Spring 2024 - IS 220 D100

Wealth and Poverty of Nations (3)

Class Number: 5150

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 8 – Apr 12, 2024: Fri, 10:30 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 14, 2024
    Sun, 7:00–10:00 p.m.



Analyzes some of the historical reasons for the great divergence in world economic development, and undertakes a cross-country, cross-regional perspective of world economic development using a historical approach to long-run economic growth. Breadth-Social Sciences.



Global inequalities of wealth and economic development are a defining feature of the contemporary world. Whether measured within or between countries of the global South and global North, inequalities of wealth, income, and carbon output all matter greatly for today’s world and the prospect of continued human life on Earth. But how can we begin to define such inequalities, explain patterns of continuity and change in them over time, and effectively address them? What have social scientists and historians argued are the causes of economic inequalities within countries and between countries of the global North and South? And what implications do these inequalities have for the global climate crisis and potential solutions to it? This course adopts a historically-informed, social scientific lens to probe such questions regarding continuity and change in these types of inequality. It is required for students pursuing the “International development, economic, and environmental issues” concentration of SFU’s International Studies major. In the concentration, students study the causes and consequences of global wealth and poverty, the ways in which the global economy works, development strategies and policies, and environmental problems including the climate crisis. As such, our course lays a conceptual and empirical foundation for deeper explorations of these core themes in later, upper-level courses within the concentration.


By the end of the course, students:

  • gain familiarity with social scientific conceptualizations of global economic inequalities;
  • gain familiarity with social scientific arguments regarding degrees of historical change and continuity in global economic inequalities;
  • gain familiarity with social scientific arguments about theorized causes of contemporary global economic inequalities, as well as ways of addressing them;
  • develop skills in synthesizing and assessing such arguments through analytic writing


  • Tutorial attendance & participation 10%
  • Paper 20%
  • Exam #1 35%
  • Exam #2 35%



All of the reports, articles, book chapters, and other textual sources we read are freely available in digital form online through our Canvas website, or through the SFU library website at www.lib.sfu.ca. We will read sizable portions of the following sources:

Chancel, Lucas, Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, Gabriel Zucman, et al. 2021. “World Inequality Report 2022”. World Inequality Lab.

Parthasarathi, Prasannan. 2011. Why Europe Grew Rich and Asia Did Not: Global Economic Divergence, 1600-1850. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Piketty, Thomas. 2022. A Brief History of Equality. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating. Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the university community. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the university. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the university. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html