In Memoriam: John Toye (7 October 1942 – 12 November 2021)
By David Hulme (DSA President 2014-2017) and Frances Stewart (DSA President 1990-1992)
It is with great sadness that we report the death of Professor John Toye who was President of the Development Studies Association (DSA) 1994-96.
John was an internationally leading scholar of economic history and international development. He 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 found in Development Studies the ideal context within which to promote, explore and promote a multi-disciplinary approach to research and teaching. During his time as DSA President, the links between interdisciplinary scholars and broad-minded economists flourished. John even went as far in one 1999 article in IDS Bulletin to argue for economics to be displaced by political science as the lead discipline within 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 an intellectual lead in shaping the emerging discipline of Development Studies in Europe. This involved serving as President of the UK’s Development Studies Association (DSA), directing some of 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 was serious, scholarly and objective and he brought these qualities to all his work, including research, institutional leadership, and editorial activities. But John was not just an outstanding scholar. He was also invariably a very supportive colleague and friend who spent a great deal of time ensuring that those he worked with were able to achieve the things they valued. John 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 a 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 understanding how and why the world was changing in the late 20th century. John will be greatly missed.
Edit: You can also read the obituary published in The Guardian authored by Professor Paul Mosley (The University of Sheffield).
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About the DSA
The Development Studies Association (DSA) is a UK based membership organisation for all those studying, researching and teaching in the field of global development. The DSA promotes and advances international development as a field of study, research and action. We aim to deepen understanding of how global poverty, inequalities, conflict and environmental destruction are produced, sustained and may be overcome, and how a better future may be advanced. The DSA is a membership organisation, with both individual and institutional members, and is wholly funded through its membership premiums and activities.