Riches and Poverty: Capitalism in Britain, 1680-1830 - Context (HIH3024)

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 and the British world.

The approach is interdisciplinary, drawing on perspectives from sociology, anthropology, art history and economics. While engaging with the complex historiographies of economic life, we will consider concepts that continue to sit at the basis of our economy today, including theories of value and the ethics of the market. The module aims to develop research, analytical, interpretative and communication skills that can be applied in further academic studies or in graduate careers.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Evaluate the different complex themes in eighteenth century economic history from social, cultural and economic perspectives
  • 2. Make close specialist evaluation of the key developments within the period, developed through independent study and seminar work.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Analyse the key developments within Britain’s economic history during the period 1680-1830.
  • 4. Focus on and comprehend complex issues.
  • 5. Understand and deploy relevant historical terminology in a comprehensible manner.
  • 6. Follow the changing causes of and responses to commercial development.

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

Syllabus plan

The module focuses on the context to the history of wealth and society. Indicative themes include:

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.


Some of you will already have studied aspects Britain’s economic history; others will not. The introductory sessions will therefore be important in offering a broad overview within which framework everyone can place their subsequent work. The co-requisite module will also provide close focus on the historical sources available for study. You will be expected to prepare for seminars by reading and evaluating the respective 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 course1-7. 9Verbal 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
Essay253,000 Words1-8Verbal and written
Essay253,000 Words1-8Verbal and written
Unseen exam502 questions in 2 hours1-8Verbal and written

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Two essaysTwo essays1-8Referral/Deferral period
Unseen examUnseen exam1-8Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic Reading:

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

C. Tomlins. Freedom Bound: Law, Labour, and Civic Identity in Colonising English America, 1580–1865 (Cambridge, 2010).

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 (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013)

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

B. Hill, Women, Work and Sexual Politics in Eighteenth Century England (UCL Press, 1994)

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).

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).

J. Wareing. Indentured migration and the servant trade from London to America, 1618-1718 : 'there is great want of servants' (Oxford University Press, 2017).

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Key words search

Capitalism, wealth, financial revolution, industrial revolution