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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Award

Spring 2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of History


Since the end of World War II, development aid has become a permanent fixture of U.S. foreign policy. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has been the primary organization for implementing the American government’s development policies. Because of this, USAID provides an excellent lens for viewing the historical trajectory of American development aid. USAID’s experience in Rwanda demonstrates the broad policy shifts that define this historical trajectory. During the 1960s, modernization theory directed development projects. In the 1970s this shifted to a needs-based mandate, and during the 1980s market liberalization programs defined USAID’s objectives. The rich relationship between USAID and Rwanda exemplifies the gap existing in development aid between ideology and practicality. Development aid’s value in determining foreign policy has also been underappreciated by scholars, and the comprehensive review of USAID projects provided aims to contribute to resolving these shortcomings.

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