This is an archived course. A more recent version may be available at


Medieval Economic History in Comparative Perspective

Traditional Dutch buildings with a canal in the foreground.

Prinsengracht, Amsterdam: the commercial capital of the 17th century. (Photo by Prof. Anne McCants.)


MIT Course Number

21H.416J / 14.70J

As Taught In

Spring 2006



Course Highlights

This course features archived syllabi from various semesters.

Course Description

This course will survey the conditions of material life and the changing social and economic relations in medieval Europe with reference to the comparative context of contemporary Islamic, Chinese, and central Asian experiences. The subject covers the emergence and decline of feudal institutions, the transformation of peasant agriculture, living standards and the course of epidemic disease, and the ebb and flow of long-distance trade across the Eurasian system. Particular emphasis will be placed on the study of those factors, both institutional and technological, which have contributed to the emergence of capitalist organization and economic growth in Western Europe in contrast to the trajectories followed by the other major medieval economies.

Archived Versions