Research paper topic ideas on economic history

Looking for good ideas for a research paper on economic history? Whether you are writing for a business class or an economics course, here are just a few of the good research paper topics you can explore: economic systems, classic economic thinkers such as Keynes and Marx or economic theories such as supply side economics.

Adam Smith, John Maynard Keynes and Karl Marx are very well known subjects in economic history. (Credit: charly_vx)

Adam Smith, John Maynard Keynes and Karl Marx are very well known subjects in economic history. (Credit: charly_vx)

The main economic systems

One starting point for research paper topics in the area of economic history would be covering the primary economic systems. In “The 4 Types of Economic Systems Explained,” posted on May 19, 2014, Will Gemma of Udemy, offered some rudimentary insight. He wrote, “There are four primary types of economic systems in the world: traditional, command, market and mixed.” Here’s a basic breakdown:

  • Traditional—Using the most basic and oldest economic system, traditional economies tend to be closely tied to the land. Their products and services can be traced back to regional beliefs and customs. These systems are now generally found in rural areas and third-world countries.
  • Command—The next step in economic system development, a command-based system is controlled by a central power. This form of economy is often the result of a country or people having a valuable resource that needs regulating.
  • Market—Instead of a central power of government controlling resources, organizations have the power in this type of system. The government has no say in how resources are used. A Market system is very similar to a free market.
  • Mixed—Also known as a dual economy, mixed economic systems offer a combination of command and market economic systems. This allows for a broad spectrum of options, with some economies more closely following free market thinking and others adhering to a command-style system.

A who’s who of economic thinkers

Another area to explore in an economic history research paper would be the broad field of economic thinkers who have influenced and shaped economic theories. Vince Cable’s “Karl Marx to John Maynard Keynes: Ten of the greatest economists” written for the Daily Mail on July 16, 2011, provided some examples. The list includes such major names as:

  • Adam Smith—Author of The Wealth of Nations, he argued for free trade, market competition and the morality of private enterprise.
  • Karl Marx—Although known for The Communist Manifesto, Marx was a classical economic thinker who developed theories to explain why capitalist economies have fluctuations and crises.
  • John Maynard Keynes—Thought by many to be the greatest economic thinker of the 20th century, Keynes challenged the idea that market economies will naturally adjust to create full employment. His ideas fell out of favor when inflation was a major worry, but the recent recession has led to a revival of his theories.
  • Milton Friedman—A proponent of Smith’s views on the free market, Friedman made a case for floating exchange rates and inspired the Chicago School of Economics. His theories are often wrongly described, according to Cable, as the opposite of Keynes.

Comparing economic theories

The recent recession and the subsequent slow global recovery have led many to wonder how, or even if, America’s current economy can survive. The upheaval the world’s economy has recently endured offers a mini-history of economics. Henry LaVaughn touched on the resulting changes that might become a part of economic history in “Consumer Spending Reflects New Priorities after the Recession” for the February 2014 issue of Economic Trends. 

He noted that personal consumption has recovered since the latest recession, at a rate of 3.8 percent. The rate of consumption prior to the Great Recession of 2008-09 was 5.3 percent on average. LaVaughn noted, “Consumers appear to be more focused on consuming based on need versus want; durables that yield value over the long term such as cars, furniture, and other household equipment, have eclipsed growth in temporary service-based consumption such as food services and accommodations.”

Some economists argue that a theory of supply-side economics, which focuses on economic growth by encouraging production (often through giving tax breaks) is one solution to the slow recovery. Others argue in favor of Say’s law, which proposes that demand is created by supply. The recent economic struggles around the world and the theories on how to fix them are definitely topical ideas for an economic history research paper, in addition to other more historical options.

For more information on economics and business, visit Questia’s sections on economic history or the history of economics libraries.

What do you think would make good research paper topics for a term paper on economic history?

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