Development: History, Theory and Policy

This information is for the 2016/17 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof James Putzel CON.8.03 and Dr Kathleen Meagher CON.7.11


This course is compulsory on the MSc in Development Studies. This course is available on the MSc in African Development, MSc in Anthropology and Development, MSc in Empires, Colonialism and Globalisation, MSc in Environment and Development, MSc in Political Economy of Late Development, MSc in Population and Development and MSc in Urbanisation and Development. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

The course integrates the concepts and perspectives of a range of disciplines to consider: major trends of development and change in modern history and interpretations of them in the social sciences and contemporary economic and social theory and their bearing on the policy and practice of development.  During Michaelmas Term the course critically discusses concepts of 'development' and the historical evolution of paradigms of development thinking and policy. Through an examination of comparative historical experience, we explore the role of states and markets in development and/underdevelopment, colonial legacies and path dependencies and the political economy of growth, poverty and freedom. During Lent Term the course draws on recent research and policy documents to discuss current cutting edge policy issues and challenges in the developing world usually including: demographic change and its implications, poverty, inequality  and transformative social policy; industrialisation international trade and investment and industrial policy; agriculture, new technologies and agrarian reform policies; gendered development and responses; development finance and public financial management; environmental threats and sustainability; the determinants of state resilience and fragility and international responses; and the evolution of development practice and aid.


20 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the MT. 20 hours of lectures, 3 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the LT.

There will be a three hour revision session in late LT.

Formative coursework

One 2,000 word essay with written feedback submitted in Michaelmas Term and at least two seminar presentations on literature (one in Michaelmas and one in Lent).

Indicative reading

The following are recommended basic readings for the course:

A. Kohli, State-Directed Development: Political Power and Industrialization in the Global Periphery (Cambridge, 2004)

A Sen, Development as Freedom (Anchor, 1999)

HJ Chang, Kicking Away the Ladder: Development Strategy in Historical Perspective (Anthem, 2002)

HJ Chang, Economics: The User's Guide (Penguin, 2014)

D Rodrik, One Economics, Many Recipes: Globalization, Institutions, and Economic Growth (Princeton University Press, 2008)

J.Ferguson, The Anti-Politics Machine: 'Development', Depoliticisation and Bureaucratic Power in Lesotho (Cambridge, 1990)

M. Jerven, Poor Numbers: How we are misled about African development statistics and what to do about it (Cornell, 2013)


Exam (80%, duration: 3 hours) in the main exam period.
Essay (20%, 2000 words) in the LT.

Student performance results

(2012/13 - 2014/15 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 9.8
Merit 61.8
Pass 26.5
Fail 2

Teachers' comment

DV400 is the core course for a number of MSc programmes and thus brings together students from a wider variety of backgrounds than most other Masters courses. It is a very demanding full-year interdisciplinary course, which many students find particularly challenging. There is a considerable reading requirement, , which we believe students need in order to master the field of development.

Surveys are taken before examination revision and in past years many students have expressed greater appreciation for the course after undertaking the revision process and indeed after finding employment in the development sector. Nevertheless, we always aim to improve the student experience.

Key facts

Department: International Development

Total students 2015/16: 95

Average class size 2015/16: 9

Controlled access 2015/16: Yes

Lecture capture used 2015/16: Yes (MT & LT)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Specialist skills

Course survey results

(2012/13 - 2014/15 combined)

1 = "best" score, 5 = "worst" score

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 86%



Reading list (Q2.1)


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Course satisfied (Q2.4)


Lectures (Q2.5)


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Contact (Q2.7)


Feedback (Q2.8)


Recommend (Q2.9)