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EC103: Inequality: Economic, Historical and Sociological Perspectives

Subject Area: Economics

Course details

  • Department
    Department of Economic History
  • Application code
Session oneNot running in 2024
Session twoClosed - 8 Jul 2024 - 26 Jul 2024
Session threeNot running in 2024


Applications are closed

We are not currently accepting applications for this course. Register your interest below to be notified when applications open again.


Is a growing gap between the ultra-rich, and the rest, necessary for economic growth? What are the historical precedents for our current global inequity?

The distribution of the gains from capitalism, globalisation and technological progress preoccupies academic and popular discourse. This course will introduce students to the study and history of these economic inequalities.

We will examine:

  • How to conceptualise inequality
  • How has inequality changed over time?
  • What causes inequality to rise or fall?
  • How has social mobility changed over time?
  • What is the relationship between inequality and social mobility?
  • How important is inheritance in determining wealth?
  • Aspects of gender, and ethnic inequalities, over time

A detailed survey of the key evidence on inequality, both contemporary and historical, and the sources and methods used to measure it. Students will learn how to critically interrogate the quality of inferences from such evidence. They will explore the dimensions of inequality along historical, contemporary, spatial, ethnic and gender lines, drawing on research in economic history, economic geography and sociology. 

Key information

Prerequisites: There are no prerequisites for this course.

Level: 100 level. Read more information on levels in our FAQs

Fees: Please see Fees and payments

Lectures: 36 hours

Classes: 18 hours

Assessment: 1,500-word essay (50%) and one final written examination (50%) 

Typical credit: 3-4 credits (US) 7.5 ECTS points (EU)

Please note: Assessment is optional but may be required for credit by your home institution. Your home institution will be able to advise how you can meet their credit requirements. For more information on exams and credit, read Teaching and assessment

Is this course right for you?

This course is suited for the motivated student who wishes to study interdisciplinary topics from scholars at the research frontier. Students who wish to learn how to combine quantitative methods with deep historical context will gain much.

The course will help students develop the ability to weave a complex, multi-faceted narrative, and to write clearly about economic history. This will facilitate those who wish to later embark upon careers where communication of complexity is a must.


  • Understand the concepts behind the interpretation of inequality
  • Be able to compare inequality over time and contextualise contemporary inequality within a broader economic history perspective
  • Analyse institutional, demographic and social determinants of inequality
  • Apply methods and concepts from the research frontier of economics, economic history and sociology to the understanding of historical and contemporary outcomes


Rhea Sahajwani, India

I have gained new perspectives and knowledge in finance which will help me in my career. I am looking forward to applying what I have learnt to my course back home.


The design of this course is guided by LSE faculty, as well as industry experts, who will share their experience and in-depth knowledge with you throughout the course.

Neil Cummins

Professor Neil Cummins

Professor of Economic History

Joan Roses

Professor Joan Roses

Professor in Economic History

Mike Savage

Professor Mike Savage

Martin White Professor of Sociology


LSE’s Department of Economic History has a distinguished tradition of research and teaching that applies concepts and theories from the social sciences for studying the development of real economies, and understanding them in their social, political and cultural contexts. As one of the largest specialist economic history departments in the world, the Department attracts leading thinkers in the field of economic, business and social history from the UK and around the world.

Students will grapple with some of the most complex economic and social challenges through a historical lens, applying LSE’s unique social science approach to understanding these challenges. Engaging with world-renowned faculty, students will develop the critical-thinking and research skills that will equip them for careers in a diverse range of sectors, including government, corporate, non-profit and public sectors.


Applications are closed

We are not currently accepting applications for this course. Register your interest below to be notified when applications open again.