Spring 2022 - ECON 452W D100

Seminar in Economic Prehistory (3)

Class Number: 4034

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu 2:30 PM – 3:20 PM
    AQ 2104, Burnaby

    Fr 2:30 PM – 4:20 PM
    AQ 5009, Burnaby

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 13, 2022
    8:30 AM – 11:30 AM
    WMC 3510, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    ECON 302 with a minimum grade of C-.



Topics will vary but may include the biological evolution of economic preferences, economic behavior in hunting and gathering societies, the transition from foraging to agriculture, the emergence of inequality, hierarchy, warfare, cities, and the state, and mechanisms of social collapse. Students with credit for ECON 482 in the Summer of 2004, or ECON 452 may not take this course for further credit. Writing.


This course uses the tools of economics to investigate the behavior and institutions of people in “prehistoric” societies.  The concept of prehistory means there are no written historical records.  Some "prehistoric" societies existed in the distant past and are known only through evidence from archaeology, but other societies without any written records have been observed by modern social scientists. 

Specific topics will include

  1. The pre-agricultural world (human origins; climate, technology, and institutions; population dynamics; foraging equilibrium)
  2. The transition to agriculture (cases from southwest Asia, Africa, east Asia, and the Americas; resource endowments; theories of the transition).

III.    The post-agricultural world (inequality, warfare, the state, social collapse).

While learning about these topics, you will learn some things about economic modeling.

You will also find that modern society is a very recent and strange phenomenon.


  • Written Assignments (2) 50%
  • Midterm 25%
  • Final Exam 25%



Jared Diamond, 1997, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies, Norton, New York.

Peter Bellwood, 2005, First Farmers: The Origins of Agricultural Societies, Blackwell, Oxford.

A package of custom courseware will be provided for purchase, and a variety of journals. 

Articles will be downloadable for free.


Department Undergraduate Notes:

Please note that, as per Policy T20.01, the course requirements (and grading scheme) outlined here are subject to change up until the end of the first week of classes.

Final exam schedules will be released during the second month of classes. If your course has a final exam, please ensure that you are available during the entire final exam period until you receive confirmation of your exam dates. 

Students requiring accommodations as a result of a disability must contact the Centre for Accessible Learning (CAL) at 778-782-3112 or caladmin@sfu.ca.


Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site 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


Teaching at SFU in spring 2022 will involve primarily in-person instruction, with safety plans in place.  Some courses will still be offered through remote methods, and if so, this will be clearly identified in the schedule of classes.  You will also know at enrollment whether remote course components will be “live” (synchronous) or at your own pace (asynchronous).

Enrolling in a course acknowledges that you are able to attend in whatever format is required.  You should not enroll in a course that is in-person if you are not able to return to campus, and should be aware that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who may need class or exam accommodations, including in the context of remote learning, are advised to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112) as early as possible in order to prepare for the spring 2022 term.