate to talk to me or the teaching assistant (or email us) if you have questions or run into problems.

Office: 800 Dongchuan Road, SJTU, School of Humanities, Room 311/1, Minhang District, 200240, Shanghai, China


Textbooks &References

Gunder Frank, A., 1998. ReORIENT: Global Economy in the Asian Age, Berkeley: University of California Press.

Landes, David S. (1999) The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor. Norton, New York.

Pomeranz, K., 2000. The Great Divergence: China, Europe and the Making of the Modern World Economy, Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Peer Vries (University of Vienna): ‘The California School and beyond: how to study the Great Divergence?’, History Compass, 8 (2010), pp. 730-751.

Wong, B., 2000. China Transformed: Historical Change and the Limits of European Experience, Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press.