This study grounds a highly charged debate on agriculture in developing countries within economic theory, by establishing a structured analytical framework for considering the potential role of foreign investment in supporting agricultural development. The analytical framework developed is then applied to assess the impact of foreign investment in agriculture in the case of Zambia. The study considers long term impacts of foreign investment in agriculture, at all times seeking to balance the need for historical context with the theoretical underpinnings of the analytical framework. To do this, the study compares the colonial administration of Northern Rhodesia (1924- 1964) and the modern multi-party democracy era (1992-2016) in Zambia, two periods of broad openness to foreign investment, while also assessing the post-independence era of the first and second republics (1965-1991). In doing so, the study considers how foreign investment has impacted the development of Zambian agriculture, considers whether the Zambian experience conforms to received theoretical wisdom, and assesses the extent to which there exist reoccurring patterns of foreign investment behavior from the colonial era to the present day.