Mark Fletcher – World History of Economics

posted on Thursday 27th October

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After classes on Wednesday the 28 of September, students at the School of English Studies in Folkestone were guided through the world of Economics by lecturer Mark Fletcher. The talk was dynamic and interactive, engaging the students in an exploration of key moments in economic history, from the Sumerian farmers to smart phones.

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To get his audience talking, the first thing Mark did, was give them a list of questions to ask one another. Such as: “who is on the back of a £10 note?” “were your clothes made in your country?” “why is it cheaper to buy a holiday this month than last month?”

He followed this up with his own question to the group, what in the room did they think had travelled the furthest? After much debate they concluded that is was the computer from China, to which Mark held up the apple from his desk, “all the way from New Zealand.”

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Besides the apple was a box of items covered with a sheet. Mark continued the lecture, revealing each item from the box as it related to a particular time, or incident, that influenced economic development. As he went along, he illustrated the passage of economic progress, drawing out the countries to contextualise where the key moments occurred.

He brought out a metal trowel to symbolise the settling of farmers in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) around 4000 years ago. This was followed by an image of the Colosseum for the Roman Empire, and a teapot to signify the transport of goods from East to West along the silk road.

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In this way Mark covered several millennia, touching on: the opening of the first banks, impacts of the plague and slavery, the industrial revolution and eventual depression years, ending with corporate globalisation and modern technology. Each object he used was relevant when held up in context, but slightly obscure once laid out together on the table – for example a woolly hat for the cold war.

Once he had finished his presentation, Mark covered the objects, and asked the students if he could remember each one. They then each took an object to give to their neighbour, explaining what that object symbolised. This exercise helped to secure in their minds the key elements of the talk.

Taking it further, Mark handed out picture cards and texts that related to the talk. In groups, the students laid out the cards and captions, to recreate the economic history of the world.

The final incarnation of the story was for the students, in groups of three, to act out three chosen moments; the beginning of farming, travelling the silk road and the industrial revolution.

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To conclude the lecture Mark gave each student a 100 Euros… that he had printed. The question he left them with was: “Why is a genuine 2 Euro coin worth more than this 100 Euros?” “What is the economic system without our trust in it?”.