Writing the history of development

Frederick Cooper

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


    Although some scholars think of economic development as a project of self-evident benevolence and others consider it as the imposition of an unwanted modernity, recent scholarship, such as the articles in this volume, suggests a more complex history. Colonial governments from the late 1930s sought to assert legitimacy and foster the co-operation of colonized people via development programmes, but development quickly became politicized - a basis for claims on the resources of empire, an insistence on voice in deciding what development policies should be. The history of development suggests that in the future as in much of the past the consequences of actions cannot be evaluated by generalizations about «modernity », neither by advocates of development initiatives nor by their critics. There is no substitute for specific analysis of who might find opportunities or constraints in programmes for economic change. Through the politics of development, poverty became an issue not only in remote parts of Africa or Asia, but also in New York and Geneva. Most important of all, the history of development is a history of changing expectations.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)5-23
    Number of pages19
    JournalJournal of Modern European History
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Apr 15 2010

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • History


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