Professor John Munro passed away on December 23, 2013. This site is maintained and kept online as an archive. For more infomation please visit the Centre for Medieval Studies

Professor (Emeritus) John H. Munro passed away December 23, 2013

Department of Economics
University of Toronto
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3G7


The Economic History of Later Medieval and Early Modern Europe, 1250 - 1750

For the academic year 2013 - 2014

Updated: 23 August 2013

Note: this is the only course that I am offering in the coming academic year 2013 - 2014. This course alternates with ECO 303Y (Economic History of Modern Europe, to 1914), which was offered last year (2012-13), but not this year, but I hope to offer ECO 303y again in the following academic year.

This course is offered on Wednesday afternoons, from 3:00 to 5:00 pm (sometimes to 5:30 pm) : in University College: UC 328

All blue highlighted items in the following are URL web links to other web pages or to specific supporting documents.

The Purpose and Fundamental Contents of ECO 301Y:

The Economic History of Later Medieval and Early Modern Europe, ca. 1250 - 1750: to the eve of the modern Industrial Revolution.

The Course Outline and other important web documents for Eco. 301Y1:

Web documents are posted in PDF [portable document file] and (occasionally) HTML formats.

BIBLIOGRAPHIES: for essays in undergraduate economic history courses

The bibliography lists and the individual bibliographies, in both short and long versions, are accessible in both html and pdf formats; but in order to retrieve the individual bibliographies you must click on the highlighted "List" in the html format only. Only the bibliographies in the long-format contain statistical and other appendices; and they are best read in the pdf format. Bibliographies in the short-format, usually in two pages, contain the key readings and a few questions to guide you in formulating your essays. The second-term bibliographies will updated and revised in December 2013.

Formats and Other General Observations. Also in pdf format.

Recommended Readings for A and B List Essays in ECO 301Y. The Economic History of Later Medieval and Early Modern Europe, to 1750.

Bibliographies for ECO 301Y1: The Economic History of Later Medieval and Early Modern Europe, 1250-1750.


The major purpose and goal of this course, to elaborate on the introduction, is to analyse and explain five inter-related economic phenomena, so important for global economic history: in elaboration of the goals stated above.

  • - (1) How the medieval Western European economy evolved from an essentially rural, agrarian feudal economy to a much more urbanized and modernized ‘capitalist’ economy, one that was initially based on commercial-financial capitalism, but then later, ultimately evolved into full-scale industrial capitalism, primarily urban-based: with the modern Industrial Revolution, from the mid-18th century, when this course ends.

  • - (2) How western Europe, from about the 13th-century, caught up with and then surpassed other previously more advanced regions (more advanced in both economic and military power) in the world: namely, the Byzantine Empire (in southeastern Europe and western Asia), the Islamic world (in Africa and Asia, from the Atlantic to the Pacific), India, and China.

  • - (3) How, by the 17th century, Europe's economic centre of gravity shifted from the Mediterranean basin to north-west Europe (at the expense of eastern Europe).

  • - (4) How, during this era, western Europe, beginning with 15th-century Portugal), engaged in overseas (maritime) expansion, colonialism, and imperialism: i.e., in Europe's economic and military relations with Africa, Asia, and the Americas -- in effect, establishing its economic hegemony over them.

  • - (5) How Great Britain (England, Wales, and Scotland) became the homeland of the modern Industrial Revolution from the mid-18th century: why there, and not elsewhere; and why then, from the 1760s

This course is largely theme-based and regional in scope (rather than national): and it involves the following major themes:

  • - (1) Macro-economic trends: involving demography (population changes), money, and prices;

  • - (2) An analysis of European economic development by following major sectors: agriculture, commerce, banking & finance, industry. Indeed, the course will end with the industrial origins of the modern Industrial Revolution in Great Britain.

  • - (3) Socio-political economic structures: feudalism, manorialism, and serfdom; the Church; town governments and urban guilds: chiefly in the first term

  • - (4) Economic philosophies: e.g., the Church, especially the usury doctrine; bullionism and other monetary policies; the state and Mercantilism; colonialism and imperialism.

  • - (5) The most important and overriding general theme of both of my courses concerns, in a specifically European context, the struggle for both freedom -- personal, political, social, and economic freedoms -- and the struggle for control over personal property rights. A major question: does the acquisition of such freedoms and control over property rights lead to a competitive 'rent-seeking' struggle (to capture economic rents), at the expense of the freedoms and property rights of other people. That is especially relevant in the study of European overseas expansion and Imperialism, from the fifteenth to twentieth centuries. Surely these are not trivial and 'boring' considerations!

Geographic coverage of this course

  • Although the major focus is therefore on medieval western Europe, nevertheless eastern Europe (Prussia, the eastern Baltic, Poland, Ukraine, Russia) will also be considered, in the first term. The major European regional focus in the first term is Italy; in the second term, on England and the Low Countries.

  • This course is not, however, Eurocentric and is not totally restricted to Europe. I also inlcude most of the Islamic world, especially in the Mediterranean basin and western and southern Asia, and the non-Islamic portions of southern and eastern Asia. Indeed one major aim is to demonstrate that the economic development of Europe from the 8th, but especially from the 12th century, took place only because its growing trade and other economic relations with the Islamic world. In the second term, for the early modern era (1500 -1750) we will see how even more economically dependent Europe became in its relations with the now vast Ottoman Empire (Asia and Africa), with India, China, and the East Indies (modern day Indonesia) – and then the Americas, North and South.


These themes are elaborated in two related web documents, designed to convince students of the real utility of economic history:

This course is closely related to my own research and publications. There are significant costs as well as benefits in basing the course so much on my own research -- and having it differ so much from a traditonal textbook course. Economics is all about costs and benefits -- and thus about trade-offs. I hope that the tradeoffs will prove to be profitable to students.

See also Time Chart of European Economic History, 1300-1750, for a one-page summary of the course, relating topics with 50-year time periods. This is also available as a pdf file: i.e., portable document file. You may find it easier to download and print the file in this format.


  • The University of Toronto's on-line inter-active web pages for this and my other course: on Portal's Blackboard:

  • To gain access to the Blackboard site, you must first log-in: with your UTORid and password.

  • See also Current Notices, for any new or recent announcements concerning this course or my other course in European economic history. This page is updated frequently. These announcements will also be found on both the Portal Blackboard site and my Home Page.

  • Please read carefully, via the indicated web-links, my policies concerning: e-mails; letters of recommendation; and office hours.

The lectures for this course: are given on Wednesday afternoons (from Wednesday, 11 September 2013): from 3:00 to 5:00 pm, or sometimes to 5:30 pm

  • Note: our classroom has been booked for three hours, from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m, but

  • The actual lecture is normally only two hours. For four of the 12 weeks each semester, however, the lecture will be two and a half hours: i.e., to 5:30 pm.

  • In the past (in the past 45 years (since 1968), in fact, here at the University of Toronto), I had lectured each time, each week, for only two hours; and the extra hour was reserved for any make-up lectures on the rare occasions that I had to go to Europe for conferences.

  • Now, however, the Faculty of Arts and Science has unwisely decided to reduce each semester by one week: i.e., with 12 rather than the traditional 13 weeks of lectures. I am not prepared to cut yet another four hours from my teaching schedule -- especially not when we differ so radically from the world-wide university norm: in offering lectures to only two rather than three hours a week.

  • Therefore (and despite university advice to the contrary) I will make up those four missing lecture hours by lecturing for an extra half hour each week, at least eight times in the course of the year. I could of course, take the easy route, and cut out four one-hour lectures, and save myself the effort. But my goal in teaching is to give you a proper, full, and legitimate course of lectures. I am not willing to compromise my academic standards; and I think that it is morally very wrong to cheat students in this fashion. On the other hand, students are not compelled to stay for the extra half hour -- or even to come to class (though they risk failing the final exam by not coming to class).

The On-Line Lecture Notes and Power Point Presentationsfor Eco 301Y1 : Important Considerations

Teaching Assistant and Office Hours: for both the TA and the Professor

(1) The Teaching Assistant for this course, ECO 301Y1: Ms. Jessie LaMontagne: PhD Student in the Department of Economics (who has served as my TA for the past two years -- this will be her third year).

(2) John Munro's Office hours: on Thursday afternoons:

To John Munro's Home Page