Lesson Plan: The Iron Curtain and The Marshall Plan

Iron Curtain Speech

A compilation of portions of Winston Churchill’s “Sinews of Peace” speech delivered at Westminster College in Fulton, Mo. was played.This speech is often regarded as the most important Churchill delivered as Leader of the Opposition (1945-1951). It contains certain phrases “the special relationship,” "the sinews of peace"-which at once entered into general use, and which have survived. But it is the passage on “the iron curtain” which attracted immediate international attention, and had incalculable impact upon public opinion in the United States and in Western Europe. Russian historians date the beginning of the Cold War from this speech.


Upon completing this lesson, students will be able to understand the economic alliances of the Cold War


  • Introduction:

    In 1946, Winston Churchill, then British Prime Minister, gave a speech at Westminster College in Missouri stating that an "iron curtain" had descended across the European continent dividing the former Allies of World War II - the United States and the Soviet Union.

    Then in 1947, the United States proposed the Marshall Plan - the United States' economic program to simultaneously aid, support, and rebuild European countries after World War II, as well as to help prevent the spread of communism by the Soviets.

  • STEP 1.

    Engage the students in a class discussion asking them to name modern-day countries that still fall under communist rule.

    Use these examples to re-teach the idea of containment and America’s involvement in halting the spread of communism during the onset of the Cold War.

  • STEP 2.

    Have students watch the following C-SPAN video clip of Winston Churchill’s “iron curtain” speech and answer the questions below:

    VIDEO CLIP: Iron Curtain Speech (3:27)

    • Who was Winston Churchill?

    • Why would Americans value what Churchill had to say about the Soviet Union?

    • What was the “iron curtain”? d. How did the two sides of the iron curtain differ from each other?

    • What was Churchill referring to when he referenced the “Soviet sphere”?

    • Churchill said, “War can find any nation, wherever it may dwell.” What do you think he meant by this phrase?

    • According to Churchill, in which ways could the “difficulties and dangers” be removed.
  • STEP 3.

    Next, introduce the concept that America involved itself in helping rebuild Europe after World War II by having students follow along with the C-SPAN video clip on the impact of the Marshall Plan. Have students watch the following video clip and and answer the questions below:

    VIDEO CLIP: Impact of the Marshall Plan (5:16)

    • What did George Marshall do on June 5, 1947?

    • What were some immediate impacts of the Marshall Plan?

    • What were some of the long-term effects/legacies of the Marshall Plan?

    • What were the “Marshall countries”?

    • What were the 3 “lines of thought” as a result of the Marshall Plan?

    • How did the Marshall Plan lead to “international solidarity”?
  • STEP 4.

    Assign each student to represent one of two countries: The United States or The Soviet Union.

    Have students imagine that they are citizens of their country in 1947. Have them further imagine that they have heard Churchill’s “iron curtain” speech.

    Have students write to their respective leader (FDR for the United States and Stalin for the Soviet Union) suggesting immediate actions that should be taken for the welfare and well-being of their assigned country. Some items to consider:

    • Is Churchill making an accurate or inaccurate statement about Europe?

    • Is the United States overstepping their power by offering financial and economic aid for European countries?

    • What are peoples’ attitudes towards the speech and/or economic aid for the country?

    • Is your country threatened or embracing of democracy? Communism?


  • Communism
  • Containment
  • Democracy
  • Iron Curtain
  • Marshall Plan


U.S. HistoryWorld History


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