Riches and Poverty: Capitalism in Britain, 1680-1830 - Sources (HIH3023)

StaffDr Tawny Paul - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Pre-requisitesAt least 90 credits of History at Level 1 and/or Level 2
Co-requisitesRiches and Poverty: Capitalism and Society in Britain, 1680-1830: Sources
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks; Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The long eighteenth century was a time of significant economic and institutional change, bookended by financial and industrial revolutions. Britain celebrated many economic advances, including imperial and commercial expansion, wealth accumulation, and the invention of modern banking. However, many experienced the eighteenth century in terms of increasing insecurity, wealth inequality, and the commodification of their bodies. While providing an overview of the economic history of the eighteenth century, this module aims to consider the complex implications of the market. It focuses on the economic lives of men, women and children in terms of the jobs that they did, the wealth that they owned, and the standards of living that they experienced. It considers the social relations and power structures that the market bequeathed, and how contemporaries thought about and understood the market. The focus is on Britain, placed within a global perspective.

The module draws on interdisciplinary primary source collections, including paintings and visual materials, legal sources, diaries, and account books. By working with an extensive range of sources, you will develop a range of research, analytical, interpretative and communication skills that can be applied in further academic studies or in graduate careers.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Have a detailed knowledge of the different sources available for the study of eighteenth-century economic history, together with a very close specialist knowledge of those sources which the students focus upon in their seminar presentations and written work.
  • 2. Analyse the complex diversity of the sources studied.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Analyse closely original sources and to assess their reliability as historical evidence. Ability to focus on and comprehend complex texts
  • 4. Understand and deploy relevant historical terminology in a comprehensible manner.
  • 5. Follow the changing economic developments in eighteenth century Britain.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 6. Independently and autonomously study and also work within a group, including presentation of material for group discussion, developed through the mode of learning
  • 7. Digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment
  • 8. Present complex arguments orally

Syllabus plan

The module focuses on the sources for the study of wealth and society, pertinent to the following indicative themes: Financial revolution: imagining money; Bodies and labour; Credit; Being in debt; Value and worth; The debtors’ prisons; The commodification of bodies; Poverty and inequality; Bankruptcy; Images of wealth; Gender and investment; Exchanging wealth: gifts.


The introductory sessions for this module will provide an overview of the subject and also expose you to the sources themselves. The seminars will focus on sources drawn from published and digitised resources, allowing you to develop their knowledge of the subject in conjunction with the close analysis of historiography provided in the co-requisite module, and to develop their skills in source analysis and acquisition. You will be expected to prepare for seminars by reading and evaluating the relevant sources in advance, and will discuss the issues raised by them in the seminars.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities4422 x 2 hour seminars
Guided Independent Study256Reading and preparation for seminars, coursework and presentations

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Seminar discussionOngoing through course1-6, 8Oral from tutor and fellow students

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Portfolio702 assignments totalling 4,000 words1-7Verbal and written
Individual Presentation3020-30 minutes1-8Verbal and written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
PortfolioPortfolio1-7Referral/Deferral period
PresentationWritten transcript of 20 minute presentation1-8

Re-assessment notes

The re-assessment consists of a 4,000 word portfolio of source work, as in the original assessment, but replaces the individual presentation with a written script that could be delivered in such a presentation and which is the equivalent of 20 minutes of speech.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Online Primary Sources

The Old Bailey Online.

London Lives:

Cause Papers, Church Courts of the diocese of York:

Defining Gender. Link via Exeter Library


Printed Primary Sources

Coldham, Peter Wilson. The Bristol Registers of Servants Sent to Foreign Plantations,  1654-1686. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing.

Bly, Antonio T and Tamia Haygood. Escaping Servitude: A Documentary History of Runaway Servants in Eighteenth Century Virginia (Lexington Books, 2015)

Amster, Mara I. Texts on prostitution, 1635-1700 (Ashgate, 2007).

Sokoll, Thomas ed. Essex Pauper Letters, 1731-1837 (Oxford University Press, 2001).

Horner, Craig (ed). The diary of Edmund Harrold, wigmaker of Manchester 1712-15 (Ashgate, 2008).

Edwards, Dorothy and Christine M. Newman (eds). Northallerton wills and inventories, 1666-1719.


George, Edwin and Stella (eds), with the assistance of Peter Fleming ; with an introduction by Jonathan Barry. Bristol probate inventories. Part 3, 1690-1804 (Bristol Record Society, 2008).


Secondary Readings

C. Muldrew, The economy of obligation: the culture of credit and social relations in early modern England (Palgrave MacMillan, 1998)

A. Shepard. Accounting for Oneself: Worth, Status and the Social Order in Early Modern England (Oxford University Press, 2016).

D. Graeber. Debt: The First 5,000 Years (Melville House, 2011)

D. Valenze. The Social Life of Money in the English Past (Cambridge University Press, 2006)

S. Newman. A New World of Labor: The Development of Plantation Slavery in the British Atlantic (Universityof Pennsylvania Press, 2013)

K. Wrightson. Earthly Necessities: Economic Lives in Early Modern Britain (Yale University Press, 2000)

M. Overton et al. Production and consumption in English Households, 1600-1750 (2004).

Steve Hindle and Alexandra Shepard (eds), Remaking English society: social relations and social change in early modern England (2013)

J. Bohstedt. The Politics of Provisions: Food Riots, Moral Economy, and Market Transition in England, c. 1550-1850 (Farnham, 2010).

A. Vickery. ‘His and Hers: Gender, Consumption and Household Accounting in Eighteenth-Century England’, Past and Present, Supplement 1 (2006), 12–38.

S. King and A. Tomkins (eds). The Poor in England, 1700-1850: An Economy of Makeshifts (2003).

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Key words search

Capitalism, wealth, financial revolution, industrial revolution