James Robinson

James Robinson

Wilbur A. Cowett Professor of Government, Harvard University

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James Robinson is the Wilbur A. Cowett Professor of Government at Harvard University where he has taught in the departments of Government, Economics and History since 2004. He started to study political science as an undergraduate at the London School of Economics but was convinced by Michio Morishima, the distinguished Japanese mathematical Marxist economist, to change into economics.

He completed an M.Sc. in economics at the University of Warwick in 1986 and a Ph.D. at Yale in 1992. Since then he taught in the Economics Departments at the University of Melbourne, 1992-1995, and the University of Southern California 1995-1999. In 1999 he started to move back towards political science by moving to the political science department of the University of California at Berkeley where he also had a joint position with economics.

He is the co-author with Daron Acemoglu of the book Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy, published by Cambridge University Press in 2006 which was awarded the 2007 Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award awarded by the American Political Science Association for “the best book published in the United States during the prior year on government, politics or international affairs.” He edited the book Natural Experiments in History with the geographer and ecologist Jared Diamond in 2010. His most recent book, also written with Daron Acemoglu, is entitled Why Nations Fail and was published by Crown/Random House in March 2012 and declared one of the best 10 books of 2012 by the Washington Post and is already being translated into 27 languages including Arabic and Mongolian.

His main research interests are in political economy, comparative economic development and economic history with a focus on Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. He has conducted research in Botswana, Chile, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Colombia where he teaches every summer at the University of the Andes in Bogotá.

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