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10 cp from 100-level units in History or Politics and International Relations

Unit rationale, description and aim

Since the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, historians around the world have recognised that it is important for historians to understand money as a causal factor in historical change, and to combine this with an understanding of power. This unit teaches students to understand the ways that money and power have shaped (or been shaped by) the history of the West (especially Europe, America and Australia) in the modern era. From the Age of Empire to the present, the unit will explore money and power in a range of settings, including revolutionary Europe and America, colonial and gold rush Australia and America and 20th century military conflicts. The unit will consider the growth of institutions like banks and the stock exchange, discussing changes to making (and losing) money within family structures as well as through organisations. Key themes will include gender and the pay gap; the effect of economic change on the environment (e.g. pollution, urbanisation, climate change); and different forms of labour. By completing this unit, students will develop skills in interpreting economic and statistical information, including reading 'against the grain'. Applying historical methods to questions of money and power in the West will support students to interpret and reflect on the role and ethics of economies, businesses, politics, social networks and work as they shaped our world. The aim of the unit is to focus students to the role of money in politics, inequality and social change.

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 key historical patterns and changing elements of the history of money and power in the Western World and an awareness of historical debates surrounding them (GA5, GA6). 

LO2 - Communicate clearly in written and/or oral form, in a style appropriate to a specified audience (GA9) 

LO3 - Locate, use and appropriately reference a variety of primary and secondary materials relevant to money and power to develop an evidence-based historical narrative or argument (GA3, GA8, GA10) 

LO4 - Critically engage with a range of textual, economic or statistical resources on the history of money and power and be familiar with the methods historians have used to research them (GA4, GA5). 

LO5 - Interpret and reflect on key ethical and historical debates relating to money and power 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 examine themes in case studies concerning the relationship between money and power in different historical contexts in the Western World (e.g. Europe, America, Australia etc.) since the 17th Century, including political, institutional and social transformations associated with economic change. 

  • Specific topics will include: 
  • Money and power in the Age of Empire 
  • Free and unfree labour in a range of contexts 
  • Gold rushes 
  • Gender and work 
  • Economic and monetary structures, systems and cultures 
  • International politics, military conflict and money 
  • Families and households 
  • Money, power and contemporary politics 
  • Inequalities of income and wealth 
  • The environmental impact of economic change 


Active history and theory techniques: 

  • Interpretation of economic and/or statistical texts 
  • Historical approaches in research and analysis used by social and economic historians 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This is a 10-credit point unit and 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 learning such as lectures and tutorials or workshops, supported by webinars, podcasts or online materials when appropriate. The balance of the hours then becomes private study to prepare for class activities and complete set readings and assignments for this unit 

This unit embraces active learning by taking the form of a face-to-face class containing activities through which students will:  

1) gain a deep understanding of the content covered in the unit.  

The active learning activities in this unit are collaborative, where students will: consider scenarios, participate in formative quizzes and critically examine historical accounts of key events paying particular attention to the dynamics of historical and economic debate about relevant topics. Students will also use case studies to assist them in this process, exploring how what they have learned applies to real world situations. 

2) develop and hone skills fundamental to the discipline of history, including the development of methods for working with and interpreting economic and/or statistical primary sources; the ability to identify relevant and high-quality secondary sources and incorporate them into their own research and analysis; the ability to independently process extensive amounts of historical information and identify what is most relevant and valuable; and to communicate their findings in a style appropriate to their audience. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

Before attempting advanced level research essays or summative analysis later in the unit, students need to have a strong foundational knowledge of how to locate, read and analyse economic/statistical primary sources, set against high quality secondary sources on key elements of the history of money and power. The interpretative task develops students’ capacity to work with and interpret evidence in primary and secondary sources. The task may take the form of active research tasks that require students to find and use primary economic/statistical sources; or, digital search techniques for online reports and/or statistical datasets; or, "hands on" historical methods such as using existing data to represent analytical findings. The interpretative task assesses learning outcomes 1 and 2. 

Students then build on the techniques and knowledge demonstrated in the interpretative task to find, synthesise and critically discuss evidence related to money and power in an independent research task. This may take the form of a research essay or a debate on a key historical topic. The research task assesses learning outcomes 1 to 4. 

The summative task assesses how well students are able to draw together knowledge and skills developed in the unit to provide sound historical analysis of major social, institutional and political shifts in money and power in the Western World. The summative task assesses learning outcomes 2 to 5. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Interpreting economic/statistical texts 

The key purpose of this assignment is for students to develop skills in working with primary economic/statistical sources and locating and using high-quality secondary sources, demonstrating their understanding a topic relevant to the history of money and power. Skills honed during this assignment will help prepare students for the research task. 


LO1, LO2

GA5, 6, 9

Research Task 

The key purpose of this assignment 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.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4 

GA3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10 

Summative Assessment 

The key purpose of this task is to test how well students have understood changing patterns of money and power and reflect on key ethical and historical debates related to real-world situations.


LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5 

GA3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10

Representative texts and references

Baptist, Edward. The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism New York: Basic Books, 2014. 

Currid-Halkett, Elizabeth. The Sum of Small Things: a Theory of the aspirational Class Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017. 

Daunton, Martin Trusting Leviathan: the Politics of Taxation in Britain 1799-1914 Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. 

Deacon, Desley. Managing Gender: the State, the New Middle Class and Women Workers Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1990. 

Hyman, Louise. Debtor Nation: the History of America in Red Ink Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011. 

McLean, Ian. Why Australia Prospered: the Shifting sources of Economic Growth Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2012. 

Piketty, Thomas. Capital in the Twenty-first Century Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2013. 

Steedman, Carolyn. Labours Lost. Domestic Service and the Making of Modern England, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009. 

Wolfe, Patrick. Traces of History: Elementary Structures of Race London: Verso, 2016. 

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