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Introduction to Development Studies




Admission Requirements



The world is an unequal place. It hosts the unparallelled wealth and opportunity of the rich in the OECD countries, alongside the crushing misery of the poor and marginalised bottom billion. It is even arguable that this inequity, this enormous development gap, has never been greater than it is today. But what is development? How does is work? And, perhaps most importantly, what can we do to support it? These are the questions at the core of development studies and the International Development major at LUC. This course provides an introduction to the field by taking students through the main debates around the meanings of development, as well as through some of the most exciting new approaches to the development process. As such, it helps students to think critically about assumptions of linear progress and simple, imposed solutions, and formulate their own thoughts on what can work (and what cannot). To this end, students are encouraged to apply their (newfound) knowledge of development to a specific country case study, which they follow throughout the course. After laying the theoretical and historical foundations in the first 6 weeks, the final week challenges students to begin considering the opportunities for, and limits to, intervention in the development process, particularly in their country case study.

Course Objectives

Upon successful completion of the course, students will:

  • Be able to reflect on theories of and approaches to international development;

  • Have a broad sense of the historical development of human societies and be able to view and describe this process through different analytical lenses;

  • Understand the basic requirements (and issues of contention) of the social sciences and their applicability to development studies; and

  • Have enhanced their skills of locating and selecting primary and secondary sources; and of presenting, debating, and essay writing.

Mode of Instruction

This course will be taught through two-hour interactive seminars. Seminars will generally include a short introduction by the instructor, after which students will be asked to present, debate, or otherwise reflect actively on the relevant theme and readings. Seminars will focus both on concepts and on empirical case studies. Students will be asked to prepare their own case study analyses (both as a group and individually).


Assessment: Class participation
Percentage: 15%
Deadline: Ongoing

Assessment: Presentations and debates
Deadline: Ongoing

Assessment: Short essays
Percentage: 40%
Deadline: Ongoing

Assessment: Country paper
Percentage: 30%
Deadline: Weeks 5 & 8
Students in this course will be assessed on the basis of participation, presentations, short essays, and a longer final essay.

  1. Participation will be assessed on a continuous basis throughout the course and the final grade will depend on attendance and active participation in class discussions.
    1. Every student will participate in a group presentation at least once during the course. The duration of group presentations should be 15 minutes. Group presenters are encouraged to set their presentations up as introductions to lively seminar debates, in which all students are invited to defend specific positions.
    2. Students will submit one short essay per week (maximum 500 words, 6 essays in total) in 6 out of the 7 weeks of the block. Students are free to choose which 6 weeks they want to write on; the penalty for non-submission is a 0 for that week’s essay. The countries students can choose from will include: Botswana, South Africa, South Korea, and China.
    3. The country paper consists of two parts, an annotated bibliography and a final essay. The annotated bibliography should be submitted on Friday of week 5, along with the research question for the essay. It should not exceed 1000 words and include between 5 and 10 sources (that are not in the syllabus), which the student will subsequently use for the final essay. The final essay should not exceed 2000 words, excluding footnotes and bibliography. The topic will need to be approved by the course convenor; by Friday of week 5 (21:00hrs), students should submit a proposed research question along with the annotated bibliography electronically to the course convenor.
    4. All graded assignments should be organised around a question and an argument in response to this question;
    5. All graded assignments should use proper academic references; and
    6. You cannot use the same question for different graded assignments (self-plagiarism).
      Missing deadlines: Essays and essay proposals handed in late will see this reflected in their grades: for every day that a student fails to meet the deadlines stated in the syllabus, their grade will be reduced by 1 point. Non-submission, in consequence, leads to a 0 for that particular assignment.


The course reading list will include key academic and policy-oriented texts in development studies, as well as articles from a range of academic journals (available in the Leiden e-library). Students can expect to engage with classic texts on the definitions of development and on the long historical processes through which human societies have grown in complexity and wealth. Key concepts, besides development itself, will include capabilities, geography, institutions, and social power; case studies will include states from Africa and Asia.

Contact Information

Convenor: mailto:

Weekly Overview

  • Development studies as a social science

  • Defining and measuring development

  • Geography, the environment, and development (2 weeks)

  • Institutions and development (2 weeks)

  • The limits of planning and intervention

Preparation for first session

  • Think about what you understand by development and be prepared to discuss your thoughts.

  • Readings for the first class will be communicated closer to the beginning of the course.