Global Development Institute Blog

David Hulme, Professor of Development Studies, Global Development Institute

It is with great sadness that we report the death of Professor John Toye, an internationally leading scholar of economic history and international development. John held many important academic positions over his lifetime that shaped the study of international development in the late 20th century and around the Millennium: Director of the Centre for Development Studies/CDS of University of Swansea (1982-87), Director of the Institute for Development Studies/IDS at University of Sussex (1987-97), Head of the Centre for the Study of African Economies/CSAE at University of Oxford (2000-03) and others. He also worked as a professional economist at the UK Treasury early in his career and at UNCTAD’s Globalisation and Development Directorate from 1998 to 2000.

John Toye was a card-carrying economist steeped in economic theory. But he believed that economics needed to relate closely to other social sciences and, alongside his research on Keynes, he researched in Development Studies. He is perhaps best understood as a political economist and his book, Dilemmas of Development (1987), was essential reading for anyone trying to understand the ascendancy of neo-liberal thinking and its implications for international development. His subsequent books with Paul Mosley and Jane Harrigan (Aid and Power, 1995) extended this thinking into a highly original analysis of World Bank and IMF policy conditionality.

Alongside these thought-promoting publications, John Toye took on an intellectual lead in shaping the emerging discipline of Development Studies. This involved serving as President of the UK’s Development Studies Association for three years in the 1990s, directing the disciplines leading research centres and being an active editor/board member of the Journal of Development Studies, European Journal of Development Studies, Oxford Development Studies, Journal of International Development and World Development.

John Toye was also a great friend of, and regular visitor to, Manchester’s Institute for Development Policy and Management now the Global Development Institute. He sat on its Advisory Board in the 1990s, jointly designing and directing the ESRC’s Global Poverty Research Group (Manchester-Oxford GPRG) with David Hulme in the early 2000s, co-authoring books and papers with Manchester academics and supporting the Institute in academic recruitment and promotion activities on many occasions.   

But John was not just an outstanding scholar. He was also an excellent companion to share a meal and a bottle of wine with (always best to let him choose as he knew his way around wine lists). Late in the evening the gravitas of his presence (he was always in a dark suit) would be shed, and he would tell tales with great humour and analytical depth and a dram of whisky. If you have a minute go to the library and dip into Dilemmas of Development – almost 35 years old now but a book that genuinely helps understand how and why the world was changing in the late 20th century. John will be greatly missed.