History of Europe in the 20th Century

History of Europe in the 20th Century

In 1945, the world celebrated an end to most destructive conflict in human history, which bought wanton destruction of properties and massive loss of life. Before 1945, the struggle of Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany for world supremacy had undermined the economic and human capital of Europe and Southeast Asia[1]. The six years of war claimed more than 60 million lives, among them 6 million Jews[2]. Scared of the humiliation of the war, women and children were displaced from their homes, and tens of millions sought new places to hide. At this point, most countries in Europe were in bad shape, and the continent was at the brink of splitting into opposing fractions. However, three decades that followed after 1945 is recognized as the most outstanding social progress and economic growth in Europe[3]. This paper examines how Europe managed to change the narrative improve the continent after 1945

In the immediate wake of World War Two, leaving conditions in European countries that had been on the battlefield were disastrous. Many European countries ran budget deficits to rebuild both industry and housing and encountered severe balance-of-payment complications in the process. The dire economic and social distraction brought by the war compelled European countries and their allies to look for alternative means to revamp the economy and reverse the social structure. The Allied nations, committed to protecting the democratic countries from the perceived threat of communism invasion, began to build a set of international organizations[4]. The international organization was formed so that countries in Europe could solve everyday problems ranging from security and defense to enhancing trade to rebuild European nations economically and physically from the destructions caused by Second World War.

One way in which Europe succeeded in its effort to alter the narrative and improve the continent is by embracing the U.S unified European recovery program (Marshall Plan). It was a U.S. government strategy designed to assist countries in Western Europe in their reconstruction effort[5]. Because the war had damaged many properties and resources, most European countries had U.S. debt and did not have enough money to rebuild their countries. At this time, most European countries experienced shortages of raw materials for industries, increased unemployment, and inadequate food supply. Due to these challenges, some countries such as Greece began supporting communism. The was widespread fear among the Western allies that the Soviet Union would use the vulnerability of countries like Greece to aid communists in overthrowing democratic governments in the region[6]. In response to the threat posed by the communist revolution in Europe and the dreaded economic collapse in turkey, the U.S government announced a substantial amount of aid to war-torn countries in Europe to reconstruct and improve food security. The provision of the Marshall Aid from 1947 led to the formation of the Organization for European Cooperation (OEEC) to decide how the aid fund was distributed[7]. As predicted, the Marshal Plan assisted in restoring European production capacities, enhancing domestic price stability, and helped realign the European countries’ currency immediately after the war ended. The formation of OEEC marked the start of European integration as it brought several European countries together. The European nations were, to an extent, compelled to act against the communistic ideology because of the aid they had received from America and the debt they owed.

Reconstruction was an instrumental process in spearheading the growth revitalization of  Europe after the World War Two. Industrialization in the European countries was reduced by the destruction of the transport infrastructures in the country, especially railway hubs and bridges[8]. However, the maintenance of a complete command –economy and mobilization of labor forces in the countries following economic aids received and the formation of regional organizations swiftly eliminated the economic challenges. Together with the elimination of occupation and economic controls in the defeated Axis nations, aid to Europe was directed towards rebuilding production and export capacity in receiving nations and widening the European products’ market.

In summary, World War II brought severe destruction to the European economies and claimed massive loss of lives. Although the war had a negative toll on Europe, the continent managed to recollect and revamp its economy after 1945. One of the means through which the region managed to restore its position was through accepting American Aid via the Marshall plan. The plan assisted the receiving countries in rebuilding their production capacity and enhancing their infrastructure. Another means through which Europe managed to restore its economy and was through the strong support for the reconstruction of European cooperation and trade. While some countries in Eastern Europe took time to recover from the effect of the war, majorities of the countries in Western Europe managed to improve their conditions and restore the economic position.



Vonyo, Tamas. 2021. “Recovery And Reconstruction: Europe After WWII | VOX, CEPR Policy Portal.” Voxeu.Org. https://voxeu.org/article/recovery-and-reconstruction-europe-after-wwii.

Boldorf, Marcel, and Tetsuji Okazaki, eds. Economies under occupation: The hegemony of Nazi Germany and imperial Japan in World War II. Routledge, 2015.

Berle, A.A., 2015. The Marshall Plan in the European Struggle. Social Research82(1), pp.199-218.

Carleton.ca. 2021. “The Reconstruction Of Europe – EU Learning.” Carleton.Ca. https://carleton.ca/ces/eulearning/history/europe-after-wwii/the-reconstruction-of-europe/.

[1] Boldorf, Marcel, and Tetsuji Okazaki, eds. Economies under occupation: The hegemony of Nazi Germany and imperial Japan in World War II. Routledge, 2015

[2] Vonyo, Tamas. 2021. “Recovery And Reconstruction: Europe After WWII | VOX, CEPR Policy Portal”. Voxeu.Org

[3] Ibd.

[4] Carleton.ca. 2021. “The Reconstruction of Europe – EU Learning”. Carleton.Ca

[5] Berle, A.A., 2015. The Marshall Plan in the European Struggle. social research82(1), pp.199-218.


[6] Carleton.ca. 2021. “The Reconstruction of Europe – EU Learning”. Carleton.Ca


[7] Ibd

[8] Vonyo, Tamas. 2021. “Recovery and Reconstruction: Europe after WWII | VOX, CEPR Policy Portal”. Voxeu.Org

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