Economic History Graduate Programs

Feb 08, 2019

There are several options for students who are interested in studying economic history, as they may choose to enroll in Ph.D. programs in economics or history. Students who would like to learn more can read an overview of these programs here.

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Individuals who would like to obtain a graduate degree in economic history can do so at a number of universities around the country. This article will highlight some key details about these programs, including program structure, course requirements, and general information regarding admission standards.

Graduate Degree Programs in Economic History

In order to study the field of economic history at the graduate level, students will generally need to find a Ph.D. program in economics or history that offers an economic history concentration or research field area. These programs will best facilitate the study of economic history through specific coursework and research opportunities with professors who are experienced in this field. Typically, Ph.D. programs in this field can be completed in around five years, with the first two years devoted to coursework before students will begin working on their own research for the remainder of the program. Below, we will explore five courses that may be part of the curriculum of economic history graduate programs.

European Economic History

Graduate programs in economic history will typically require that students take a course that focuses on the economic history of Europe, from centuries ago to modern times. Students will study various economic theories and apply it to the different events in European history to better understand how the European economy changed and developed over the years. This course will likely cover topics like the industrial revolution, how societal changes affected the economy, and how changes in the European economy affected the wider world.

American Economic History

A course that focuses on the economic history of the United States is also a common part of the curriculum of these programs, as the American economy is and has been hugely influential in the development of the world economy. Courses focused on this topic may cover certain periods of American economic history, like decades or the period of industrialization, or focus on specific events that played pivotal roles in the economy, like the Revolutionary War or the Great Depression. Students will learn about how various events affected the overall structure of the American economy throughout history.


Generally, all students studying some type of economics must take an econometrics course, as understanding how to use econometrics is key to being able to properly analyze economic policies, both of the past and the present. At the graduate level, students may take beginning or more advanced courses in econometrics, depending on their familiarity with the topic. In these courses, students will learn about various econometric and statistical methods of analysis that can be applied to various economic issues and problems. Some topics that may be covered include normal distribution, random variables, central limit theorem, large sample theory, and probability.

Political Economy

It is also very common for these programs to include one or more courses in political economy in their curriculum. A course with a political economy focus may cover the topic broadly by focusing on general concepts in political economy like theories of political economy, issues faced by democracies and non-democracies, social choice, and voter behavior. Other courses may be more specific in focus, highlighting topics like international political economy, modern political economy, or the political economy of organizations.

Labor Economics

Graduate programs in economic history also commonly require students to take a course that covers labor economics, as understanding the dynamics and economics of labor relations is critical to the study of economics, both from a historical and modern perspective. Some topics that will likely be covered in this course include the relationship between employer and employee, consumption behavior, job searching, and labor supply and demand. In addition, students will learn about the factors that contribute to the trade-off between time spent in labor versus leisure, human capital, and the minimum wage.

Admission Standards for Graduate Degree Programs in Economic History

Students who are interested in enrolling in a graduate program in economic history will need to meet some prerequisites in order to be considered for admission, in addition to completing an application. These programs do not typically require that applicants have completed a bachelor's degree in economics, though it is recommended that applicants have completed some mathematics or economics courses during their undergraduate studies in order to be prepared for graduate coursework. Additionally, students will be expected to demonstrate that they have a strong interest in economics, which they could describe in their personal statement. Other typical components of the application include undergraduate transcripts, letters of recommendation, a completed application form, and GRE scores.

To review, students who would like to study economic history can do so by enrolling in a Ph.D. program in history or economics that offers economic history as a concentration or research area. These programs prepare students for careers in research upon graduating by requiring that they complete advanced coursework in this field in addition to independent research.

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