Pakistan Institute of Development Economics



History of Development Economics

There are many ways we could approach the history of development economics. We could tell a story of theories replacing and supplementing each other, finishing with the current body of knowledge. Alternatively we could explore the relationship between the evolution of theory and the development experience. Another way of telling the story would be to put the evolution of theory in a wider social, political and philosophical context and explore the interactions. This historical outline will be mainly restricted to the first and simplest method but at certain points where insights from the other two methods can be gained they will be used. Searching for the roots of development economics is also problematic. One possible beginning for this historical outline would be the beginnings of peoples reflections on the evolution of societies, perhaps to the reflections embodied in early mythology. A less extreme approach would begin with the first systematic reflections on the material progress of societies. Moving closer to the approach of most histories of development economics we could begin with systematic reflections on the first industrial revolutions in Europe or finally we could begin after World War II when this sort of enquiry was applied to Asia, Africa and Latin America and began to be called development economics. The beginning chosen depends on the purpose of the history, and here because the focus is on the academic discipline of development economics the story will begin after WWII.

Paul Oslington

Please download the PDF to view it:

Download PDF