The Marshall Plan: A Re-Evaluation


The Marshall Plan has assumed a mythical status in the American consciousness.  It was proposed in 1947 and implemented 1948-52, despite opposition in Congress and European skepticism.  It is generally thought to be represent America at its best, exemplifying American altruism and innovation, championing democracy against the impending Communist challenge, bringing the European economy and institutions back to life after the devastation of World War II and helping the Europeans move toward the concepts of the EU.  Are each of these elements of self-congratulation warranted?  Was the Plan really just American self-interest cloaked as generosity?  Was it, perversely, a factor contributing to the Cold War?  Was it actually a substantial factor in European recovery?  In short how should we now view the Marshall Plan and its legacy? 

This SDG will deal with (1) the origins of the Plan, the importance of George Marshall, the contributions of President Truman and other officials crucial to adoption and implementation of the Plan, the attitudes of the European countries (2) all of the questions raised above and (3) evaluation of the short-term and long-term effects of the Plan viewed after the passage of more than 65 years.

Weekly Topics

1.   Condition of Europe at End of World War II

2.   Ideas of George Kennan and Charles Bohlen

3.   Marshall Speech and Ideas for European Recovery

4.   Truman’s Acceptance of Recommendations of Marshall, Kennan & Bohlen

5.   Comparison of Plan with World War I Peace Treaty and Actions of Countries Between Wars

6.   Congressional Debate

7.   Appointment of General Clay and Formation of His Staff

8.   Reaction of Soviet Union

9.   Operation of Plan in Germany

10. Operation of Plan in Great Britain

11. Operation of Plan in France

12. Operation of Plan in Other Countries

13. Marshall Plan Influence on Organizations for European Unity

14. Evaluation of Marshall Plan


The core book will be “The Marshall Plan: Dawn of the Cold War” by Benn Steil.  It was published in 2018 and has received excellent reviews.  Sufficient time has elapsed since the operation of the Plan for Steil to have had access to records and time to make objective evaluations.  There are many books and materials on the subject.  Some of the books are the following:

Dean Acheson, “Present at the Creation”

Charles Mee, “Saving a Continent: The Untold Story of the Marshall Plan”

Nicolaus Mills, “Winning the Peace: The Marshall Plan and America’s Coming of Age as a  Superpower”