In This Review

The World Bank: Its First Half Century. Volume I: History
The World Bank: Its First Half Century. Volume I: History
By Devesh Kapur, John P. Lewis, and Richard Webb
Brookings Institution, 1997, 1276 pp
The World Bank: Its First Half Century. Volume II: Perspectives
The World Bank: Its First Half Century. Volume II: Perspectives
Edited by Devesh Kapur et al.
Brookings Institution, 1997, 766 pp

These massive volumes give a comprehensive rendering of the role of one of the leading and most effective international institutions. Based on numerous interviews and internal bank files and reports but written without bank control, volume one provides an analytical history of the bank since its inception in 1946, with due attention to its role during the debt crises of the 1980s and in trying to stimulate development in the poorest parts of the world. Volume two consists of separately written essays on topics such as project lending in Africa, raising funds in European capital markets, balancing environmental and development considerations, and the sometimes uneasy relations between the World Bank and the U.S. government. The book is suited more for those interested in economic development than in organizational management. We learn little of the bank's growth in personnel to over 6,000, of its internal budget, or of the problems of managing a multidisciplinary, multinational organization. There is also little evaluation of the bank's impact on the world economy or even on loan recipients.