This page focuses on the course 21H.134J Medieval Economic History in Comparative Perspective as it was taught by Professor Anne McCants in Spring 2012.
This course surveys the conditions of material life and changing social and economic conditions in medieval Europe with reference to the comparative context of contemporary Islamic, Chinese, and central Asian experiences. Beyond the content, this course is intended to help students think, problem solve, and communicate.
Primarily juniors and seniors; some sophomores; very few freshmen
Primarily economics majors, minors, and concentrators
A lot of the students are economists and know Neoclassical economic theory pretty well. However, an economics background is not presumed and all economics concepts are explained before they’re used.
Most students enter the class with little knowledge of medieval history besides what they’ve gleaned from inaccurate movie portrayals. They learn background material in the course via storytelling, timelines, maps, and other material. According to Prof. McCants, “For a student who actually knows some medieval history, it might sound patronizing and annoying, but such students are so rare.”
During an average week, students were expected to spend 12 hours on the course, roughly divided as follows:
In the following pages, Prof. McCants describes various aspects of how she teaches 21H.134J Medieval Economic History in Comparative Perspective.
Prof. McCants is a medievalist; one of the TAs is always a senior lecturer who is an ancient historian; and the third TA is typically a graduate student working in the 19th or 20th century. Collectively, their expertise spans a lot of history, allowing them to provide historical context, answer questions about other time periods when relevant, and interpret events and issues in different historical contexts.