Skip to main content

University of Exeter Business School

Economics of Culture and Institutions

Module titleEconomics of Culture and Institutions
Module codeBEE3073
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Max Posch (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

The course examines how culture and institutions matter for understanding the evolution of economic development, beginning with the divergence between human ancestors and other primates and continuing through the end of the 20th century. Topics covered include the Neolithic Revolution; economic development in ancient and medieval societies; theories and evidence about the institutional and cultural determinants of modern development in Europe, the Americas, Africa, and Asia.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The main objective of the module is to provide you with knowledge and critical understanding of the most widely known theories and evidence for the role of culture and institutions in the evolution of economic development. The module is also expected to improve employment prospects by tapping into and developing distinct transferable skills, including scientific writing, reviewing relevant literature, extracting the most relevant content and expressing it in brief form, and communicating complex data to an audience in an accessible form.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Develop a comprehensive knowledge of the historical facts of economic development
  • 2. Discuss the main economic theories of long-term growth and development, their empirical support, and their limitations
  • 3. Apply economic reasoning to historical and contemporary development issues in a critical manner

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Evaluate the main arguments behind current debates on historical and contemporaneous economic development issues
  • 5. Critically assess the strengths and limitations of competing theories of economic growth based on relevant data and empirical findings

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Apply analytical and critical thinking skills
  • 7. Address theoretical and empirical issues in the history of economic development

Syllabus plan

  • Pre-historical development
  • Ancient and medieval development
  • The beginning of modern economic growth
  • Institutions, policy, geography, and culture as determinants of development
  • Comparative economic development in Europe, the Americas, Africa, and Asia


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
Scheduled Learning & Teaching activities22Lectures
Scheduled Learning & Teaching activities5Tutorials
Guided Independent study1233Reading and reflection. Preparation for lectures, tutorials, and exam

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
In-class Q&AWeekly1-7In-class feedback

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
Final exam702 hours1-7Individual written or verbal feedback to student (if requested)
Mid-term exam3050 minutes1-7Individual written or verbal feedback to students

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Final examFinal exam (70%) 2 hours1-7Referral/Deferral Period
Mid-term examMid-term (30%) 50 min 1-7Referral/Deferral Period

Re-assessment notes

Deferrals will take place as soon as possible within the same term
Referrals and any further deferrals will take place in the August/September Reassessment Period


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Readings such as journal articles and book chapters will be available for download on the course website. Students may wish to purchase a copy of the following books:

  • Acemoglu, D., Robinson, J. A. (2012). Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty. United Kingdom: Crown.
  • Mokyr, J. (1992). The Lever of Riches: Technological Creativity and Economic Progress. United Kingdom: Oxford University Press, USA.
  • Mokyr, J. (2017). A Culture of Growth: The Origins of the Modern Economy. United Kingdom: Princeton University Press.
  • Henrich, J. (2017). The Secret of Our Success: How Culture Is Driving Human Evolution, Domesticating Our Species, and Making Us Smarter. United Kingdom: Princeton University Press.
  • Henrich, J. (2020). The Weirdest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous. United Kingdom: Penguin Books Limited.
  • Galor, O. (2022). The Journey of Humanity: The Origins of Wealth and Inequality. United Kingdom: Random House.

Some of the readings have technical details about statistical estimation or economic modeling. These technical details will not be on the exams. Instead, students should understand the main arguments of all the papers on the reading list and what quantitative facts or case study evidence is used to support those arguments.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Development, Growth, Culture, Institutions, History, Evolution

Credit value15
Module pre-requisites

BEE2038 and BEE2039, or BEE2025 and BEE2026

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date