HI6045 - Capitalism and its Others

What will I learn on this module?

Capitalism is one of the most controversial subjects discussed by historians – or by anyone else. Some see the rise of a worldwide capitalist economy as, for better or worse, the central, unavoidable narrative of modern history. Yet capitalism has always coexisted with radically different ways of organising human and non-human life. This module will address the question of capitalism’s role in world history by looking at how capitalism has confronted these other modes of existence, from around 1500 to the present.

The module falls into two parts. In the first, you will first be introduced to different theoretical approaches to capitalism and its ‘others’, and to overarching stories about how capitalism has shaped the world. Should we see capitalism as only an economic system, or a wider way of life? How has it been contrasted with alternative systems, such as feudalism or gift exchange – and how have these contrasts shaped the opposing views of thinkers like Adam Smith, Karl Marx, or Karl Polanyi? We will then tackle historians’ differing accounts of capitalism’s ‘rise’ and expansion – from notions of industrial or financial revolution to the use of fossil fuels and the ‘great divergence’ between Europe and East Asia.

In the second part of the module, you will study in more detail how capitalism displaced, clashed with, or coopted its ‘others’, as a capitalist-dominated world was forged and revolutionised. Our case-studies will be grouped around a number of themes including commodities, the household, empire, ecology, and labour.

How will I learn on this module?

You will learn on this module by attending a weekly1-hour lecture and a weekly 2-hour seminar. The lecture will introduce that week’s subject and the themes for discussion. This seminar will focus on the set reading (available via the electronic reading list) and historiographical debates related to the subject area; you will build on your independent reading by presenting your ideas and arguments in seminar discussions with your peers. Particularly in the second part of the module, seminars will also involve small group work and projects built around each week’s themes and topics. You will receive formative feedback throughout the learning process and summative assessment will match your learning against the learning outcomes for the module.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

Your academic development will be supported through your module tutor, engagement with your peers, and through the programme leader. The module tutor will be accessible within publicised Feedback and Consultation hours and via email. Your peers will provide you with a collaborative learning environment, and your programme leader will guide you through the requirements and expectations of your degree programme, of which this module is part. You will also be supported through individual engagement with the academic literature, lectures, and resources available on the eLP. Formative feedback will be on-going through seminar activities and assessment tasks.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at: http://readinglists.northumbria.ac.uk
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team – http://library.northumbria.ac.uk/readinglists)

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
1. Knowledge and understanding of the global dimensions of the history of capitalism.
2. An appreciation of the range of different modes of existence which capitalism has coexisted with through history.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
3. Demonstrate a range of transferable skills, including the ability to make independent critical judgements, to critically evaluate sources, to summarise the research of others, and to present arguments in a cogent and persuasive way.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
4. Awareness of and sensitivity towards different logics of human and non-human life.
5. Appreciation of the ethical questions inherent in understanding capitalism and alternative modes of existence.

How will I be assessed?

1 x 3,000-word source-based essay (weighted 50%)
This essay will be based on the first half of the module and analyse two sources from a list provided by the module tutor.

1 x 3,000-word essay (weighted 50%).
This essay will be based on the content of the second half of the module and written in response to one question chosen from a list provided by the module tutor.

Formative feedback for each assessment will be provided in seminars. Verbal and written feedback will be given on all summative assessed work. Feedback on initial summative assessments will enable you to improve on later ones.





Module abstract

Capitalism is a central part of the contemporary world. But it has always existed alongside other ways of organising life. In this module you will study the different accounts historians and other theorists have given of capitalism and its central role in modern history – but also how they have contrasted it with different modes of existence, such as feudalism, socialism, or gift economies. Then, you will study a range of different ways in which people have adopted, altered, or struggled against capitalism, as capitalism interacted with its ‘others’ across the world since about 1500. This module will give you a greater understanding of capitalism’s global history, as well as the theoretical tools to grapple with some of the most hotly-debated questions in our society today.

Course info

UCAS Code V100

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years full-time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Humanities

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2023 or September 2024

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing.

Full time Courses starting in 2023 are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but may include elements of online learning. We continue to monitor government and local authority guidance in relation to Covid-19 and we are ready and able to flex accordingly to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff.

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with additional restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors, potentially to a full online offer, should further restrictions be deemed necessary in future. Our online activity will be delivered through Blackboard Ultra, enabling collaboration, connection and engagement with materials and people.


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