Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Unit rationale, description and aim

Where do the current economic ideas and beliefs (concepts, theories, and doctrines) come from? The principal objective of this unit is to study the emerging content of the history of economic thought from ancient to modern times. In this unit, students will advance their understanding of economic reasoning from the lens of major scholars, and schools of economic thought including Plato and Aristotle, the Mercantilists, the Physiocrats, classical political economy (Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, David Ricardo), Karl Marx, the neoclassical school and modern approaches (MMT and decentralised finance). The aim of this unit is to help students to gain a unique appreciation of how modern economic science evolved into its present form and develop valuable critical thinking skills in evaluating past and current economic events and information. 

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Discuss how different thinkers and theorists in the past understood and analysed economic problems (GA4, GA8, GA9)

LO2 - Demonstrate the use of primary source evidence to the major writings that shaped the evolution of economic analysis to develop an evidence-based narrative or argument (GA3, GA8, G10)

LO3 - Compare and contrast the work of major economic thinkers and theorists (GA8, GA10)

LO4 - Evaluate and differentiate key economic historic debates relating to real-world situations/case studies over time (GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6)

Graduate attributes

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively.


Topics will include:

  • Early economic thought (Economics and economic thought of Ancient world; Economic thought of Middle ages; French and English mercantilism);
  • Classical school of Economic thought (Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, David Ricardo, John Stuart Mill);
  • The economy of Germany and the German school of economic thought from the 16th to the early twentieth centuries;
  • Marxism;
  • Marginalism;
  • Neoclassical school (Austrians, Cambridge, American and Lozanne economic ideas);
  • Economic crisis and the birth of macroeconomics: John Maynard Keynes;
  • Future of capitalism: Thorstein Veblen and Joseph Schumpeter;
  • Macroeconomics after Keynes;
  • Hayek and the Chicago school;
  • Economic thought: challenges and choices in the contemporary world (MMT and decentralised finance).

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit is designed to be offered fully online and will include synchronous delivery of unit content, collaborative online learning activities and other technology-enabled learning synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities to foster interaction between students.

This unit aims to immerse students in Active Learning through activities that facilitate the development of skills fundamental to the discipline of economic history and a deep understanding of course content. This unit engages students in active learning activities, such as reading, writing, discussion, and problem-solving to promote analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of unit content. Students use case studies to explore how what they have learned applies to real-world situations. Students in this unit will be encouraged to develop specific skills in reading and understanding primary sources; begin to understand the dynamics of economic history debate and incorporate secondary material into their own research and analysis.

The unit has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the semester. To achieve a passing standard in this unit, students will find it helpful to engage in the full range of learning activities and assessments utilised in this unit, as described in the learning and teaching strategy and the assessment strategy. The learning and teaching and assessment strategies include a range of approaches to support your learning such as reading, reflection, discussion, webinars, podcasts, videos etc.

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment items have been particularly designed to cover a variety of tasks, support unit learning outcomes, and enable differentiation of levels of achievement.

1. Knowledge development task

The Knowledge Development Task asks students to demonstrate a knowledge of the unit content by discussing historical facts and theories in response to set questions. These questions will be in the form of tutorial questions, quizzes, in-class debates or team challenges, or forums/blogs/online discussions. It measures the learning outcomes LO1 and LO2.

2. Research assignment

This Research Assignment assesses learning outcomes LO3 and LO4 and requires students to locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate evidence. Students develop the capacity to interpret, translate, apply, critique, and primary and secondary evidence of economic thought through a written assignment and presentation to peers.

3. Final exam

This type of assessment has been chosen to effectively assess learning outcomes LO1 to LO5 through testing students' critical thinking skills. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assessment Task 1: Knowledge Development Task

The purpose of this task is for students to develop critical reading and comprehension skills to identify key content and ideas from lectures and set readings.


LO1, LO2

GA3, GA4, GA8, GA9, GA10

Assessment Task 2: Research Assignment

The key purpose of this task is for students to demonstrate research, writing, and analytical skills to produce an evidence-based argument that demonstrates critical reading skills and an awareness of ethical and/or historical debates on a topic relating to the unit content.


LO3, LO4

GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8, GA10

Assessment Task 3: Final Exam

This task requires students to think critically and reflectively; to apply skills in economic history analysis and content knowledge learned across the semester.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8, GA9, GA10

Representative texts and references

Berend, I. T. (2013). An Economic History of Nineteenth-Century Europe: Diversity and Industrialization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Harford, T. (2017). Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy. Riverhead Books.

Faccarello G., and Kurz, H.D. (2016). Handbook on the History of Economic Analysis. Volumes I and II: Schools of Thought in Economics. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham.

Reinhart, E. (2004). How Rich nations got Rich: Essays in the History of Economic Policy. Oslo: Centre for Development and the Environment, University of Oslo.

Roncaglia A. (2005). The Wealth of Ideas: A History of Economic Thought. Cambridge University Press.

Rosselli A., Naldi N., and Sanfilippo E. (2020). Money, Finance and Crises in Economic History: The Long-Term Impact of Economic Ideas. Routledge.

Schumpeter, J. (1954). A History of Economic Analysis. Oxford University Press

Vaggi, G., and Groenewegen, P. (2006). A Concise History of Economic Thought: From Mercantilism to Monetarism. Palgrave Macmillan, New York.

Yueh, L. (2018). The Great Economists: How Their Ideas Can Help Us Today. Penguin Books.

Have a question?

We're available 9am–5pm AEDT,
Monday to Friday

If you’ve got a question, our AskACU team has you covered. You can search FAQs, text us, email, live chat, call – whatever works for you.

Live chat with us now

Chat to our team for real-time
answers to your questions.

Launch live chat

Visit our FAQs page

Find answers to some commonly
asked questions.

See our FAQs