Development: History, Theory and Policy

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof James Putzel CON.8.03 and Dr Rajesh Venugopal CON.8.09


This course is compulsory on the MSc in Development Studies and MSc in Political Economy of Late Development. This course is available on the MPhil/PhD in Development Studies, MSc in Anthropology and Development, MSc in Empires, Colonialism and Globalisation, MSc in Environment and Development, MSc in Urban Policy (LSE and Sciences Po) and MSc in Urbanisation and Development. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Students will be allocated places to courses with priority to ID and joint-degree students.  If there are more ID and joint-degree students than the course can accommodate, these spots will be allocated randomly. 

Non-ID/Joint Degree students will be allocated to spare places by random selection with the preference given first to those degrees where the regulations permit this option.



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. With reference to comparative historical experience, we explore the role of states and markets in development and/underdevelopment, colonial legacies, the political economy of growth and redistribution, and the role of politics and power in development. We examine key issues in development such as: the record of pro-market reforms; the experience of “developmental states”; and the challenges to development thinking and practice presented by feminist theory, environmental sustainability, globalisation and new patterns of global inequality. (Key issues may change from year to year)

The Lent Term builds on these foundations to consider cutting edge debates about policy and practice usually including: aid, social policy; industrialisation and international trade; agriculture and land in the context of climate change and the impact of conflict and “state fragility”. We will look at controversies such as those around new approaches to business and the role of new technologies, as well as problems and prospects in the use of data, project and programme evaluation, and development management.


20 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the MT. 18 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the LT.

A three hour revision session in the final week of LT

There will be a Reading Week in week 6 of MT and 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).

United Nations, “Transforming Our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” (SDGs)  A/RES/70/1   (25 September 2015).


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

Student performance results

(2015/16 - 2017/18 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 9.2
Merit 69.7
Pass 20
Fail 1.1

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. As a very demanding full-year interdisciplinary course, which many students find particularly challenging, we believe student performance is impressive. We update and revise the reading list each year to ensure students have a strong foundation for future employment or research in development. Clearly students always demand more feedback on their work and we are working hard to ensure that happens.

Key facts

Department: International Development

Total students 2018/19: 114

Average class size 2018/19: 10

Controlled access 2018/19: No

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