Economic development of the Global South

The study of economic development in the Global South from a long-term perspective is of increasing importance in the current era of globalisation, integration and convergence. This applies both in the Global North and for the growing academic communities in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Discussions on development challenges for the Global South often lack sufficient understanding of the diverging history of different regions and countries. This leads to a poor understanding both of the development trajectories of success stories and of remaining development challenges. One explanation for this deficiency is a lack of recognition concerning how important the understanding of the past is for planning the future, another is the poor and uneven funding for researching the history of the Global South. The research group aims to be narrowing the gap between historical research on the Global South and the current development debate. The scope is broad in both time and space, covering roughly the last 150 years and stretching over Africa, Asia and Latin America.

One sub-discipline is of a more pure historical character, sharing many of the classical research interests within the field of economic history of the Global North, such as long term demographic change; agrarian history; colonialism and imperialism; building of state capacity; wages and living standards; resource distribution and inequality.

Another sub-discipline interacts more closely with the field of Economics and the more contemporary development debate such as the Sustainable Development Goals. This research is characterised by exploring trends in economic growth and poverty reduction, analysing conditions for sectoral change within and between agriculture, industry and services; changing conditions for global interaction and so on.

African Economic History

Sub-Saharan Africa is a region that is gaining increasing attention from the international community. From being associated primarily with poverty and state failure in the late 20th century, it is since the turn of the millennium increasingly associated with dynamic economic processes. With current projections for population growth, the global importance of the region will only increase in the coming decades. One aspect of the new dynamic processes is the increasing interest in Africa’s history and thus, African Economic History is a research field that has grown significantly in the last decade.

The international community represents a wide variety of research topics including e.g. demography, trade including the slave trade, agricultural growth, state capacity, living standards and inequality. The group based in Lund has recently become the potentially largest in the world with around 20 senior and junior researchers and assistants.

Asian Economic History

Pacific Asia is home to the few existing cases outside the Global North that has made the full journey to becoming advanced industrial economies. A strong research focus at the department is to interpret the origins and mechanisms behind the rapid industrialisation of the Asian economies. In this research, stretching back to colonial times, emphasis is laid upon the interaction between factor endowments, institutional arrangements and technological capabilities.

Development Economics

Research in Development Economics at the department is primarily focused on experiences of, and prospects for, economic development in developing countries outside the Global North from a long-term perspective. Economic growth, equality and structural change are central concepts in this field of research. We put a strong emphasis on institutional theory and on the interplay between economic change and socio-political forces in all areas of development research.

Research is devoted to drawing lessons from transformation processes foremost in Pacific Asia, but also from development experiences in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa. The development of the Global South is taking place in a rapidly changing global context of emerging markets and new growth poles, making the understanding of opportunities and consequences of globalisation imperative.

The research group in development economics has an extensive network of cooperation with other universities and international organisations. In addition, an International Master’s Program in Economic Development and several courses oriented towards development studies are given at the department.

Learn more

Some of our project websites:

African Long-term Inequality Trends, AFLIT
The Cape of Good Hope Panel


Ellen Hillbom
Professor, deputy head of department, director of third cycle studies
Phone: +46 46 222 74 86

Ellen Hillbom