Blogs > Liberty and Power > Polly Hill, economic anthropologist, dead at 91

Aug 26, 2005 1:59 am


Polly Hill, economic anthropologist, dead at 91



Go here to read the obituary of Polly Hill. (The story will go behind subscription at 7 PM EDT on Saturday, August 27.)

“Polly Hill was the pre-eminent economic anthropologist in the classic British fieldwork tradition. She was born in 1914 into one of Cambridge's most distinguished academic families. Her father was A.V. Hill, a Nobel prize- winning physiologist, and her mother's brother was J.M. Keynes. She graduated from Newnham College, Cambridge in 1936 with a degree in Economics, but her academic career did not begin until 1954 when she took up a post as a Research Fellow in the University of Ghana. This was the beginning of her distinguished career as a"field economist," as she liked to describe herself. Over the next 30 years she published nine books and over 50 articles, including the classic study that established her reputation, The Migrant Cocoa-Farmers of Southern Ghana (1963).”

Although I knew the name Polly Hill, I knew next to nothing about her work and I was not aware of her familial connection with John Maynard Keynes.

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Sudha Shenoy - 8/26/2005

Polly Hill is almost the complete antidote to 'development' economics. See her brilliant 'Development Economics on Trial: The Anthropological Case for a Prosecution' (1986); also 'The poor quality of official socio-economic statistics...', Modern Asian Studies 1982. The latter eviscerates the numbers so confidently produced by govt officials in the LDCs. Her studies of West African 'peasant' producers are outstanding; two titles are revealing: 'The Migrant Cocoa Farmers of Southern Ghana: A Study in Rural Capitalism' (1963) -- this book made her name; & 'Studies in Rural Capitalism in West Africa' (1970).

That she was a niece of J M Keynes was fairly well-known.

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