Gwybodaeth Modiwlau

Module Identifier
Module Title
The Great Divergence: Europe and Asia, c.1300-c.1800
Academic Year
Semester 1
Mutually Exclusive
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 20 x 1 Hour Lectures
Seminar 6 x 1 Hour Seminars


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Essay 1 - 1 x 2,500 word essay  50%
Semester Assessment Essay 2 - 1 x 2,500 word essay  50%
Supplementary Assessment Essay 1 - 1 x 2,500 word supplementary (resit) essay  50%
Supplementary Assessment Essay 2 - 1 x 2,500 word supplementary (resit) essay  50%

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this module, students should be able to:
1. demonstrate a systematic and detailed understanding of divergence and its historical record
2. identify and evaluate theoretical perspectives upon the nature and causes of the Great Divergence
3. identify and evaluate potentially significant causes and consequences of the Great Divergence
4. identify and evaluate the range of sources available for historians of divergence theory as well as their limitations
5. critically discuss divergence in comparative perspective


The proposed module is informed by the lecturer’s research and teaching in economic history and allows students to engage with an important body of historical work otherwise largely unexplored in the department’s coverage. The proposed module will allow students both to access a good range of historical work in this area as well as to engage with current research on the topic. The topic is also one that has a wide applicability and will encourage comparative reflection in ways that may appeal to students studying a variety of degree schemes.

Brief description

Historians in recent decades have identified a dramatic change in the fortunes of the European west relative to often older and more established countries and economies, especially in east Asia. Given the strong political, economic and social foundation to countries such as present-day China, Japan, and India, why, they have asked, did western Europe come to out-perform Asian countries by the onset of the modern era? Historians and economists point to a range of potentially significant factors including cultural and political differences, access to resources, investment in technology and the flexibility of capital, colonialism, consumption and so on. The module will present opportunities to review prevailing structures in a range of European and Asian settings and will offer a broad view of development across a significant temporal and spatial range. The divergence studied here can be measured in terms of population, health, education, growth domestic product and similar core measures of relative success. All of these significant elements will be considered as part of this module. In a concluding section, there will be some reflection on the value and integrity of these measures as well as their significance for our understanding of the modern and contemporary positioning of European economy and society vis-à-vis modern Asia.


1. The Great Divergence – the emergence of a theory
2. Chronology (i) - The medieval and early modern origins of divergence
3. Chronology (ii) – Divergence and the Industrial Revolution
4. Chronology (iii) – Divergence in the modern era
5. Before Divergence (i) – Western Europe
6. Before Divergence (ii) – China
7. Before Divergence (iii) – Japan and India
8. Before Divergence (iv) – the Middle-East (and Africa)
9. Divergence: causes (i) – the state and institutions
10. Divergence: causes (ii) – markets and consumption
11. Divergence: causes (iii) – wages and standards of living
12. Divergence: causes (iv) – colonialism and resources
13. After Divergence (i) – Western Europe
14. After Divergence (ii) – China
15. After Divergence (iii) – Japan and India
16. After Divergence (iv) – the Middle-East (and Africa)
17. Measuring divergence – strengths and weaknesses
18. What happened to divergence?


1. The Great Divergence – main works and key issues
2. Chronologies of divergence
3. Europe and Asia before Divergence
4. The causes of Divergence
5. Europe and Asia after Divergence
6. Identifying divergence in the modern world

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number Students will be introduced to data in the form of tables and figures and a range of quantitative data, which will require some degree of interpretation and understanding.
Communication Written communication skills will be developed through the coursework; skills in oral presentation will be developed in seminars but are not formally assessed.
Improving own Learning and Performance Students will be advised on how to improve research and communication skills through the individual tutorial providing feedback on submitted coursework.
Information Technology Students will be encouraged to locate suitable material on the web and to apply it appropriately to their own work. Students will also be expected to word-process their work and make use of Blackboard. These skills will not be formally assessed.
Personal Development and Career planning Students will develop a range of transferable skills, including time management and communication skills, which may help them identify their personal strengths as they consider potential career paths.
Problem solving Students are expected to note and respond to historical problems which arise as part of the study of this subject area and to undertake suitable research for seminars and essays.
Research skills Students will develop their research skills by reading a range of texts and evaluating their usefulness in preparation for the coursework and the written examination.
Subject Specific Skills Students will be encouraged to work with and interpret simple quantitative materials, including information in tabular and graphic form.
Team work Students will be expected to play an active part in group activities (e.g. short group presentations in seminars) and to learn to evaluate their own contribution to such activities.


This module is at CQFW Level 6