World history dating from the 19th century (and before) could divide nations – very generally speaking – into those who travelled and ‘discovered new lands’ and those on the receiving end of the boons and disadvantages of having their country run by an imperial (European) power. In terms of the continent of Africa, for example, it was not until the 1960’s that the majority of states gained independence.
This, in effect, means that the whole idea of international development is fairly recent, and, simplifying matters for the sake of brevity, only arose as such in the aftermath of WWII.
Europe, at the time, was shattered both economically and in terms of the infrastructures destroyed. The Marshall Plan, aid from the US combined with technical assistance brought restoration (importantly, of that which had by and large previously existed), and the great Statesmen and visionaries of the time advocated similar policies as a remedy for the ‘underdeveloped’ countries. Post-war European history is no particular mystery to the average European d’un certain âge, of course, but the focus here is how at this initial stage, development worldwide was seen as growth in income via an injection of foreign investment.
‘Poor’ countries were those whose inhabitants had an annual per capita income of less than 500 US dollars, and so what they needed was what had been seen to have worked already in Europe.
This was a one-dimensional approach, though its simplicity was attractive; we are the ‘haves’, they are the ‘have-nots’, and so logically, what worked for us will be good for ‘them’.
Consequently, government to government cash transfers were made and it was the statisticians and economists who had the answers. Everything was measurable, and the reference point for judging developmental success was the West. This period could be said to be the be the first real phase of ‘developmental’ thinking and inter-reaction with the developing world on the part of the ‘haves’ here in the rich countries.