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Development and education: the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation and postwar development discourse

By Josh Allen - October 29, 2018 (0 comments)

Dr. Michele Alacevich (University of Bologna)

At the end of World War II, Italian anti-fascist Carlo Levi published his memoir of one year of internal exile in Southern Italy. In it, Levi describes “that other world, hedged in by custom and sorrow, cut off from History and the State . . . where the peasant lives out his motionless civilization on barren ground in remote poverty”.1 Translated into English in 1947, Levi’s Christ Stopped at Eboli quickly became a classic—not only for readers interested in narrative and memoirs, but also for anthropologists and social scientists. “Christ stopped short of here, at Eboli” was the way Levi’s peasants signified they excluded from human civilization, part of a world of immutable backwardness.2

As I have shown in my article “Planning Peace: The European Roots of the Post-War Global Development Challenge” (Past & Present, Volume 239, Issue 1, 1 May 2018, pp. 219–264), Levi’s book was only one—though an important one—of the many channels through which the concepts of backwardness and development emerged from the specific context of eastern and south-eastern Europe via southern Italy to global discourse.

(As an addendum to my article: I recently stumbled upon a World Bank internal correspondence from 1955, reporting a reading list on agricultural issues in southern Italy: Levi’s book was the only literary work in a list of thirty-nine highly technical reports).3

Early edition cover of “Christ Stopped at Eboli”, image supplied by the author

In addition to the trajectory of postwar development discourse that I have delineated in “Planning Peace”—in a nutshell, the origins of the postwar development discourse from Europe to the global dimension—another interesting question is how the dyad backwardness/development has become part of a specifically intra-European conversation. This is particularly relevant today, as the “Southern Question”—the Italian label for the conundrum of the continued discrepancy between northern and southern standards of living—now resonates at the European level, separating “Mediterranean” and “Continental” Europe.

Obviously, Cold War dynamics played an important role in the emergence of the dyad backwardness/development in Europe. Economic and social backwardness were a menace to political stability, especially in a country like Italy strategically located at the centre of the Mediterranean Sea, sharing a border with Communist Yugoslavia, and with the largest Communist Party in Western Europe (see, again, “Planning Peace”).

In another respect, however, the problem of underdevelopment became part of a European conversation through a question that I have not discussed in “Planning Peace”, namely, how to improve educational programs at the continental level via inter-governmental co-operation. Unsurprisingly, the institutional locus for this conversation was the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC), established in 1948 under U.S. auspices to stimulate European coordination during the Marshall Plan and later turned into a permanent body to foster trade liberalization and economic cooperation (in 1961 the OEEC was superseded by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD).

Early OEEC poster, late 1940s, from the archives of the OECD

Education was very much on the mind of the first generation of development economists, though from a specifically productivist perspective. As development meant an expansion of high-productivity sectors and this, in turn, basically meant industrialization and the migration of excess workforce to a newly established industrial sector, the problem arose of how individuals belonging to a timeless agrarian culture could adapt to factory work and its rhythms.

In his milestone 1943 article on the problems of industrialization in eastern and south-eastern Europe, Paul Rosenstein-Rodan argued that “The first task of industrialisation is to provide for training and ‘skilling’ of labour which is to transform . . . peasants into full-time or part-time industrial workers”.4 Typically, for years when state intervention in the economy was not anathema, Rosenstein-Rodan saw this as a quintessentially government’s task: “Although not a good investment for a private firm, [for an entrepreneur who invests in training workers may lose capital if these workers contract with another firm], it is the best investment for the State”.5 In Pigovian terms, this appeared as a typical case in which the social marginal net product is higher than the private one. Hence, state planning on education is necessary.

This is precisely what happened in Europe under the OEEC-OECD umbrella. In 1961, the OECD established the Mediterranean Regional Project, whose aim was to foster the growth of six south-European countries, namely, Turkey, Greece, Yugoslavia, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. (Interestingly, then as now, France is not considered to belong to Mediterranean Europe. The stretch from Ventimiglia-Menton to Cerbère-Portbou seems to belong to a different world).

The Mediterranean Regional Project built on the experience of an OEEC Committee for Scientific and Technical Personnel, established in 1958 to study the “rational utilisation of the scientific and technical training necessary for meeting the needs arising from economic growth”.6 But if that initial effort clearly showed the strictly productivist perspective that informed it, the Mediterranean Regional Project soon expanded the educational question to encompass broader issues of social participation and citizenship. As Herbert S. Parnes, economics professor at Ohio State University, expert on labour markets, and a major force behind the Mediterranean Regional Project, argued: “If hydroelectric capacity is to be increased by 50 per cent, one can feel reasonably confident of estimating the requirements for additional engineers . . . In the social sphere, however . . . can one reasonably talk about raising the level of citizenship by 50 per cent? And even if one were to answer this affirmatively, how would one quantify the needs for additional education implied by this objective?”7

Soon, the educational question broadened to the study of the member countries’ whole educational systems. George Papadopoulos, a leading international scholar of educational issues and an OECD high officer, wrote that “In the annals of the OECD operational activities no project was endowed with more extensive support—financial, intellectual and political—or received more sustained critical scrutiny, conceptual and methodological, or greater public attention, and publicity, than the Mediterranean Regional Project”.8

Eboli centro storico
Eboli today, By Geofix [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], from Wikimedia Commons

In sum, as Mattia Granata and I argue in a forthcoming project, the educational question soon became a crucial building block of European development planning, with a special focus on the backward regions of Mediterranean Europe. Like for the broader development discourse analysed in “Planning Peace”, it did not take long before the European experience on educational planning entered as well the global circuit of development ideas.

Several Latin American countries and the Organization of American States looked at the Mediterranean Regional Project as a blueprint for educational policies in South America. Despite the fact that in Latin America literacy rates and public funding for education were on average lower than in Europe, the social structure and broad cultural traditions of the two continents seemed similar enough to make it possible to adapt the project easily to the Latin American reality—clearly, Latin American indigenous cultures were not part of the picture.9 And the “Latin” connection was not the only one: an attempt to export the OECD experience to the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea took place at the end of the 1960s, as well.10

A note of caution is warranted here. If the European roots of the post-war global development discourse are undeniable, it is also true that development ideas had multiple cradles spread around the globe. In the early post-war years, many countries, regions and institutions were considered development “laboratories” because of the novel and experimental nature of the development policies that they implemented. This is also important to remember. After all, as Francis Bacon wrote, “Innovations”—or new ideas—“are the births of time”.11


1Carlo Levi, Christ Stopped at Eboli, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006 [1947], p. 3.


3D. Groenveld to Mr. Rosen, “Literature on agriculture in S. Italy,” November 7, 1955, ITALY—General Negotiations, Central Files, 1946-1971, Operational Correspondence, World Bank Group Archives.

4Paul N. Rosenstein-Rodan, “Problems of Industrialisation of Eastern and South-Eastern Europe”, The Economic Journal, Vol. 53, No. 210/211 (1943), pp. 202-211, the quote is from p. 204.

5Ibid., p. 205.

6OECD, The Mediterranean regional project. An experiment in planning by six countries, Paris: OECD, 1965, p. 8.

7Herbert S. Parnes, The OECD Mediterranean regional project in retrospect, in George Z. F. Bereday, Joseph A. Lauwerys, and Mark Blaug (eds.), World Yearbook of Education 1967. Educational Planning, London: Evan’s Brothers, 1967, pp. 149-160, the quote is from p. 154.

8George Papadopoulos, Education 1960-1990. The OECD perspective, Paris: OECD, 1994, p. 43.


10OECD, Problems of educational and manpower planning in the Arab countries and in the Mediterranean regional project countries, Paris: OECD, 1967.

11Francis Bacon, “Of Innovations” (1625), in The Essays of Francis Bacon, edited with introduction and notes by Mary Augusta Scott, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1908, p. 109.

Looking Back at "The Anglo-German Doctoral Seminar in Early Modern Religious History"

By Josh Allen - October 12, 2018 (0 comments)

by the Past & Present editorial team


Programme in Full

Monday 3rd September

12.30 -1.15: Lunch

1.15 Welcome and Introduction

1.30 – 3.15 Chair: Matthias Pohlig

1. Sarah Rindlisbacher, ‘Ambassadors of Protestantism: Swiss Reformed Clergymen and their Influence on Foreign Relations with England in the 1650s’

2. Thomas Grunewald, ‘Pietism and nobility – the reinterpretation of the representative architecture of Wernigerode’

Comment: Sam Fornecker & Sarah Stefanic

3.15 – 3.45: Tea and Coffee

3.45 – 5.30 Chair: Markus Wriedt

1. Nora Epstein, ‘Illustrating Authority: The Creation and Reception of an English Protestant Iconography’

2. Christina Faraday, “[T]he livelier the counterfeit is, the greater error is engendered’?: Re-assessing ‘liveliness’ in Post-Reformation English visual culture’

Comment: Esther Counsell & Eleanor Barnet

Tuesday 4th September

9.15 – 11.00 Chair: Bridget Heal

1. Abdulaziz Al-Salem, Martin Luther (1483-1546) and Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhāb (1703-1792): A Comparative Study through Cultural Materialism

2. Wiebke Voigt, ‘The ‘New Papacy’ vs. the ‘Heavenly Prophets’: Invectivity in the Controversial Pamphlets of Martin Luther and Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt’

Comment: Martin Christ & Thomas Grunewald

11.00 – 11.30: Tea and Coffee

11.30 – 1.15 Chair: Alex Walsham

Howard Barlow, ‘Bunbury was not Banbury: Catholic-Protestant relations in pre-Civil War Cheshire, 1590-1641’

Esther Counsell, ‘Robert Beale and the Erastian Opposition to Archbishop Whitgift’s Subscription Campaign, 1583–5’

Comment: William White & Nora Epstein

1.15 – 2.15: Lunch

2.15 – 4.00 Chair: Thomas Kaufmann

1. Sarah Stefanic, ‘Visual Communication in South German Nunneries’

2. Martin Christ, ‘Syncretism in the European Reformation: The Case of Early Modern Upper Lusatia’

Comment: Emily Vine & Wiebke Voigt

Dinner – details tbc

Wednesday 5th September

9.15 – 11.00 Chair: Michael Schaich

Sam Fornecker, ‘‘The Strictest Athanasians’: The Trinitarian Theology of Daniel Waterland in Context’

William White, ‘‘To Persuade Loyalty’: Preaching, Royalism, and Episcopalian ‘Conformity’ in Interregnum England’

Comment: Sarah Rindlisbacher & Howard Barlow

11.00 – 11.30: Tea and Coffee

11.30 – 1.15 Chair: Jonathan Willis

1. Eleanor Barnett, ‘Holy Food and the Church in Reformation England and Italy, c. 1560 – c. 1640’

2. Emily Vine, ‘Domestic baptism and circumcision in seventeenth and eighteenth-century London’

Comment: Christina Faraday & Abdulaziz Al-Salem

1.15 Lunch

Negotiating Networks: Thoughts and Reflections.

By Josh Allen - August 8, 2018 (0 comments)

by Esther Lewis (University of Nottingham)

At the end of June, a one day conference was held at the Institute of Historical Research which aimed to bring together researchers using the relatively new methodology of Social Network Analysis (SNA) in historical studies. SNA allows the researcher to investigate social structures through the use of networks and graphs and is proving to be a useful tool for social and economic historians. Its use for history is relatively new, but it has been widely used in other humanities and social sciences. The day was organised by two PhD students, Charlie Berry and Esther Lewis, who both felt there was a need for a discussion space regarding SNA within History. Therefore, the day aimed to provide a platform for discussion of the challenges posed by the methodology for historians.

There were three panels. The first discussed women and marginal groups. Claire Richardson discussed nineteenth-century prostitutes’ networks in Stamford and Peterborough. Jonathan Blaney and Philip Carter presented preliminary findings on friendship networks between female undergraduates at Royal Holloway in the early twentieth century. Agata Bloch demonstrated that groups who have been traditionally seen as ‘marginal’ within the Portuguese empire had a voice within the wider network of the empire. Martin van Dijck considered local networks in port towns and women’s place within these. The questions raised methodological queries for each speaker, as well as interest in their sources and their adaptation to the software. Particularly, Bloch raised the important point that it is difficult for the network software to understand the Portuguese language.

The second panel focused on the use of pre-modern sources in SNA. Leanna Brinkley discussed the maritime community of coastal traders in Hull, Bristol and Southampton using court books. Rachael Harkes discussed the relationship between the membership of the Ludlow Palmer’s Guild and the town of Ludlow. Joe Chick offered a reflection on the methodology through the lens of his research into the monastic town of Reading. The three papers complimented each other well and raised two interesting points of discussion. First, the networks that come out of pre-modern sources are often set within a vertical hierarchy created by the type of source, but SNA and source relation allows us to analysis some of the horizontal networks between different groups. Second, the panel was comprised of PhD students and it emerged that they are teaching themselves, and their supervisors, how to use this methodology and technology.

The third panel considered innovative methodologies using SNA. Joonas Kinnunen demonstrated how the methodology could make use of sources that have recently been made available online: notably, the Danish Sound Toll Register Online. Rui Esteves discussed logrolling for votes by MPs in the British parliament during the 1845 railway mania. Neil Rollings and Mark Trammer considered the appointment diaries of Margaret Thatcher to question how relationships develop overtime. Each speaker was using Social Network Analysis in a different way which showcased the potential of the approach to those who were new to the methodology.

The day ended with a keynote from Dr Sheryllyne Haggerty from the University of Nottingham. She offered a reflective piece of the methodology which was accessible to new comers, of which there were several in the room, and tied together a lot of the discussion of the challenges of the approach nicely. Overall, Charlie and I were pleased with the running of the conference and the lively conversations that the delegates appeared to have had. Each speaker discussed the programme they were using, and there was time for troubleshooting software in questions and over coffee. We were very grateful for the funding and support we received from the IHR, Past and Present, The Economic History Society and The Social History Society. Their generosity enabled us to hold an event that could be inclusive of a range of people at different stages in their academic careers, from Masters students to professors. It is clear that Social Network Analysis is a popular and productive methodology which should continue to grow in historical studies.

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Past & Present was pleased to support this event and others like it. Applications are welcomed from scholars of at all career stages working on all time periods.