Economic and Social History Blog


Thematic Package Economic and Social History

The Great Societal Challenges:
Crises, Inequality and Sustainability

Do you want to study the root causes of inequality? Get to grips with why some societies fail while others flourish? Pick up analytical skills with far-ranging applications from policy-development to journalism? And learn how to use the study of history to solve contemporary problems? If this appeals then you should choose the thematic package “Great Societal Challenges”!

We live in a highly unequal world, one in which you are extremely lucky if born in the rich west, and very unlucky should your mother live in Sub-Saharan Africa. Why is this the case? If technology has enabled us able to produce huge numbers of goods, services and iPads, why have not all societies profited from these new opportunities. And how sustainable is this situation? People suffer when their state collapses (such as in Somalia or Syria), when climate change harms agricultural productivity (as the rains have stopped falling or alternatively, water levels continue to rise) or when their political rights are suppressed. How (or to what extent) has the West managed to overcome these problems? And what do these global problems mean for the sustainability of current welfare levels?

In this package we will be studying some of the most important challenges facing present day societies. From the first course where we explore what explains patterns of inequality to the final course where you will undertake independent research to determine how some societies survive disastrous events while others perish, the teaching staff will make explicit the links with the present. We will also be visiting companies and societal partners in order to introduce students to a wide-range of environments and giving them hands-on experience with research. The final symposium will give students the opportunity to discuss their research with scholars and practitioners from a broad range of backgrounds.