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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 policymakers 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 paper endeavours to open and sustain a constructive dialogue between history—understood as both ‘the past’ and ‘the discipline’—and development policy by (a) providing a critique of recent ‘big picture’ accounts of comparative economic development (by economists, historians and others), (b) clarifying what the craft of historical scholarship entails, especially as it pertains to understanding causal mechanisms, contexts and complex processes of institutional change, (c) providing examples of historical research that support, qualify or challenge the most influential research (by economists and economic historians) in contemporary development policy, and (d) 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, 2009. "How and Why Does History Matter for Development Policy?," Global Development Institute Working Paper Series 6809, GDI, The University of Manchester.
  • Handle: RePEc:bwp:bwppap:6809
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Ronald Findlay & Kevin H. O'Rourke, 2007. "Power and Plenty: Trade, War and the World Economy in the Second Millennium (Preface)," Trinity Economics Papers tep0107, Trinity College Dublin, Department of Economics.
    2. Szreter, Simon & Sholkamy, Hania & Dharmalingam, A. (ed.), 2004. "Categories and Contexts: Anthropological and Historical Studies in Critical Demography," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199270576.
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    4. Tim Harper, 2009. "The Tools of Transition: Education and Development in Modern Southeast Asian History," Global Development Institute Working Paper Series 9209, GDI, The University of Manchester.
    5. Allen,Robert C., 2009. "The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521868273, October.
    6. Ronald Findlay & Kevin H. O'Rourke, 2007. "Introduction to Power and Plenty: Trade, War, and the World Economy in the Second Millennium," Introductory Chapters,in: Power and Plenty: Trade, War, and the World Economy in the Second Millennium Princeton University Press.
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    9. Ronald Findlay & Kevin H. O'Rourke, 2007. "Preface to Power and Plenty: Trade, War, and the World Economy in the Second Millennium," Introductory Chapters,in: Power and Plenty: Trade, War, and the World Economy in the Second Millennium Princeton University Press.
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    1. repec:spr:manint:v:53:y:2013:i:1:d:10.1007_s11575-012-0166-8 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Wolcott, Susan, 2010. "Explorations' contribution to the 'Asian Century'," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 47(3), pages 360-367, July.
    3. Woolcock, Michael, 2013. "Using Case Studies to Explore the External Validity of 'Complex' Development Interventions," Working Paper Series rwp13-048, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    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. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. 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).
    8. Barrientos Quiroga, Paola Andrea, 2013. "Convergence Clubs determined by Economic History in Latin America," MPRA Paper 50191, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. repec:eee:wdevel:v:96:y:2017:i:c:p:52-64 is not listed on IDEAS

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