How do projects grow? How do they fail? What accounts for their changing fortunes? This paper uses the archives of a 1970s modernisation scheme to explore the life cycle of a long running project, concerning the production of leaf protein in Nigeria. It argues that archives can be very useful for understanding success and failure, and encourages practitioners to take an interest in the story of past projects, even those that failed. Drawing on Actor-Network Theory, it argues that alliances are key to understanding project life cycles, suggesting that practitioners focus on strengthening local relationships, rather than seeking answers in universal management templates.