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Economic History: Meaning and Samples

Economic History is a mother discipline that lacks a universally agreed definition. The broad nature of this discipline makes scholars have diverse views on this course; however, there are agreeable terms and words in attempts to give precise definitions to this course. D.C. Coleman, for example, defines economic history as ‘the study of how people lived most of their lives, how many were born and died, how they earned and spent, worked and played (1). In a concise manner, economic history is not more than this.

Economic History | Economics | MIT OpenCourseWare

Economic history, by this definition, becomes a discipline that concerns itself with the economic ramifications of the past- looking into different historic economical terms like the cost of production, the process, the economic systems, theory, mode of production, the level of modernization, and civilization, exchange of goods and services, distribution of goods and services, and others in that line. At this juncture, it is important to state that economic history is different from economic theory and economic system.

According to Dr. Ogunode;

Economic History is the study of the economic past of man. It is a branch of History that touches on the fundamentals of existence. Generally speaking, all knowledge is historical because it is important to have a historical background to anything one may want to do. For this reason, history has been subdivided into several sub-disciplines one of which is the study of Economic History. 

This simply shows that while political power is good, the economic character of a nation gives sense to other dispositions. The study of Economic History is, therefore, very central in our understanding of the past economic institutions, strategies, and dynamics of societies.

 The economic past of a society or people is their economic history. The definitions of Economics as a discipline should not be mistaken for Economic History. While Economics majorly deals with (statistical) calculations, theories, and concepts, Economic History narrates the economic past of man using historical episodes.

Since Economic History cannot completely function in isolation, it depends on many sister disciplines in order to examine the economic past of the people or society. Economic History, as a discipline, is a recent development; it’s a 20th-century innovation that began in Germany under Gustav.

 For an instance,  “agriculture was by far the most pervasive economic engagements of the West African peoples in the 19th and 20th centuries, as it certainly had been much earlier, still is today and may likely continue to be in the very distant future”(2). Therefore, the agricultural activities that occurred in this region become part and parcel of their economic history.  Ogunode aptly defines economic history as the study of fundamental human survival (3).  

With the growth of the importance of Economic History, there is development in this discipline like the evolution of new classical and neoclassical groups, diverse concepts and generalizations, and others.

Citation: Faforiji Tadese. Economic History Defined. (May 2021). Tadexprof. Retrieved at

  1. HIS 315 Economic History of West Africa in the 19th And 20th Centuries. Department of History and International Studies EDO UNIVERSITY IYAMHO. Instructor: Dr. Alex Amaechi Ugwuja p2
  2. Ogunode S.A. Ph,D, a lecturer of Economic History, department of History and International Studies, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko.

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Tadese Faforiji

I am Tadese Faforiji, a history student of the prestigious Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State- 21st-century University, properly called. I am a blogger and an avid writer.