Book in the news: the remarkable success of the Marshall Plan

Book review: The Marshall PlanThis is an ambitious and deeply researched narrative look at the plan that put Europe back on its feet.


The Marshall Plan: Dawn of the Cold War

Simon & Schuster, £24.58

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This year sees the 70th anniversary of the European Recovery Program. This project, popularly known as the Marshall Plan, is credited with sparking western Europe's rapid recovery from World War II, and the subsequent economic boom of the 1950s and 1960s.

Benn Steil's account is "the most detailed yet of the lengthy, constantly evolving initiative", says Hope Harrison in The Washington Post. As well as the story of the plan, Steil covers "the division of Germany, the founding of Nato and, as the subtitle of his book indicates, the dawn of the Cold War".

It "is elegant in style and impressive in insights", says the FT's Tony Barber. Steil "has an enviable gift for presenting complex economic and geopolitical issues in crisp, readable prose". The book argues that, "although the Americans held the purse strings and emphasised the need for western European economic integration, they did not dictate the specific paths to recovery charted in Britain, France and Italy". It also reminds readers that "the Marshall Plan came with grave, perhaps unavoidable costs", including the Czech coup of 1948. Still, Steil concludes that the plan "was a remarkable success".

With "a large cast of statesmen, spies and economists that perhaps only Dickens could have corralled with ease", this book is "slow going at first", says Timothy Naftali in The New York Times. However, it "builds intellectual excitement as the characters act and react to one another". Overall, this is "an ambitious, deeply researched narrative" that "delineates the interlocking gears of international politics and economics in early postwar Europe".

Dr Matthew Partridge

Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.

He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.

Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.

As senior writer, he writes the shares and politics & economics pages, as well as weekly Blowing It and Great Frauds in History columns He also writes a fortnightly reviews page and trading tips, as well as regular cover stories and multi-page investment focus features.

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