Ten fascinating facts about the Marshall Plan


George C. Marshall – 1947

From OUP Blog by Benn Steil author of The Marshall Plan: Dawn of the Cold War.

In 1947, with Britain’s empire collapsing and Stalin’s rise in Europe, US officials under new Secretary of State George C. Marshall set out to reconstruct Western Europe as a bulwark against communist authoritarianism. Their massive, costly, and ambitious undertaking confronted Europeans and Americans alike with a vision at odds with their history and self-conceptions. Benn Steil highlights ten intriguing facts about the Marshall Plan (officially the European Recovery Program) and how it shaped the decades following World War II.

1. The Marshall Plan represented a radical departure from established American foreign policy doctrine. Since George Washington’s famous farewell address of 1796, US policymakers had sought not to “entangle [American] peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice.” The Marshall Plan was a conscious departure from this stricture, based on the understanding that huge changes in technology and commerce had made it impossible for the United States to isolate itself without serious consequences for its security and prosperity.

2. Marshall aid amounted to over $135 billion in today’s money, or $800 billion as a proportion of American gross domestic product. The total aid figure is higher still if we account for substantial non-Marshall military and other assistance in Europe.

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