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

Cover of The Marshall Plan: Dawn of the Cold WarThe Marshall Plan: Dawn of the Cold War
By Benn Steil
Simon & Schuster, £24.58

(Buy at Amazon)

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”.