Bread and the Ballot: The United States and India's Economic Development, 1947-1963

Bread and the Ballot: The United States and India's Economic Development, 1947-1963

Bread and the Ballot: The United States and India's Economic Development, 1947-1963

Bread and the Ballot: The United States and India's Economic Development, 1947-1963


Dennis Merrill examines the origins and implementation of U.S. economic assistance programs in India from independence in 1947 to the height of John F. Kennedy's "development decade" in 1963. As the Cold War spread to the Third World in the late 1940s and 1950s, American policymakers tried to use economic aid to draw neutral India into the Western camp. Citing the country as the "world's largest democracy," the Americans hoped to establish India as a showcase for American-sponsored development and a counterweight to the Communist model in the People's Republic of China.

By the early 1960s, India has become one of the Third World's leading recipients of American economic assistance. Yet, as Merrill demonstrates, India remained dedicated to a nonaligned status, and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru's frequent criticism of U.S. foreign policy tried the patience of Cold War strategists. Even in the area of economic policy, the two nations differed on a wide variety of developmental issues. Thus, argues Merrill, the Indian case offers a keen vantage point from which to explores modern American foreign policy and the complexities of the foreign aid process.

Bread and the Ballot is one of the first studies of U.S. attitudes toward Third World development in the decades following World War II to be based largely on recently declassified government documents. Merrill's study draws on materials from the Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy presidential libraries, U.S. State Department records, and the papers of Chester Bowles, who served as ambassador to India under both Truman and Kennedy. In addition, Merrill's extensive research in Britain and Indian public records gives this work a multinational perspective.

Originally published in 1990.


During the early 1970s, as the Vietnam War wound down and I enrolled in college, it became common in academic and political circles to speak of "development" as one of the key issues in "North-South" relations. the developing nations of the south, as they were referred to at the time, pressed the wealthy nations of the north to offer foreign assistance and loans at low rates, reduce tariff barriers, pay more for imported raw materials through commodity price agreements, and compromise with needy nations that nationalized certain foreign-owned industries. in the United Nations the group of seventy-seven -- a coalition of developing nations numbering more than one hundred -- articulated Third World discontent in their call for the establishment of a "New International Economic Order." Inspired by the call to international justice, moved by the urgency of the problem, and sensitive to the growing interdependence of nations, I became interested in development. That interest and concern eventually led me to write this book.

Development can be studied from a vast array of perspectives. Since the end of World War II the term has been bantered about by social scientists, philosophers, political leaders, and bureaucrats. This book explores the many meanings of the word, but focuses upon the development process within the context of United States diplomatic history. It traces the evolution of United States economic aid to India during the darkest days of the Cold War when development for American policymakers became synonymous with the foreign policy of containment. India ranked as one of the largest and most populous of the emerging nations and had declared its intention to remain neutral in the great power rivalry. It ultimately became a major prize in the Soviet-American competition and a recipient of large amounts of aid from both sides.

The book derives its title in part from the fact that India has, for the past forty years, maintained the "world's largest democracy." Although the phrase is misleading and not to be interpreted literally, India has struggled over the years to achieve development through democratic means -- an uncommon experience in the non-Western world. the title is also drawn from a speech delivered by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in early 1959, at a time when development diplomacy was coming into its own. Speaking . . .

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