ABSTRACT

The devastation of Europe At the end of the war, Europe was in a shambles, and little short of destitute. From Stalingrad to Saint-Nazaire and from Murmansk to Bengazi, there was a trail of devastation and destruction, with the worst ravages occurring in central and eastern regions. The extent of the damage and loss of production was even more serious than it had been in the First World War. Manufacturing was paralysed, commerce was almost at a standstill, agricultural production was well down and communications were badly disrupted. Shortages of almost everything prevailed over a wide area of the continent. Financially, Europe was in an extremely weak state, with huge budgetary de cits, swollen money supplies, a severe shortage of foreign exchange reserves and strong in ationary pressures. Of course, conditions varied from country to country, but there were few, apart from Sweden and Switzerland, that had not suffered severely from the impact of several years of hostilities. Europe’s position stood out in sharp contrast to that of the United States and it soon became apparent that the task of rebuilding Europe would depend on the policies adopted by that country, because without external assistance the prospects of an early European revival looked grim. Fortunately, the post-war policies of America were more conducive to recovery than those pursued after the First World War. Despite some initial hesitation, the United States did not, as after 1920, retreat into isolation, but instead became, partly because of political factors, the universal provider of western Europe. As a result the reconstruction and recovery of Europe proved to be more rapid and sustained than anything conceived possible in 1945.