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The post-war idea of European unification PDF

Added on - 23 Jan 2022

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The post-war idea of European unification
At the end of the second world war, there was a crisis in Europe of unprecedented
proportions. Europe's industry had practically come to a halt due to destroyed infrastructures
(bridges, ports, transport and communication systems); entire cities had been flattened by bombs;
agricultural production in every war zone had fallen to half, leaving millions of people without
enough to eat; and more than 50 million refugees and displaced persons were without homes.
Moreover, the 60 million people who had been killed and the realization that its people were
capable of barbaric cruelty left the Europeans deeply shaken. Since the policies after World War
One had led to political instability, depression, and the rise of dictatorships, Europe was eager for
economic recovery and policies that would foster unity and international cooperation. To achieve
greater unity after World War II, nationalism, economic competition, and the cycle of blame had
to be overcome.
Many people had been drawn to nationalistic leaders in the interwar period out of
economic frustration. Veterans had returned from World War I without finding a better life to
repay their sacrifices and yet trained in violent means that they could resort to again. Recognizing
this, many countries began wide-ranging social services after World War II to aid and protect
their people. The concept of a welfare state had been in William Beveridge's 1942 Report for
Britain's economic recovery. It included plans for national health care, put into place after the
Labour party came into power and Clement Atlee became prime minister. Other western
European countries did the same, providing health care, education, pensions and security for
those unemployed in social programs paid for by taxation. Atlee also recognized that Britain's
economic recovery depended on its resources being concentrated on social reform rather than the
maintenance of an empire, which eventually led to decolonization that in turn would bring
Britain to a desire to cooperate economically with its European neighbors.
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