History of Development: Ideologies, Politics, and Projects (HIH2138A)

StaffDr Rebecca Williams - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level5
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This course aims to introduce students to key ideas, institutions and projects in the history of development, from colonial projects at the start of the Twentieth Century, through Cold War ‘technical assistance’ programmes, to neoliberal approaches towards the close of the century. The module will equip students with the knowledge and skills to think critically about development. That is, to think of development not as a straightforward ‘social good’, but as a historically contingent, politically- and ideologically-driven project. By the end of the module, students will have a good understanding of the relationship between development and major social, economic and political processes such as colonialism, modernization, and globalization.

You will need effective communication and analytical skills, oral and written, to complete many of your modules and in a job after you graduate.  This module aims to help you develop your skills in researching, interpreting, and analysing both primary and secondary material, and in reporting on your work.  It provides you with an opportunity to explore an area of history in more depth, and helps you to develop the depth of understanding you will require to study more specialised areas of history. It will also give you an opportunity to work in a team on a group presentation.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Be aware of key institutions, ideas and projects in the history of development.
  • 2. Make a close evaluation of the key critiques and debates in development studies.
  • 3. Evaluate the main themes in the subject and to collate information upon, and evaluate in greater detail, those aspects of the module discussed in seminar and especially those topics selected by students for their coursework.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Analyse the key developments in the history of development.
  • 5. Collate data from a range of sources, both primary and secondary.
  • 6. Interpret primary sources.
  • 7. Trace long-term as well as short-term historical developments.
  • 8. Recognise and deploy historical terminology correctly.
  • 9. Assess different approaches to historical writing in areas of controversy.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 10. Work both independently and in a group, including participating in oral seminar discussions
  • 11. Identify a topic, select, comprehend, and organise primary and secondary materials on that topic with little guidance
  • 12. Produce to a deadline and in examination conditions a coherent argument

Syllabus plan

The module will cover ideas and projects of development over the Twentieth Century, from colonial ‘improvement’ to economic liberalisation. Lectures and seminars may cover topics such as: colonial improvement; anti-colonial nationalism and development; development planning and the postcolonial state; modernization theory and the Cold War; Soviet visions of development; projects including ‘mega-dams’, population control, and the ‘green revolution’; economic liberalisation and structural adjustments; development, terror and international security.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities22 hoursLectures
Scheduled learning and teaching activities22 hoursSeminars; these will be led by the tutor. You will need to prepare for each seminar and present on a given topic in groups of 4 on 4 occasions
Guided independent study22 hoursWeb-based activities located on ELE – preparation for seminars and presentations
Guided independent study234 hoursReading and preparation for seminars and presentations

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay plan x 1500 words1-12Verbal and written

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay303000 words1-12Verbal and written
Group presentation2025 minutes1-11
Exam502 questions in 2 hours1-12Written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay3000 words1-12Referral/deferral period
Group PresentationScript as for individual presentation, equivalent to 10 minutes1-11Referral/deferral period
Exam2 questions in 2 hours1-12Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Partha Chatterjee, ‘Development Planning and the Indian State’, in Empire and Nation: Selected Essays (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010)


David Engerman, ‘Learning from the East: Soviet Experts and India in the Era of Competitive Coexistence’, Comparative Studies in South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, Vol. 33, No. 2 (2013), pp. 227-238


Arturo Escobar, Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995)


James Ferguson, The Anti-Politics Machine: “Development,” Depoliticization, and Bureaucratic Power in Lesotho (Minneapolis; London: University of Minnesota Press, 1994)


James Ferguson, Global Shadows: Africa in the Neoliberal World Order (Durham; London: Duke University Press, 2006)


Sunil Khilnani, The Idea of India (London: Penguin, 1999)


Michael E. Latham, Modernization as Ideology: American Social Science and Nation Building in the Kennedy Era (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000)


Robert J. McMahon (ed.), The Cold War in the Third World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013)


Timothy Mitchell, Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-Politics, Modernity (Berkeley; LA; London: University of California Press, 2002)


Arundhati Roy, The Cost of Living (New York: Modern Library, 1999)


Carl E. Pletsch, ‘The Three Worlds, or the Division of Social Scientific Labor, c.1950-1975’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 23, No. 4 (Oct., 1981), pp. 565-590


Benjamin Zachariah, Developing India: An Intellectual and Social History, c.1930-50 (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2005)

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Friends of Narmada: http://www.narmada.org/


Global Health Chronicles, http://www.globalhealthchronicles.org/


Navdanya: http://www.navdanya.org/


Rockefeller Foundation 100 Years documents: http://rockefeller100.org/


United Nations Official Documents System: http://www.un.org/en/documents/ods/


USAID Development Experience Clearinghouse: https://dec.usaid.gov/dec/home/Default.aspx


World Bank elibrary: http://elibrary.worldbank.org/


Wellcome Images: http://wellcomeimages.org/ 


Government of India, Planning Commission documents: http://planningcommission.nic.in/plans/


World Health Organization archives and library: http://www.who.int/archives/en/


Gates Foundation: http://www.gatesfoundation.org/


Truman Library: http://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/pointfourprogram/

Indicative learning resources - Other resources



Narmada: A Valley Rises (Ali Kazimi, 1994)


Something Like a War (Deepa Dhanraj, 1991)


Episode III: Enjoy Poverty (Renzo Martens, 2008)

Available as distance learning?


Key words search

Development, twentieth century, colonial, postcolonial, cold war, nationalism