Christopher Blattman

Mar 2015

This was an excellent course. Blattman managed convey exactly why development is so interesting by demonstrating how it's at the intersection of many, many fascinating subfields. The scope of the course is enormous, but the readings are well-chosen and I felt as though I'd ultimaetly read at least a bit of the key literature in every he discussed. Blattman's lectures were engaging, he was always well-prepared for class, and he clearly knows the material incredibly well. Perhaps most importantly, he did an effective job of connecting niche research projects to broader trends in the field and deep philosophical questions about development. That said, this class could be way, way better if Intermediate Macroeconomics or even just Principles of Econ were required as prerequisites. Watching Blattman -- who has a PhD in economics -- explain simple macro concepts to people who just haven't taken any econ was painful. If you know some econ beforehand, you will get significantly more out of this class. The TA's for this class were terrible across the board, through no fault of Blattman's. They did not know the material and at times they took months to return assignments. My TA in particular would regularly cancel section because she overslept -- but that's okay, because section was pretty useless anyway. But forget about the TAs. Take this course! I've used what I learned there in every econ and political science class I've taken since.

Feb 2013

Definitely one of the best classes I've ever taken at Columbia, and I had the feeling most people thoroughly enjoyed it too. I wish I had the time to write a more comprehensive review praising the content of the course, as well as Blattman's ability to teach and engage students. Blattman's lectures are brilliant, engaging and entertaining. They are a thorough and unbiased introduction to recent African political and economic development, and the relation between development and violence, international institutions, foreign aid, domestic politics, geography, among other factors. The course assumes for the most part no previous background in economics, statistics or political science for that matter. Nevertheless, I found it to be a better introduction to international development than my Development Economics course. This is one of those classes you walk out of every day and realize how much you've just learned. The readings are also fascinating. I highly recommend it to anyone mildly interested in politics, development economics, developing countries, sub-Saharan Africa or any intersection of these topics.