About Polly Hill
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Polly Hill, (14 June 1914 – 21 August 2005) was a British economic historian of West Africa, and an Emeritus Fellow of Clare Hall, Cambridge.
Life and career
Hill came from a family of distinguished academics – her father, A. V. Hill, had earned a Nobel prize in physiology. Her mother Margaret Keynes was a daughter of the economist John Neville Keynes, and sister of the economist John Maynard Keynes and the surgeon Geoffrey Keynes. Her own brothers were the physiologist David Keynes Hill and the oceanographer Maurice Hill, while her sister Janet married the immunologist John Herbert Humphrey.
Hill spent eleven years (1940–51) as a civil servant. After an interlude in journalism (1951–53) for the weekly West Africa, she spent nearly eleven more years at the University of Ghana between 1954 and 1965. She examined the preconceptions with which the Western world understood and approached economic assistance to developing nations. In 1963, Hill published The Migrant Cocoa-Farmers of Southern Ghana, which portrayed and documented the emergence of a class of dynamic indigenous entrepreneurs, who developed as they grew a complex infrastructure that the colonial government could not provide.
In 1967, she received a PhD in social anthropology from the University of Cambridge and was appointed as Smuts reader in Commonwealth studies from 1971 to 1979. She became a Fellow of Clare Hall and published many influential books, among them the famous Development Economics on Trial (1986). Hill examined economic aid to developing nations, arguing that aid often went to programs designed to fit the donor's interests. She died in her daughter's home after suffering for 3 years with senile dementia. Her daughter is called Susannah Burn, and Polly has 3 grandchildren, William, Matilda and Florence Burn.