Money and Finance in United States' Society, 1880-2020 ESH4084

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

In this course, we will examine the history of money and finance in the modern United States. Our inquiry will be driven by three broad questions: How have Americans defined what money is? How have they used money and credit in their daily lives? How and why have financial markets changed? In answering these questions, we will draw on business, economic, social, cultural, political and gender history, as well as the history of technology and the history of race. We will also draw connections between the economic practices of daily life and transformations in global financial markets.


Lecture: one hour per week; seminar: one hour per week (timetabled/on-campus).


Please note this course does not run every session. For further information please check the ESH Moodle page.

Requirements of Entry

Enrolment in an MA (SocSci) or MA (Arts) Honours Programme

Excluded Courses



During the term, students will complete a 1,500 word mid-semester essay (30% of final grade). For this essay, students will choose between topics provided by the instructor (~3), which will enable them to examine themes of their choice from the first half of the course, using both primary and secondary sources which they have read and discussed over previous weeks. Near the end of the teaching period, students will complete a primary source essay (1,500 words, 30% of final grade), in which they develop an original analysis of a primary source text. The instructor will provide a range of texts for students to choose from. Finally, after the completion of the teaching period, students will complete one final essay covering the whole course (2,000 words, 40% of final grade). Students will be provided with a range of questions by the instructor (again, 3 or so topics per essay), and students will be required to use primary materials and secondary course texts, which they have read and discussed over previous weeks. Students will have additional time after the end of the teaching period to complete the final essay, assuring that they will be able to achieve their best work at their own pace.

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable for Honours courses

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. Where, exceptionally, reassessment on Honours courses is required to satisfy professional/accreditation requirements, only the overall course grade achieved at the first attempt will contribute to the Honours classification. For non-Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

1. To gain familiarity with the history of money and finance in the United States, especially the political and social conflicts over what would serve as money, the development of monetary and financial institutions, and the roles finance has played in larger questions of American culture, politics, and society.

2. To develop skills of historical analysis, especially reading and analysing primary sources, and using those sources to develop evidence-driven arguments.

3. To apply the theories and ideas developed in the course to your wider academic and intellectual (and political, and moral, and philosophical, etc.) concerns.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate systematic knowledge and critical understanding of key topics in the history of money and finance in the United States over the past 100 years, including the functions of different kinds of financial institutions and the political debates that structured the financial system.

2. Show ability to critically assess the impact of financial institutions, products, and policies on different groups within American society, especially women, people of colour, and the economically disadvantaged.

3. Demonstrate the ability to critically analyse, and make effective use of, primary and secondary historical sources.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.