Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Parrini, Carl P.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of History


Reconstruction (1939-1951)--Europe; Europe--Foreign economic relations--United States; United States--Foreign economic relations--Europe


The purpose of this thesis is to demonstrate the fundamental relationship between U.S. post-World War II reconstruction policies and programs in Europe and the basic war aim of U.S. business and political leaders: the recreation of a multilateral capitalist system. U.S. leaders embodied their post-war goal in an integrated program of global institutions--the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the charter for an International Trade Organization--whose underlying purposes were two-fold. They would provide world-wide scope for a United States corporate political economy whose stability required continuous foreign trade and investment. At the same time, U.S. policymakers reasoned, the development of institutions which facilitated international exchange, investment and trade would open world markets for other industrial capitalist nations. In this way the United States government would establish conditions which would obviate the bitter commercial-industrial rivalries which followed the breakdown of the world economy in 1929-1932. Through their analysis of World War II as a consequence of unrestrained world market competition, U.S. leaders saw an institutionalized multilateral system as a critical force for world stability. U.S. government policymakers understood that the key to securing and sustaining a multilateral system lay in the reconstruction of Europe as a center of world trade and payments. Pre-war Great Britain and Europe had served as significant outlets for U.S. exports and surplus capital and also played a vital role in providing third countries with the foreign exchange with which the latter carried on extensive trade with the United States. Government planners perceived that they would have to employ foreign loans as a means to secure the participation of a war-devastated Europe in the emerging multilateral order. This plan, developed and implemented during 1945 and 1946, proved only partly efficacious in orienting Europe towards the new commercial system. Structural changes in the world economy, Europe’s immense financial losses, the inability to integrate Russian-controlled Eastern Europe into the new world order and the problem of German recovery retarded European reconstruction. During 1947, economic stagnation and political instability in Europe forced the U.S. government to develop new plans for Western European reconstruction. In the view of political and business leaders, aid to Europe was a critical means to maintain social stability at home. Only through the dispensation of further aid could they guarantee stable international political-economic development by preventing Europe from taking the path to state capitalism or socialism and facilitate the utilization of U.S. excess productive capacity. The Marshall Plan would serve those requirements by subsidizing European national investment programs, securing financial stability and encouraging plans for broad economic cooperation. By providing for Western Europe’s capacity to function as a vital partner in an international trade-and-investment system, the U.S. government could ensure the realization of its war aims programs.


Includes bibliographical references.


iii, 270 pages




Northern Illinois University

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