This bold and ambitious handbook is the first systematic overview of the history of development ideas, themes, and actors in the twentieth century. Taking stock of the field, the book reflects on blind spots, points out avenues for future research, and brings together a greater plurality of regions, actors, and approaches than other publications on the subject.

The book offers a critical reassessment of how historical experiences have shaped contemporary understandings of development, demonstrating that the seemingly self-evident concept of development has been contingent on a combination of material conditions, power structures, and policy choices at different times and in different places. Using a world history approach, the handbook highlights similarities in development challenges across time and space, and it pays attention to the meanings of ideological, cultural, and economic divides in shaping different understandings and practices of development. Taking a thematic approach, the book shows how different actors – governments, non-governmental organizations, individuals, corporations, and international organizations – have responded to concerns regarding the conditions in their own or other societies, such as the provision of education, health, or food; approaches to infrastructure development and industrialization; the adjustment of social conditions; population policies and migration; and the maintenance of stability and security.

Bringing together a range of voices from across the globe, this book will be perfect for advanced students and researchers of international development history.

part 1|15 pages


chapter 1|14 pages

The history of development

A critical overview

part 2|50 pages

Concepts and ideas of development

chapter 4|15 pages

Alternative development approaches

Utopias, co-options, transitions

part 3|152 pages


part 3A|34 pages

Developing people

part 3B|72 pages

Developing societies

chapter 7|15 pages


chapter 8|14 pages


chapter 9|14 pages

Demographic concerns and interventions

The changing population-development nexus in the 20th century

chapter 10|13 pages

Multiple faces of migration and development

Nation-building, neoliberalism, and multilateralism

chapter 11|14 pages


part 3C|44 pages

Developing the material world

chapter 12|13 pages

Urban development

chapter 13|14 pages

Agriculture and food production

chapter 14|15 pages

Resource governance

part 4|78 pages

Actors of development

chapter 15|13 pages

Religion and development

Multiple voices in global context

chapter 16|16 pages

NGOs and development

Small is beautiful?

chapter 18|14 pages

State intervention for development

A historical perspective 1

part 5|66 pages

Transversal perspectives

chapter 20|16 pages

Gender and development

chapter 21|14 pages

Development knowledge

A twentieth-century perspective

chapter 22|15 pages

Development and the security paradox

How development was born to grant security but failed to do so

chapter 23|19 pages

History of development assistance