Nicholas Crafts and Gianni Toniolo
The French economist Jean Fourastié called them ‘les trente glorieuses’. The Germans and the Italians coined the words Wirtschaft swunder and miracolo economico, respectively. No matter how the thirty-odd years after the end of World War II were characterised by Europe's various cultures, they stand out as the period of the fastest economic growth in the continent's history. In retrospect, the years between the late 1940s and the early 1970s have been seen as a Golden Age, when the foundations of future prosperity were established on firm ground. This article analyses the most relevant features of Europe's extraordinary growth during the ‘glorious thirty’, and tries to explain why, after all, there was nothing ‘miraculous’ about them. In doing so, it takes a broad perspective of Europe as a single region within the world economy, although divided into two areas by an ‘Iron Curtain’. The article also looks at postwar reconstruction, trade and the process of European integration, the international monetary system in Western Europe, and the end and the long-term impact of the Golden Age.