Published on Voices

Records from WB’s first loan to France digitized for the opening of the World Bank Visitor Center

Steel mill at Montataire. © World Bank
Steel mill at Montataire. © World Bank

On November 15, 2017, the World Bank Group opened the doors to its new Visitor Center  located at 1776 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. (across the street from the Bank’s Main Complex). The Visitor Center offers not only an extensive display of Bank Group’s history, but also provides an interactive learning experience about the institution’s work and mission.

To celebrate the Visitor Center’s opening and to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the World Bank’s first loan – Loan 0001 to France for reconstruction following World War II – the WBG Archives has digitized and publicly released records related to this inaugural loan . Correspondence and memoranda on the negotiation, administration, and repayment of the 1947 loan to France are now accessible on the World Bank’s Projects & Operations website along with other relevant resources and information.

Steel mill at Denain. © World Bank
Steel mill at Denain. © World Bank

The first loan is one of the landmark events in Bank history. Even before opening its doors on June 25, 1946, the Bank had already received a loan application from France, a one-page letter requesting $500 million France needed to start rebuilding following the ravages of World War II, and to improve its competitive position in world markets. But while the timing of the French loan was ideal for the Bank to establish its credibility as an international lender, it was equally important that the new institution proceed carefully as it was also developing foundational lending policies and procedures.

The loan that was approved by the Bank’s Board of Directors and signed on May 9, 1947, was for $250 million . While a portion of the loan funds was intended to modernize France’s steel industry and improve its transportation system, the bulk of the loan funds were used for the purchase of specific goods and equipment necessary for the country’s rehabilitation. The World Bank approved a series of similar reconstruction loans to other European countries in the years immediately following the loan to France.

A description of the work that went into the development and approval of the loan is provided in the online exhibit “Digitized Records of the World Bank's First Loan”. Authored by the WBG Archives as part of its exhibit series, the First Loan exhibit includes reflections by senior Bank staff, photographs, and the loan application . The newly available digitized records provide a detailed account of the process that led to the signing of the loan.

The digitization and public release of the records from the loan to France are part of the WBG Archives’ effort to make valuable historical records easily accessible under the World Bank Access to Information Policy. We look forward to releasing more historical records and hope you will stop by the Visitor Center soon!


Elisa Liberatori Prati

Chief Archivist, World Bank Group and and the Director of the Knowledge & Information Services Department in the Information & Technology Solutions (ITS) vice-presidency

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