Joseph Hanlon

Visiting Senior Research Fellow

Joseph Hanlon is both a journalist and a development researcher which he has combined in more than a dozen books on southern Africa and on aid and development. His 2013 book Zimbabwe Takes Back its Land has changed thinking on Zimbabwe's land reform. His 2010 book Just Give Money to the Poor on cash transfers (child benefit, non-contributory pension, etc) is on the Guardian 2011 list of "Development studies: Key first-year reads" and has been influential in changing the view the poor countries could not afford social protection. Joseph has been writing about Mozambique since 1978. He was a stringer for the Guardian and BBC there for five years, and is now the most cited social science academic on Mozambique. His most recent Mozambique book is Do bicycles equal development in Mozambique? and the Portuguese edition Há mais bicicletas -  mas há desenvolvimento? was a best seller in Mozambique. He has been the editor of the Mozambique Political Process Bulletin since 1992. The next book on Mozambique will be Beer and chickens - a recipe for growth in Mozambique? to be published in 2014. A book on climate change in Bangladesh is due in 2015. Joseph was also policy advisor of the Jubilee 2000 campaign to cancel the debt of the poorest countries by the year 2000 (which was partly successful) and was head of the Commonwealth Independent Expert Study on Sanctions Against South Africa in the late 1980s. Joseph Hanlon's PhD is in physics, and he is also a visiting senior fellow at the Department of International Development of the London School of Economics.

Joseph Hanlon is active in three areas of research:

  • Land grabs, land reform, and agricultural development
  • Mozambique
  • International financial institutions, the aid industry, and debt


Zimbabwe Takes Back its Land. (Kumarian, Sterlind, Va, 2013 and Jacana, Johannesburg, 2013)


Joseph Hanlon has been writing about Mozambique since 1978, and is the editor of the Mozambique Political Process Bulletin.  The Bulletin is free. To subscribe, write to j.hanlon@open.ac.uk

The is a special web page Mozambique reports and documents with Joseph Hanlon's recent writings, as well as debates and background documents.

Books on Mozambique:

Galinhas e cerveja: uma receita para o crescimento? (Chickens and beer: a recipe for growth?) due to be published mid 2014.

Do bicycles equal development in Mozambique? (James Currey, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 2008) and the Portuguese edition Há mais bicicletas -  mas há desenvolvimento?

Mozambique and the Great Flood of 2000, with Frances Christie (James Currey, Oxford, 2001).

Guia Básico Sobre as Autárquias Locais (Ministério de Administração Estatal, Maputo, 1998)

Peace Without Profit: How the IMF Blocks Rebuilding in Mozambique (James Currey, 1996), published in Portuguese as Paz sem beneficio (O Centro de Estudos Africanos da Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, Maputo, 1997)

Mozambique: Who Calls the Shots (James Currey 1991)

Mozambique: the Revolution Under Fire (Zed 1984)

Aid, debt and international financial institutions

Just Give Money to the Poor (Kumarian, Sterling, Va 2010)

which grew out of  'It is possible to just give money to the poor', Development and Change, 35(2): 375-383 (2004). This article was also published as a chapter in the book Catalysing Development? A Debate on Aid, by Jan Pronk et al, Malden (MA USA), Oxford, Carlton (Victoria, Australia): Blackwell, 2004

Joseph Hanlon developed the concept of 'illegitimate debt', which was accepted by the Norwegian government. This argues that lenders, not borrowers, are responsible for improper lending, for example to dictators. This work is summarised in a paper 'Lenders, not borrowers, are responsible for ‘illegitimate’ loans' in Third World Quarterly Vol.27(2)2006.

'Defining Illegitimate Debt: When Should Creditors be Liable for Improper Loans?' was published as a chapter in Sovereign Debt at the Crossroads, ed Chris Jochnick & Fraser Preston, Oxford University Press, 2005.

A more detailed version of the argument is in the report 'Defining Illegitimate Debt' produced for Norwegian Church Aid.

'Wolfowitz, the World Bank, and Illegitimate Lending' was published in The Brown Journal of World Affairs in 2007.

Joseph Hanlon was policy advisor and economist for the Jubilee 2000 campaign to cancel poor country debt.

Debt research papers include:

'How much debt must be cancelled', Journal of International Development, 12, 877-901 (2000) which looks at the amount of debt which must be cancelled to meet the Millennium Development Goals, and at historical precedents.

'We’ve been here before', a look at past debt crises.

'Dictators and debt'

'Do donors promote corruption?: the case of Mozambique', Third World Quarterly, 25(4) 747-763 (2004)

Civil wars

The textbook Civil Wars, Civil Peace, edited with Helen Yanacopulos, was published in 2005 by James Currey and the Open University..

A paper asking 'Is the international community helping to recreate the pre-conditions for war in Sierra Leone?' was published in Round Table in September 2005 (94) pp 459-472.

A chapter challenging some of the views on Mozambique as a post-war success story has been published in the book Postconflict Development: Meeting New Challenges, Gerd Junne & Willemijn Verkoren, Lynne Rienner, 2005.

Joseph Hanlon is the principal author of a course in the Global Development Management programme: TU875 "War, Intervention & Development". The first presentation began in November 2005 and it will start for the last time in November 2014.

He also worked on TD223 "International development: making sense of a changing world" and wrote chapters for the two course books, International Development in a Changing World (Papaioannou & Butcher, eds) and New Perspectives in International Development (Butcher & Papaioannou, eds). The first presentation was in 2012. 

[javascript protected email address]