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In 1989 the World Bank commissioned the Brookings Institution to prepare a history of the Bank as part of the commemoration of the Bank's fiftieth anniversary. The history was to be a comprehensive analytical history, describing the evolution of the policies, operations and administration of the World Bank and its affiliates. The book would cover the Bank's history from the beginning of its operation but would focus on the years after 1970.
Brookings engaged John Lewis of the United States and Richard Webb of Peru to prepare the work and hired Devesh Kapur of India as research associate. Kapur's work became so central to the project that he became a third co-author. An international advisory committee was formed to advise the authors, and the Bank established an Internal Review Group to review the drafts and provide the Bank's views to the authors. The Bank also provided an office for the authors and a liaison officer for the project, and the authors were given unrestricted access to Bank operational files dated prior to June 30, 1991.
The first volume was written by the three co-authors and covered the overarching history of the Bank. The second volume is a series of essays on the World Bank's relations with member countries or with specific issues or organizations; the essays were written by guest authors from outside the Bank, except one written by the three principal co-authors. Although the plan was to publish in 1994, The World Bank: Its First Half Century, was not published until 1997.