This article offers a critical analysis of scholarship produced about Brazil's Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social (BNDES) since its founding, in 1952, to 2013. BNDES has performed an important, if changing and sometimes controversial, role in Brazil's economic development over the past 60 years, especially as provider of long-term finance. This analysis of almost 1,000 texts highlights discussions about its initial organisation and mission and how the role and activities of the bank changed over time, guided by turbulent national political and economic contexts. In spite of the bank's institutional importance, however, the literature is more narrative than analytical and of limited scholarly impact, dominated as it is by the bank's authorship. We argue for independent, evidence-driven, critical analyses of the effectiveness of this important institution in promoting Brazil's economic and social development.