How has the past shape development present ?


History doesn’t just happen; it is  made by real people who faced real challenges, who had uncertainty about the future, just as we do today.  McCullough (2003), has once said that history is not about the past. If you think about it, no one ever lived in the past, they lived in the present. Additionally, history can be an important instrument that informs our approach to critical issues today.  It is  important to remember that when history is made it becomes a piece of our world, a factor in our future decisions.  Heilbroner (1974)  “explore the past to understand the present and shape the future”.

How does the 1929 Colonial Development Act compare to the approach to development of the British government today?

The history of British overseas aid goes back a long way throughout the nineteenth century  George (1929), the Colonial Development Act was  introduced  for the purpose of promoting colonial development and it stressed the importance of duty to humanity to develop the vast economic resources of the great continent. Colonial development was a matter primarily for the colonies themselves. They were required to finance their economic development from the proceeds of sales of their export crops and whatever private international capital they would attract. It introduced an entirely new concept of colonial development in which the provision of annual grants and loans would prove mutually advantageous to the colonial territories.

However, other studies argue that the act was passes as a means rather than as an end in itself. for example, the act was passed  in order to benefit the economy of the united kingdom rather than to benefit the colonies.  Therefore, the act was regarded as a sort of multiplier with both forward and backward linkage effects, a twin concept which is now quite familiar to development with economists. For example it excluded investment in social development in general and in education in particular, the act seems to have placed too much emphasis on the material and physical aspects of development.

Of course, modern-day development studies is quick to distance itself from the days of colonialism; but below the surface – the concept of modern-day ‘foreign aid’ is largely the same as it was back in 1929, we’re just not as honest about it. Development aid nowadays is still very much regarded as a having dual-objectives. lot of countries, including the UK, give aid in the hope that the countries they are investing in will soon begin consuming British goods which would subsequently lead to an increase in the UK’s economic growth and give a boost to the UK’s export market.

what is the significance of the past in the present for the development studies?

Sharing knowledge is a vital component in the growth and advancement of our society in a sustainable and responsible way, so the past is significant in the present  for  development studies.  Alfini and  Chambers (2010) the prevailing words and expressions in development discourse keep changing, some become perennials, long-term survivors year after year, like poverty, gender, sustainable, and livelihood. Others have their day and then fade, like scheme and integrated rural development. Yet others mark major shifts in ideology, policy, and reality, as have liberalisation, privatisation, and globalisation.

In conclusion,our language influences both policies and practice in development thus, studying how the language of development policy has changed and how development was in the past can give us a sense of the historical shifts in development thinking and priorities, and help us to reflect on where we are going (or could go) in the future.


  1. author David McCullough, (2003)  the Course of Human Events, Jefferson lecture.
  2. (George, A Re-examination of the (1929) Colonial Development Act, the Economic History review, p68).
  3. (Naomi Alfini and Robert Chambers (2010) Words count: the changing language of British aid)
  4. Robert Heilbroner,(1974), An Inquiry into the Human Prospect (New York: W. W. Norton and Company.
  5., (22 September 2010); (accessed 9 0ct0ber 2013)



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