556: Introduction

HIS 556: Why are Poor Nations Poor? Winter 2022-23

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The course will be cover roughly four areas:

a) What do we mean by "poor?" What is "development?"

b) Historical factors (colonization, imperialism, racism, Cold War), also possibly geographical factors

c) Current institutions and issues: governance, culture, population, famine, gender roles, public health, capital, climate & geography, debt, and others…

d) Current work in the field: The new role of behavioral economists and “design thinkers” in trying to solve these difficult problems

Throughout each section we will read case studies of issues as they pertain to particular countries. Also, you will have a country that you choose to research throughout the course of the term and then will offer a critical analysis of your country by the end of the term.

Course Details


Banerjee, Abhijit and Esther Duflo, Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty. New York: Public Affairs, 2011.

Boo, Katherine. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity. NY: Random House, 2012.

Course readings packet, provided in class.

Also, find a good periodical source for world affairs.

Class Meetings: We will typically meet three times per week. For this first two weeks, we will meet every class meeting. I will always update Canvas.

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