Background Paper 9 - Bringing History Back in: Three Big Books: Summaries and some questions

The publication over the past few years of these three ‘big’ and influential books on the politics of development has stimulated much discussion and debate in the international development community and amongst scholars with broad development interests. However, given that together they add up to over 1400 densely argued pages (with more to come), it is probably the case that only the lucky time-rich people will have been able to read and digest fully their important contributions to our understanding of the broad sweep of social, economic and political development. So DLP asked Edward Laws to write careful but accessible summaries of these books and these excellent brief accounts of the central arguments in the books are the product of his weeks in a London library - and a lot of discussion. 

This Background Paper is not intended to be a review of the books (links to some of the reviews on each may be found at the end of each summary). But Edward Laws’ succinct summaries will at least provide an accurate guide to the arguments and some of the illustrative evidence contained in each. Even then, no summary can of course do full justice to the richness of the detail, evidence and nuances of books of such scope and depth, but they will nonetheless provide a useful introduction.

The summaries of the books are followed by some wider issues, themes and questions that arise from these very rich pieces of work.

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The Developmental Leadership Program (DLP) is an international research initiative that explores how leadership, power and political processes drive or block successful development.

DLP focuses on the crucial role of home-grown leaderships and coalitions in forging legitimate political settlements and institutions that promote developmental outcomes, such as sustainable growth, political stability and inclusive social development.

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