Staff Spotlight: Dr Montserrat Lopez Jerez

Blog written by Dr Montserrat Lopez Jerez. Dr Lopez Jerez is a new addition to the School of History this year. Her research focuses on the economic history of developing regions, particularly colonial and post-colonial economic development in East and Southeast Asia. 

Montse in Luang Prabang

I am not sure if my academic career qualifies as conventional–it has definitely not been straightforward. Before my current work, I spent years studying natural sciences and almost applied to medical school. Instead, I opted for a quicker entry into the labour market and went for Business Administration, majoring in international economics in Icade, Madrid. I took advantage of the extra academic opportunities offered by the university while I was there, which eventually resulted in combining my studies with work in, among others, investment banking (ING Barings) and strategic consultancy (Arthur D. Little), as well as volunteer work.

By the time I graduated I was ready to move from Spain, and I was lucky enough to get a paid internship sponsored by the Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade (ICEX) to work for one year at the Commercial Section of the Spanish Embassy in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, followed by two years in Vientiane, Laos as a trade consultant. Witnessing the remarkably quick transformations taking place in the region and being part of the striking inequalities, I was bitten by an academic curiosity which led me to a Masters in Asian Studies at Lund University, Sweden. I specialised on Southeast Asia and carried out my fieldwork in Thailand under the supervision of Professor Christer Gunnarsson. Under his and Associate Professor Martin Andersson’s supervision, I wrote my doctoral dissertation on the effects of factor endowments in influencing the developing paths of the two rice deltas of Vietnam from colonial times. I obtained my PhD in Economic History in 2015 and stayed in Lund as a lecturer at the Department of Economic History and the Centre for Asian Studies. I was again very fortunate as my dissertation won the Wallander scholarship granting me three years of research fellowship.

A map of French Indochina taken by Montse at the French Archives (ANOM) in Aix-en-Provence

Lund, especially the Department of Economic History, was home for fourteen years. During this time I worked mainly on my dissertation which is now a monograph titled Deltas Apart – Factor Endowments, Colonial Extraction and Pathways of Agricultural Development in Vietnam. As Swedish dissertations have an ISBN, its conversion into a book has not been forthright but it is one of my upcoming projects. Emanating from the dissertation, I have published four research pieces, of which the latest are on the modern transformation of Vietnam examining the linkages between rural transformation and inclusiveness (in Innovation and Development 2019) and one shortly forthcoming in an edited volume by CUP on the fiscal capacity of the colonial state in Africa and Asia (edited by Ewout Frankema and Anne Booth). Here I explore the formation and evolution of the French fiscal state in Indochina in relation to the paradox of being portrayed as one of the most extractive states (when it comes to taxation) while its revenues per capita are amongst the lowest in colonial East and Southeast Asia.

Since August 2019, I have been participating in a recently granted Lund-based project which aims at understanding what makes developing countries resilient to economic shrinking. This will run for three years. Simultaneously I am expanding my work on understanding and quantifying inequalities in rural economies and their effect in economic development in East and Southeast Asia.

My teaching in St Andrews reflects my academic interests, diverse and broad training, and experience of working in European environments while specialising in Asia. My honour modules are: MO3388 (the East Asian Economic Miracle), MO3355 (on colonialism in East and Southeast Asia), and MO4854 (Equality, Institutions and the Development of the Modern State).  I look forward to engaging in MO1008, HI2001, and the MSc in Economic and Social History next year.

When I’m not at work, I spend my time with my kids and other loved ones spread across the globe.

About standrewshistory
With over forty fulltime members of staff researching and teaching on European, American and Asian history from the dawn of the Middle Ages to the present day, the School of History at the University of St Andrews has one of the finest faculty and diverse teaching programmes of any School of History in the English speaking world. The School boasts expertise in Mediaeval and Modern History, from Scotland to Byzantium and the Americas to South Asia. Thematic interests include religious history, urban history, transnationalism, historiography and nationalism. The School of History prides itself on small group teaching, allowing for in-depth study and supervision tailored to secure the best from each student. Cutting edge research combined with teaching excellence offer a dynamic and intellectually stimulating environment for the study of History.

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