Marshall Plan

Marshall Plan
2. Informal. any comprehensive program for federally supported economic assistance, as for urban renewal.

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(1948–51) U.S.-sponsored program to provide economic aid to European countries after World War II. The idea of a European self-help plan financed by the U.S. was proposed by George Marshall in 1947 and was authorized by Congress as the European Recovery Program.

It provided almost $13 billion in grants and loans to 17 countries and was a key factor in reviving their economies and stabilizing their political structures. The plan's concept was extended to less-developed countries under the Point Four Program.

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▪ European-United States history
  (April 1948–December 1951), U.S.-sponsored program designed to rehabilitate the economies of 17 western (World War II) and southern European (Europe, history of) countries in order to create stable conditions in which democratic institutions could survive. The United States feared that the poverty, unemployment, and dislocation of the postwar period were reinforcing the appeal of communist parties to voters in western Europe. On June 5, 1947, in an address at Harvard University, Secretary of State George C. Marshall (Marshall, George Catlett) advanced the idea of a European self-help program to be financed by the United States. On the basis of a unified plan for western European economic reconstruction presented by a committee representing 16 countries, the U.S. Congress authorized the establishment of the European Recovery Program, which was signed into law by President Harry S. Truman (Truman, Harry S.) on April 3, 1948. Aid was originally offered to almost all the European countries, including those under military occupation by the Soviet Union (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics). The Soviets early on withdrew from participation in the plan, however, and were soon followed by the other eastern European nations under their influence. This left the following countries to participate in the plan: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and western Germany.

      Under Paul G. Hoffman, the Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA), a specially created bureau, distributed over the next four years some $13 billion worth of economic aid, helping to restore industrial and agricultural production, establish financial stability, and expand trade. Direct grants accounted for the vast majority of the aid, with the remainder in the form of loans. To coordinate the European participation, 16 countries, led by the United Kingdom and France, established the Committee of European Economic Cooperation to suggest a four-year recovery program. This organization was later replaced by the permanent Organisation for European Economic Co-operation (European Economic Co-operation, Organisation for) (OEEC), to which West Germany was ultimately admitted.

      The Marshall Plan was very successful. The western European countries involved experienced a rise in their gross national products of 15 to 25 percent during this period. The plan contributed greatly to the rapid renewal of the western European chemical, engineering, and steel industries. Truman extended the Marshall Plan to less-developed countries throughout the world under the Point Four Program, initiated in 1949.

Additional Reading
Studies of the Marshall Plan include John Gimbel, The Origins of the Marshall Plan (1976); Imanuel Wexler, The Marshall Plan Revisited: The European Recovery Program in Economic Perspective (1983); Charles L. Mee, Jr., The Marshall Plan: The Launching of the Pax Americana (1984), for a general audience; Michael J. Hogan, The Marshall Plan: America, Britain, and the Reconstruction of Western Europe, 1947–1952 (1987); Armand Clesse and Archie C. Epps (eds.), Present at the Creation: The Fortieth Anniversary of the Marshall Plan (1990), essays by those who worked on the Marshall Plan; and Greg Behrman, The Most Noble Adventure: The Marshall Plan and the Time When America Helped Save Europe (2007).

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Universalium. 2010.

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