Nathan Marcus, Associate Professor in the Department of History at the St. Petersburg School of Social Sciences and Humanities, is currently teaching an undergraduate course in economic and financial history, and will offer a graduate-level course next year as part of the Applied and Interdisciplinary History master’s programme. The programme is almost ready to open, and will accept its first students in 2015.
Today we are publishing the comments of Oleg Kudinov, a student from HSE St. Petersburg and a lab assistant in the Centre for Historical Research on Professor Marcus' lectures.
'I first found out that Professor Marcus would be teaching a course on economic history in May of last year. My first question was Why? In both our first and second year we had classes on economics where we were told about the history of economic thought. There were also certain concerns about the fact that a course on economics, the mechanisms of which are sometimes difficult to explain even in Russian, would be taught in English.
When Professor Marcus taught our first class, however, I understood that it would be something completely new and intriguing. In the course on world economic history, we not only discussed purely economic processes, but we also studied the impact that the world of finance has on the government’s actions in social and foreign policy. Moreover, we did not cover each country separately, instead learning how the globalization process worked.
But perhaps the most interesting thing was how Professor Marcus would connect the events of the past with what is happening today. Of course one cannot say that in studying the economy of the 19th and 20th centuries, you immediately start to grasp the economic processes of the 21st century. The contemporary economic system does, however, originate in the 19th and 20th centuries, which is why it is important to understand how it was all formed, which transformations it went though, why crises like the Great Depression occurred and how economists of the past found a way of getting out of them. History always provides a wealth of material for understanding modern-day processes.
We also developed our analytical skills during one particularly interesting and unusual assignment. The task involved looking at various publications like The Financial Timesor The Economistto find information on modern events from the world of finance. But the thing was, we had to find a connection between, let’s say, an oil workers’ strike in Kenya and how the American Civil War of 1861-1865 affected the cotton market. At first glance it might seem like these events are in no way related to one another, but actually, if you use all of the analytical tools that economic history provides the researcher with, you can see that the connection lies in the fact that cotton in the mid-19th century was a raw material no less important than oil is for us today. And the mechanisms for finding sales markets for these raw materials, as well as cheap places to produce them, are very similar.
This is why Professor Marcus’ course ended up being one of the most interesting classes I took my junior year. The course offered me not only a deep understanding of the economic processes underway in the 19th and 20th centuries, but also the tools that allow for the modern-day situation to be analyzed by comparing it with the past. And for a cyclical economy, this knowledge is extremely important. Also, by communicating with a foreign professor in English, your level of English is bound to improve, which is always a big plus.'