The Marshall Plan: How should we interpret it? Just how philanthropic was it?

The activities in this very varied lesson ask students to raise questions, place sources on a continuum, add analysis to a short descriptive account and quickly tweet a caption to three contemporary cartoons.


Show slide 1 which is a German poster from 1949 advertising an exhibition to celebrate the benefits Marshall Aid brought. Ask students to spot the clues: the American skyline, the convoy of ships bringing goods, the ERP European Recovery Programme. Reveal the date and context by clicking the blue box below.

Step 1

Now give students just 5 minutes to find out all they can about Marshall Aid from their textbooks. You want 6 facts and then 3 questions a historian would pose when explaining the Marshall Plan.

Step 2

Collect all the factual information together in one place on the board but spend much more time exploring the questions. This range of possible examples is shown on PowerPoint slide 3:

– Why did Stalin refuse it to Poland and Czechoslovakia?

– What was in it for the USA? What were Marshall’s real motives?

– Why did Congress oppose it in 1947 and then accept it a year later?

– Why did only 16 countries accept

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