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Planning Peace: Development Policies in Postwar Europe


This research project shows the European origins of development economics between the late 1930s and the early 1960s and describes how the postwar global challenge of development took shape.

For Europe to emerge from the tragedy of war stronger and at peace, the problem of underdeveloped areas in the European continent itself had to be solved. The early development ideas and policies that were initially conceived for Europe became the basis of a new development orthodoxy that was subsequently exported to other non-European areas of the world. Based on extensive archival research, this project focuses on the two most important cases of development policies, ideas, and institutions in postwar Europe: first, the birth of early development theories, before and during World War II, in relation to Central and South-Eastern Europe, and second, the policies implemented after World War II in the largest underdeveloped area of Western Europe, the Italian South, which were adapted from the theories initially conceived for Central and Southeastern Europe. These theories are now considered the foundation of the discipline of development economics, but their actual origins and the debates that formed their conceptual context have been virtually forgotten. By underscoring the role of development visions for postwar democratic Europe, this project offers a contribution to the current debate on the social, economic, and political crisis facing Western democracies today.