This was the idea lying behind a small conference which took place in Edinburgh in September 1971. The number of speakers, and of participants, was limited in order to preserve an informal atmosphere in which discussion could take place freely. The disadvantage of this arrangement was that many topics and many questions of undoubted importance could not appear on the agenda. The history of economic development is a vast subject; the nine papers given in September, and now printed in this volume, can illuminate only a few aspects of that subject. Other experiences and further problems could have been discussed if time and numbers had allowed. For example, a paper on Latin America, such as was to have been read by the late Professor Joslin, would have been a very desirable item; but this was made impossible by Professor Joslin's untimely death, a sad blow to historical study. Nevertheless, it can perhaps be claimed that the papers now printed all deal with sectors or aspects of development where at any rate significant insights are to be had. It may be too much to hope that a better understanding of the past will directly help us to solve the problems of poor countries today; but at least it may help us not to misconceive them.