BSc Global Development

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
History of Thought in Global Development

Course unit fact file
Unit code MGDI10021
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course unit introduces students to key writers and groups of writers whose work has influenced thought on global development, beginning with ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Ibn Khaldūn in the late fourteenth century CE and ending with Amartya Sen and Elinor Ostrom in the late twentieth century. The course emphasises the relationship of the writers’ thought to the social and historical context in which they lived and to the intellectual traditions of which they form a part. The course is divided into seven parts (in addition to the introduction and conclusion), each part introducing the work of a key thinker (or group of thinkers). In each case, the discussion will place the thinker(s) in historical context, both in terms of the intellectual traditions informing their work and in terms of the social and economic environments in which they lived.


  • Introduce students to key thinkers whose work has informed thought on global development
  • Through the discussion of this work, explore ways in which we can conceptualise and understand development
  • Develop students’ ability to examine the connections between the arguments of different thinkers
  • Develop students’ ability to evaluate the ways in which thinkers have responded to the social and economic environment in which they live
  • Develop transferable skills, including developing an argument, participating in group discussions and communicating ideas both verbally and in writing


Indicative weekly lecture and tutorial schedule

  1. Introduction (one lecture)
  2. Ibn Khaldūn (3 lectures)
  3. Smith and Ricardo (3 lectures)
  4. Marx and Dependency Theory (3 lectures)
  5. Lewis and Rostow (2 lectures)
  6. The Structuralist school (2 lectures)
  7. Sen and the basic needs approach (2 lectures)
  8. Ostrom (2 lectures)
  9. Revision (2 lectures)

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching and learning will be based on lectures (twice per week) and tutorials (once per week). Lectures will combine presentation of the learning material with some interactive discussion. Reading lists, lecture slides and tutorial questions will be posted on Blackboard. Tutorials will provide students with the opportunity to engage critically with the learning material through group discussions and presentations. Advice on how to prepare for each tutorial will be posted on Blackboard.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Distinguish between different approaches to conceptualising global development
  • Describe the approach of individual thinkers to questions relating to development
  • Describe the historical context in which thinkers have made a contribution

Intellectual skills

  • Analyse the arguments made by individual thinkers about processes relating to development
  • Compare the contributions of different thinkers
  • Critically evaluate the assumptions and implications of different approaches to conceptualising global development

Practical skills

  • Find, interpret and correctly reference published research.
  • Present and analyse alternative arguments involving theory and evidence.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Develop a critical and analytical argument, making use of appropriate evidence
  • Participate in group discussions
  • Communicate ideas both verbally and in writing

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 70%
Oral assessment/presentation 30%

Feedback methods

Verbal feedback on contributions to tutorial activities will act as formative assessment to prepare students for this summative assessment.

Written comments on the presentation on Blackboard. The content and timing of feedback will be consistent with University policy.

Recommended reading

Background reading

Hunt, D. (1989). Economic Theories of Development: An Analysis of Competing Paradigms. Harvester Wheatsheaf.

Szirmai, A. (2005). The Dynamics of Socio-Economic Development. Cambridge University Press.

Sen, A. (1988). The concept of development. In H. Chenery  and T.N. Srinivasan (eds.) The Handbook of Development Economics Volume I, 9-26. North-Holland.

Lewis, A. The roots of development theory. In H. Chenery  and T.N. Srinivasan (eds.) The Handbook of Development Economics Volume I, 27-37. North-Holland.

Todaro, M. P. and Smith, S. C. (2020). Economic Development (13th edition). Pearson.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Tutorials 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 170

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
David Fielding Unit coordinator

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