Philosophy, Politics and Economics Reading List

The list is divided into three parts covering Philosophy, Politics and Economics.


Please click on the link below to find general guidance on the course and logic exercises to complete and return to jonathon.​mcintosh@​philosophy.​ox.​ac.​uk by 30th September.

Preparatory reading for Philosophy (PPE, PML)

Candidates looking for advice on what to read before applying should consult the Philosophy Faculty’s FAQ.


Politics is divided into two parts: Theorizing the Democratic State and Introduction to the Practice of Politics. At Balliol, we do not sedulously define these into different sequences of tutorials. But most of your tutorials in Michaelmas will be in Introduction to the Practice of Politics.

The following books are *required* and will be discussed in your early tutorials, and Lijphart’s book is the core of a series of lectures and labs that you will have, which are focused on using political science methods. You should be sure to read it carefully.

  • Lijphart, Arend. Patterns of Democracy : Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Countries. 2nd ed. New Haven ; London: Yale University Press, 2012.
  • Acemoglu, Daron, and James A. Robinson. Why Nations Fail : The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty. London: Profile, 2012.
  • Sartori, Giovanni. Comparative Constitutional Engineering : An Inquiry into Structures, Incentives and Outcomes. 2nd ed. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2002.
  • Tsebelis, George. Veto Players: How Political Institutions Work. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2002, chapters 14.

For political theory, we suggest that you first read an introductory book or two on general political theory, and then look specifically at some of the texts you’ll be studying in the first year. For introductory reading, you might look at the following:

  • Jonathan Wolff, An Introduction to Political Philosophy (3rd ed, 2015)
  • Adam Swift Political Philosophy: A Beginners’ Guide for Students and Politicians (3rd ed, 2013

The focus of these books is different (Wolff spends more time on historical texts, Swift on contemporary theories), so both could fruitfully be read together. In terms of historical texts, you might look at the following (all widely available in cheap editions and can also be found online):

  • Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto 
  • John Stuart Mill, On Liberty
  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract
  • John Locke, Second Treatise of Government


The first-year economics course at Balliol does not assume any prior knowledge of the subject, but does move fairly fast and is quite technical in its character. The principal books used in the first year are J.M. Perloff, Microeconomics (which requires some knowledge of calculus), R. Frank and E. Cartwright Microeconomics and Behaviour, and C.I. Jones Macroeconomics. Starting to read either of the first two will help with the beginning of the course. Jones will be used after Christmas. Older editions of these books are fine and can often be found at second hand prices online.

Nearly everyone will also need to learn some mathematics. Again, knowledge of A‑level material or its equivalent is not assumed, but starting with some of the work before term is a good idea. There are many books with titles like ‘Mathematics for economists’ and so long as they start at a level which is appropriate for you, there is little to choose between them. However, some examples would be:

Timbrell, M.Mathematics for Economists
Kennedy, G.Mathematics for Innumerate Economists
Anthony, M., and Biggs, N.Mathematics for Economics and Finance
Black, J., and BradleyEssential Mathematics for Economists
Holden, K., and Pearson, A.W.Introductory Mathematics for Economists
Dowling, E. Mathematical Methods for Business and Economics, from the Schaum’s Outlines series. (Students with no background in Mathematics have found this book particularly useful).
Chiang, A.C. Fundamental Methods of Mathematical Economics (starts at a similar level to the other texts on this list. but takes many ideas a bit further)

For more general reading in economics, any of the following should be interesting:

Alan BlinderAfter the Music Stopped
Paul KrugmanThe return of Depression Economics
William EasterlyThe White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good
Paul CollierThe Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It
Jeffrey SachsThe End of Poverty
Roger Backhouse & Steven Medema

Retrospectives: On the Definition of Economics’ 

See also the Paul Krugman Archive website.

July 2023