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How and Why Does History Matter for Development Policy?

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  • Michael Woolcock
  • Simon Szreter
  • Vijayendra Rao

Abstract

The consensus among scholars and policy-makers that 'institutions matter' for development has led inexorably to a conclusion that 'history matters', since institutions clearly form and evolve over time. Unfortunately, however, the next logical step has not yet been taken, which is to recognise that historians (and not only economic historians) might also have useful and distinctive insights to offer. This article endeavours to open and sustain a constructive dialogue between history - understood as both 'the past' and 'the discipline'- and development policy by (a) clarifying what the craft of historical scholarship entails, especially as it pertains to understanding causal mechanisms, contexts and complex processes of institutional change, (b) providing examples of historical research that support, qualify or challenge the most influential research (by economists and economic historians) in contemporary development policy, and (c) offering some general principles and specific implications that historians, on the basis of the distinctive content and method of their research, bring to development policy debates.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael Woolcock & Simon Szreter & Vijayendra Rao, 2011. "How and Why Does History Matter for Development Policy?," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 47(1), pages 70-96.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jdevst:v:47:y:2011:i:1:p:70-96 DOI: 10.1080/00220388.2010.506913
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    Cited by:

    1. Wolcott, Susan, 2010. "Explorations' contribution to the 'Asian Century'," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 47(3), pages 360-367, July.
    2. Michael Woolcock, 2013. "Using Case Studies to Explore the External Validity of ‘Complex’ Development Interventions," CID Working Papers 270, Center for International Development at Harvard University.
    3. repec:spr:manint:v:53:y:2013:i:1:d:10.1007_s11575-012-0166-8 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Olivia D'Aoust & Olivier Sterck, 2016. "Who Benefits from Customary Justice? Rent-seeking, Bribery and Criminality in sub-Saharan Africa," Journal of African Economies, Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), vol. 25(3), pages 439-467.
    5. Barrientos Quiroga, Paola Andrea, 2013. "Convergence Clubs determined by Economic History in Latin America," MPRA Paper 50191, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. repec:eee:wdevel:v:96:y:2017:i:c:p:52-64 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Jeffrey G. Williamson, 2016. "Review Essay on British Economic Growth, 1270-1870 by Stephen Broadberry, Bruce M. S. Campbell, Alexander Klein, Mark Overton, and Bas van Leeuwen," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 54(2), pages 514-521, June.
    8. Prowse, Martin, 2011. "A century of growth? A history of tobacco production and marketing in Malawi 1890-2005," IOB Working Papers 2011.10, Universiteit Antwerpen, Institute of Development Policy (IOB).
    9. Sheraz, Umar, 2014. "Foresight as a tool for sustainable development in natural resources: The case of mineral extraction in Afghanistan," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 92-100.

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