Bitcoin Money and Trust

Module description

Bitcoin is a complex system built on economic incentives. Its success up to now has also come with a lot of hype and misinformation. Firms and governments have emphasised different parts of it with terms like ‘blockchain’ and ‘distributed ledger technology’ increasingly being seen as forces for good.

This module will provide you with a comprehensive understanding of Bitcoin, Cryptocurrency, and other Blockchain technology applications. 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 try and make sense of what bitcoin really is and how it works, the module starts with a study of the theory behind the protocol written in the bitcoin whitepaper. This is followed by a brief history of money and bitcoin, before finishing with applications of the technology in practice. 

Full module specification

Module title:Bitcoin Money and Trust
Module code:BEEM319
Module level:M
Academic year:2019/0
Module lecturers:
  • Dr Jack Rogers - 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 2:


Module aims

Overall, this module aims to provide you with a broad, comprehensive understanding of what bitcoin really is, and hence how ‘blockchain’ technology really works. With this foundation, and with economic incentives at the centre, 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 direct contact with industry experts, with the aim of developing the foundation you need to form strategic visions for future commerce in this area. 

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. explain how the programming code and economic incentive structures make bitcoin (and hence any public or private blockchain) work
  • 2. critically review and discuss a range of academic and non-academic papers reflecting on the future of bitcoin/blockchain technology

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 4. deliver coherent arguments in written work
  • 5. demonstrate analytical and critical thinking skills
  • 6. 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 Hours1414 x 1 hour lectures
Contact Hours88 x 1 hour lab sessions
Contact Hours55 x 1 hour tutorials
Guided Independent Study 123

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Tutorial exercises 50 minutes1-5In class
Group presentation workshop30 minutes6Oral 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
Assignment904,000 words1-5In class
Group Presentation1020 minutes 3,5,6Oral feedback on group project

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Assignment and Group Presentation5000 word assignment1-6August reassessment period

Syllabus plan

  • Theoretical study of the bitcoin whitepaper
  • Brief history of money up to modern central banks and fractional reserve banking
  • How Bitcoin emerged from the ashes of the financial crisis
  • How Bitcoin actually work in practice: cryptographic hash functions; merkle trees, digital signatures; block creation; distributed consensus; proof of work; economic incentives and the solution to the byzantine generals problem

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.

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