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Bitcoin, Money and Trust

Module description

This module will provide you with a comprehensive understanding of Bitcoin, Cryptocurrency, and other Blockchain technology applications. You will examine Bitcoin from different ideological and historical perspectives with the aim of distinguishing between less controversial facts (including how the technology emerged, how it works, and how it is being developed and applied), and suggestions for how it may be used in the future. Up to now, different groups have held very different and very strong opinions, ranging from Bitcoin being a ‘fraud’ (Jamie Dimon) to a ‘technical tour de force’ (Bill Gates). On completion of the module, you will be better informed, not just on how the technology works, but also the potential transformative consequences it has in many areas. At one extreme optimistic libertarians see a future that brings enormous benefits to the developing world, has companies without directors, and very little, if any role left for government (with, for example, smart contracts allowing public good provision). At the other extreme, pessimists point to the problems Bitcoin faces today, including environmental concerns, crime facilitation, wild volatility exacerbated by scams and a bubble that could potentially collapse entirely.

To address this large and growing topic, the module consists of three parts: a history of money and Bitcoin, a course in how Bitcoin works including programming, and a series of guest lectures from people working in blockchain and related industries that speculates on the future.

The assessment structure on this module is subject to review and may change before the start of the new academic year. Any changes will be clearly communicated to you before the start of term and if you wish to change module as a result of this you can do so in the module change window.

Full module specification

Module title:Bitcoin, Money and Trust
Module code:BEE3109
Module level:3
Academic year:2023/4
Module lecturers:
  • Jack Rogers - Convenor
  • Dr Christopher Carr - Convenor
  • Dr Martha Omolo - Convenor
Module credit:15
ECTS value:



There are no pre-requisites for this module but students without either programming or economics experience may find they need to do some additional reading 

Duration of module: Duration (weeks) - term 1:


Duration (weeks) - term 2:


Duration (weeks) - term 3:


Module aims

Overall, this module aims to provide you with a broad, comprehensive understanding of what money really is, and how Bitcoin, and hence blockchain technology works. With this foundation, you will be able to identify strategic opportunities for business and be able to understand different views on how the technology could be used in the future. You will be introduced to new developments in this fast changing space through a series of guest lectures, with the aim of developing the foundation you need to form strategic visions for future commerce in this area. 

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Critically review, analyse and make links between the history of bitcoin and the broader history of money
  • 2. Explain how the programming code and economic incentive structures make bitcoin (and hence any public or private blockchain) work
  • 3. Critically review and discuss a range of academic and non-academic papers reflecting on the future of bitcoin/blockchain technology

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Critically evaluate and formulate a well-founded answer to a specific topical research related question

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 5. Deliver coherent arguments in written work
  • 6. Demonstrate analytical and critical thinking skills
  • 7. Work as a team to formulate strategy based on theoretical perspectives and market research

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Contact hours14 hours14 x 1 hour lectures
Contact hours8 hours8 x 1 hour lab sessions
Contact hours5 hours5 x 1 hour tutorials
Guided independent study123 hoursReading and preparation for lectures, tutorials, and assessments

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Tutorial exercises50 minutes1-6In class
Group presentation workshop30 minutes7Oral feedback on group project

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Assignment 803,000 words1-6Written comments
Group presentation1020 minutes3,4,7Written feedback given to groups
MCQ test1050 minutes1,2Automated individual and generic

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay (80%) (3000 words)1-6August re-assessment period
Group presentation Individual report (10%) (500 words)3,4,7August re-assessment period
MCQ test MCQ test (10%) (50 minutes)1,2August re-assessment period

Re-assessment notes


Syllabus plan

  • How did money emerge? Debt versus medium of exchange
  • History of money up to modern central banks and fractional reserve banking
  • How did Bitcoin emerge from the ashes of the financial crisis?
  • How does Bitcoin actually work: cryptographic hash functions; merkle trees, digital signatures; block creation; distributed consensus; proof of work; economic incentives and the solution to the byzantine generals problem
  • A series of guest lectures from people working in the blockchain industry offering different perspectives and assessments on current practice and potential.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Martin, Felix. (2013) Money: The Unauthorised Biography

Narayanan, Arvind and Bonneau, Joseph and Felten, Edward and Miller, Andrew and Goldfeder, Steven. (2016) Bitcoin and cryptocurrency technologies.

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources readings/princeton bitcoin book.pdf?a=1, 2016.

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Suggested academic journal and other articles will be made available on ELE.

Origin date


Last revision date