The year 1945 marked the end of the worst military conflict in history, which brought unprecedented destruction and loss of life. However, the quarter-century that followed is known as the most remarkable period of economic growth and social progress in Europe. This column, part of a Vox debate on WWII, lays out three factors that made this paradox possible: the strong foundations of economic recovery in Western Europe, vital support for the reconstruction of European trade and cooperation, and Allied support for the revival of the German economy. In contrast, Eastern Europe could barely recover due to the demographic disaster from the war.
The Economics of the Second World War: Seventy-Five Years On
The economic history of the twentieth century is written largely in terms of peacetime. There are the periods before, between, and after the two World Wars, but this leaves out the war periods themselves as aberrations that are not amenable to normal economic analysis. To mark the centenary of the First World War, the CEPR Economic History Programme commissioned a number of VoxEU columns, which were collected in an eBook, The Economics of the Great War: A Centennial Perspective. The positive response encouraged us to propose a similar debate on the economics of the Second World War, to mark the eightieth anniversary of that even greater conflagration.
Just as for the First World War, there is a traditional literature on the economics of 1939-1945, largely organised on a national basis, with a wealth of administrative detail, but often light on analytical clarity. Meanwhile, economists and historians have shown fresh interest in conflicts among and within states, their roots, their management, and their long-term consequences for twenty-first century states and societies. Associated with this are novel findings on economic aspects of the Second World War which are, in varying degrees, international or comparative, contributing new data and original analytical insights.
Our aim is to present recent research on the economics of the Second World War across a range of topics:
• The preparations for war.
• The conduct of the war.
• The consequences of the war.