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University of Oxford

From Poverty to Prosperity: Understanding Economic Development

University of Oxford via edX


How can poor societies become prosperous and overcome obstacles to do so? Professor Sir Paul Collier is one of the world's leading scholars on this question, and in this economics course you will have the opportunity to learn from him directly.

This course will discuss and examine the following topics:

  • The role of government and the key political, social and economic processes that affect development;
  • Why societies need polities that are both centralised and inclusive, and the process by which these polities develop;
  • The social factors that are necessary for development, including the importance of identities, norms, and narratives;
  • The impact of economic processes on development, including discussion about how government policies can either promote or inhibit the exploitation of scale and specialisation;
  • The external conditions for development, including trade flows, capital flows, labour flows and international rules for governance.

Enrol in this course to understand the factors that influence economic development and the different development paths that countries across the world have taken.


Module 1: From Anarchy to a centralised State
Economic development needs polities that are centralised and inclusive. No society starts with such a polity. Starting from anarchy, what determines whether a centralised state emerges?

Module 2: From centralised to Inclusive States

Economic development needs polities that are centralised and inclusive. No society starts with such a polity. What are the factors that develop a centralised state into an inclusive one?

Module 3: Power, Identities and Narratives
Economic development needs an alignment between power and identities. What happens when power and identities are misaligned and how can that misalignment be addressed?

Module 4: Growth through Urbanisation and Industrialisation
Economic development depends upon exploiting scale and specialisation, but poor societies start with neither. How can government policies promote or inhibit the exploitation of scale and specialisation?

Module 5: External Influences: Trade flows, Capital flows, Labour flows, and International Governance Rules
The political, social and economic processes covered in previous modules are fundamentally internal. External influences are peripheral but may still matter, for good or ill.

Module 6: Final Assignment
The details of the final assignment and instructions on how to complete it will be available in this module.

Taught by

Sir Paul Collier


5.0 rating, based on 6 Class Central reviews

4.8 rating at edX based on 58 ratings

Start your review of From Poverty to Prosperity: Understanding Economic Development

  • I didn't expect to stick with this course - I'm not particularly interested in what I thought "economics" meant - but I was curious to see what Oxford was doing for a mooc. it turned out to be delightful, interesting, and highly informative about a…
  • Mariana Marcondes
    Captivating subject, charismatic instructor, plenty of opportunities to think on the lessons and apply them to the reality around me.
  • Profile image for Arthur Paes Wittenberg
    Arthur Paes Wittenberg
    This course is suitable for everybody who wants to make a positive change in their country or city. It presents the evolution of a place from an anarchy condition to a developed state, or, if you prefer, from poverty to prosperity.
    The professor is brilliant, and he masters the ability of teaching. He presents the theory and illustrates it with essential examples. It is impossible for you not to relate the course to your own country.
  • Elizabeth Simmons
    This course was clear, informative, thought-provoking, and inspiring. It illuminates why societies function and develop the way they do and how governments and individuals can help countries achieve their development goals. I recommend taking this course for both personal and academic enrichment. This course was time well spent.
  • Anonymous
    It is very informative, and not the "economy" I thought it was about. It's truly interesting for me, a lot of story telling, and pretty easy to understand. Recommend to anyone who learns best through story telling and slower pacing!
  • The course was great and very interactive, catchy and taught provoking. I have learnt a lot from Sir Paul Collier through this.

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