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Railroads, groundnuts and resources: Development schemes and their impact, 1945-1980


Admission requirements

Students should have successfully completed both second-year werkcolleges, one of which is part of the same specialization as the present third-year seminar.


After the Second World War ideas of development gained prominence in many (former) colonies. Government officials and experts set out to implement development schemes throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America. This seminar will look at development schemes and ideologies, their implementation and impact. The regional focus will be on Southern and Eastern Africa, where schemes such as railroad construction (TAZARA), agricultural production (groundnuts, coffee and tobacco), villagisation (ujamaa) and hydroelectricity (Kariba Dam) will be considered. The impact of decolonisation and the Cold War on these development schemes will be examined, by looking at continuity and change in policy across this period (1945-1980).

The historiography has hitherto focused on development ideologies originating in ‘the West’ and being implemented through state agency and technical expertise in African localities. Stepping away from such an interventionist top-down view, this seminar seeks to understand the dynamics between ideas, officials, experts and the local population. The implementation and impact of development schemes depended as much on the local conditions encountered on the ground, as on grand ideologies crafted by national or foreign officials. Students will conduct research on one development scheme and through this research they will tackle questions such as: How were development ideologies formulated and implemented in specific schemes? How can the success or failure of particular development schemes be explained? What was the (long-term) impact of development schemes?

By looking at one case study, using both primary and secondary sources, students will engage in the broad debate on ‘development’. Although the regional focus is on Southern and Eastern Africa, students interested in other areas (Asia or Latin America) are invited to participate.

Learning objectives

The student can:

    1. divise and conduct research of limited scope, including:
      a. identifying relevant literature and select and order them according to a defined principle;
      b. organising and using relatively large amounts of information;
      c. an analysis of a scholarly debate;
      d. placing the research within the context of a scholarly debate.
    1. write a problem solving essay and give an oral presentation after the format defined in the Themacolleges, including
      a. using a realistic schedule of work;
      b. formulating a research question and subquestions;
      c. formulating a well-argued conclusion;
      d. giving and receiving feedback;
      e. responding to instructions of the lecturer.
    1. reflect on the primary sources on which the literature is based.
    1. select and use primary sources for their own research.
    1. analyse sources, place and interpret them in a historical context.
    1. participate in class discussions.

The student has:

    1. knowledge of a specialisation, more specifically of
      a. the development of global networks which facilitate an ever growing circulation of men, animals, plants, goods and ideas, and the central role of European expansion in this from around 1500;
      b. African history after 1945 and debates about ‘development’; The interaction between Western and African ideas in a colonial and post-colonial context.
    1. knowledge and insight in the main concepts, the research methods and techniques of the specialization, more specifically of Colonial and Global History: combining of historiographical debates with empirical research of primary sources and/or the combining of various historiographical traditions through the use of innovative research questions.
    1. knowledge and insight in the main concepts, the research methods and methodology of the historical discipline.
    1. knowledge of the history of Southern and Eastern Africa between 1945-1980.
    1. gained insight and is engaged in the academic debate on ‘development’.


See course-schedule

Mode of instruction


Course Load

Total course load 280 hours

  • Hours spent on attending lectures and seminars 26 hours

  • 104 hours (reading literature, preparing presentation and working on minor assignments)

  • time to write a paper (including reading / research) 150 hours


  • Essay (7200 words, including notes and bibliography, based on primary sources)
    Measured learning objectives: 1-5, 7a-b, 9-11

  • Oral presentation
    Measured learning objectives: 2a-d

  • Participation and assignments (research question, chapter outline, first chapter)
    Measured learning objectives: 1, 2a-e, 6, 7b, 8-9

Essay: 70%
Oral presentation: 15%
Participation and assignments: 15%

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average combined with the additional requirement that the essay has to be sufficient.

Only if a student fails the final research paper will he/she be allowed to rewrite the paper. Please observe the appropriate deadline: see deadline.


During the course Blackboard will be used for:

  • Syllabus

  • Powerpoint presentations

  • Articles

  • Links to websites

Reading list

Readings will be made available online and on a shelf in the library. A course schedule will be emailed to the students before the beginning of the course, containing the reading requirements for each week and other details.
Before the start of the first week, students should read: Joseph Morgan Hodge, Triumph of the expert: Agrarian doctrines of development and the legacies of British colonialism (Ohio University Press, 2007), Introduction, Chapter 1&7, Conclusion.


Via uSis


Mw. I. Pesa Mphil