Development Economics: Historical Perspective

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveSUSEC1124

Semester and Year Offered: 6th Semester, 3rd Year

Course Coordinator and Team: Dipa Sinha/ AsmitaKabra

Email of course coordinator:dipa[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in


Aim: The course aims to introduce students to the historical context of current policy debates related to development. This course will discuss the historical emergence of debates on economic development, poverty, inequality and sustainability in the mid-20thcentury.It will familiarise students with the debates on the meaning of development and the appropriate indices for measuring it. In tracing the continuities, changes and diversities associated with development experience across countries in the last six decades, the course will interrogate the major debates around globalization; on the role of states and markets and that of trade and finance in development. It will also introduce students to the institutional perspective to development.

Course Outcomes:

At the end of this course, students will be expected to be able to:

  1. Evaluatethe implications of different approaches to defining development
  2. Analyse the key features of some of the theories that have informed the idea of ‘development’
  3. Examine the relationship between historical evolution of institutions and their influence on current economic outcomes for diverse groups of people.
  4. Analyse the historical relationship between evolution of colonialism, capitalism, and current economic outcomes
  5. Compare alternative ways of ‘doing’ development
  6. Assess the debates on state-led versus market-led economic growth and development
  7. Evaluate the role of international organisations such as World Bank and IMF in the development experience of developing countries, in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
  8. List the most significant debates about sustainable development.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

The course will be organized in four Units as follows. The relative emphasis on different Units can change depending on the course team, since the attempt is to introduce interdisciplinary perspectives through a course team drawn from SLS and other Schools like SHE.

Module 1: Meaning and measures of Development and Underdevelopment

This unit will introduce students to themes like the history of development and underdevelopment, and key issues of definition and measurement of development.

Module 2: Colonialism, Capitalism, and state-led Development

This module will introduce students to the complex relationship between evolution of colonialism, capitalism, and current economic outcomes for different regions across the world. Issues such as the nature of institutions and their relation to provision of appropriate incentives for economic empowerment of common people will be discussed.

Module 3: Globalization and Development

Topics covered will include evolution of international institutions from Bretton Woods to Debt Crisis, the Washington Consensus and the post Washington Consensus, the Indian Experience with Liberalization, etc.

Module 4: Development, Justice and Sustainability

This unit will cover topics like global poverty, inequality, population displacement and environmental crises arising from the untrammelled pursuit of economic growth since the mid-20th century. It will nudge students towards exploring alternative conceptions of development from multiple disciplinary and intellectual perspectives.

Assessment Details with weights:

Group Presentation (20%), Term Paper (40%), End-semester examination (40%)

Reading List:

  1. McMichael, Philip (2004). Development and Social Change. New Delhi: Sage Publications (Introduction Chapter 1, Chapter 7)
  2. Fine, B., &Jomo, K. S. (Eds.). (2006). The new development economics: post Washington Consensus neoliberal thinking. Zed Books. (Chapters 1-4)
  3. Chang, H. J. (2002). Kicking away the ladder: development strategy in historical perspective. Anthem Press. (Chapters 1-4)
  4. Acemoglu and Robinson, Why Nations Fail?,(Chapters 1-5. )
  5. Human Development Report 1990 (Chapters 1-3)


  1. Film: Guns, Germs and Steel. PBS documentary film, or the book by the same name
  2. YouTube video: Crash Course World History (Episodes40, 41 and 42)
  3. Film: Commanding Heights (episodes 1 to 4)