Colonialism in 1945
) refers to the undoing of colonialism
, the establishment of governance or
authority through the creation of settlements by another country or
jurisdiction. The term generally refers to the achievement of
by the various Western colonies and protectorate
in Asia and
following World War II
. This conforms with an
intellectual movement known as post-colonialism
. Decolonization can be
achieved by attaining independence, integrating with the
administering power or another state, or establishing a "free
association" status. The United
has stated that in the process of decolonization there
is no alternative to the principle of self-determination
. Decolonization may
involve peaceful negotiation
and/or violent revolt and armed
by the native population. It may be intramural or it
may involve the intervention of foreign powers or international
bodies such as the League of
Although examples of decolonization can be found from ancient times
forward, in modern times there have been several particularly
active periods of decolonization. These are the breakup of the
Spanish Empire in the nineteenth century, of the Austrian and
Ottoman Empires at around the time of World War I, of the British,
French, German, Italian and American Empires in the wake of World
War II, and of the Russian Soviet Empire following the fall of the
Berlin Wall in 1989.
Methods and stages
Decolonisation is a political process, frequently involving
violence. In extreme circumstances, there is a war of independence
, sometimes following
. More often, there is a
dynamic cycle where negotiations fail, minor disturbances ensue
resulting in suppression by the police and military forces,
escalating into more violent revolts
lead to further negotiations until independence is granted. In rare
cases, the actions of the native population are characterized by
, with the Indian independence movement
led by Mahatma Gandhi
being one of the most notable examples, and the violence comes as
active suppression from the occupying forces or as political
opposition from forces representing minority local communities who
feel threatened by the prospect of independence. For example, there
was a war of independence in French
, while in some countries in French West Africa
) decolonization resulted
from a combination of insurrection and negotiation. The process is
only complete when the de facto
of the newly independent country is recognized as the de jure sovereign
by the community of nations.
Independence is often difficult to achieve without the
encouragement and practical support from one or more external
parties. The motives for giving such aid are varied:
nations of the same ethnic and/or religious stock may sympathize
with oppressed groups, or a strong nation may attempt to
destabilize a colony as a tactical move to weaken a rival or enemy
colonizing power or to create space for its own sphere of
influence; examples of this include British support of the Haitian Revolution against France, and
the Monroe Doctrine of 1823, in
which the United States warned the European powers not to interfere
in the affairs of the newly independent states of the Western
As world opinion became more pro-emancipation following World War I
, there was an institutionalised
to advance the cause of emancipation through
the League of Nations
Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, a number of
expressed intention was to prepare these countries for
self-government, but are often interpreted as a mere redistribution
of control over the former colonies of the defeated powers, mainly
Germany and the Ottoman
This reassignment work continued through the
, with a similar system
created to adjust control over both former colonies
and mandated territories administered by the nations defeated in
World War II, including Japan.
referendums, some colonized populations have chosen to retain their
colonial status, such as Gibraltar and French
There are even examples, such as the
, in which an Imperial
power goes to war to defend the right of a colony to continue to be
a colony. Colonial powers have sometimes promoted decolonization in
order to shed the financial, military and other burdens that tend
to grow in those colonies where the colonial regimes have become
Decolonization is rarely achieved through a single historical act,
but rather progresses through one or more stages of emancipation,
each of which can be offered or fought for: these can include the
introduction of elected representatives (advisory or voting;
minority or majority or even exclusive), degrees of autonomy or
self-rule. Thus, the final phase of decolonisation may in fact
concern little more than handing over responsibility for foreign
relations and security, and soliciting de jure
for the new sovereignty
. But, even
following the recognition of statehood, a degree of continuity can
be maintained through bilateral treaties between now equal
governments involving practicalities such as military training,
mutual protection pacts, or even a garrison and/or military
There is some debate over whether or not the The Americas
can be considered decolonized, as
it was the colonist and their descendants who revolted and declared
their independence instead of the indigenous peoples
, as is
usually the case. Scholars such as Elizabeth Cook-Lynn
) and Devon
) have argued that
portions of the United States still are in need of decolonization
Decolonization of the Americas
Decolonization of Ottoman lands in the Nineteenth century
A number of peoples conquered by the Ottoman Empire were able to
achieve independence in the nineteenth century, a process that
peaked at the time of the Ottoman defeat in the Russo-Turkish War
In the wake of the French
Invasion of Egypt
led by Napoleon Bonaparte
in 1798, and the
subsequent expulsion of the French in 1801 by Othmaneien, Mamalek,
and British forces, the commander of the Albanian regiment,
Ali Pasha) was able to gain control of Egypt. Although he was
emerged acknowledged by the Sultan in
Istanbul in 1805 as
his pasha (viceroy), Muhammad Ali was in reality monarch of a
The Greek War of
, (1821–1829,) was fought to liberate Greece from a
centuries-long Ottoman occupation. Independence was secured by the
intervention of a combined British-French fleet at the Battle of
At the end
of the Russo-Turkish War,
1877-1878, in which the Russian army together with a Romanian
expeditionary force and volunteer Bulgarian troops defeated the
Ottoman armies, the Treaty of
Berlin established a Bulgarian state in Moesia and the region of Sofia.
Alexander, Prince of Battenberg,
was created Prince of Bulgaria.
Romania fought on the Russian side in the Russo-Turkish War
and in the
1878 Treaty of Berlin
Romania was recognized as an independent
state by the
armed and unarmed struggle ended with the recognition of Serbian independence
from the Ottoman Empire at the Congress of Berlin in 1878.
The independence of the Principality of Montenegro
the Ottoman Empire was recognized at the congress of Berlin
Decolonization after 1918
Western European colonial powers
propaganda poster: "Socialism opened the door of liberation for
The New Imperialism
period, with the
scramble for Africa
, marked the zenith of European colonization
. It also marked the
acceleration of the trends that would end it. The extraordinary
material demands of the conflict had spread economic change across
the world (notably inflation
), and the
associated social pressures of "war imperialism" created both
unrest and a burgeoning middle class
with their own demands, while racial
these people clearly stood apart from the colonial middle-class and
had to form their own group. The start of mass nationalism
, as a concept and practice, would
fatally undermine the ideologies of imperialism.
were, naturally, other factors, from agrarian change (and disaster
– French Indochina), changes or
developments in religion (Buddhism in Burma, Islam in the Dutch East Indies, marginally people like John Chilembwe in Nyasaland), and the impact of the depression of the
The Great Depression
, despite the
concentration of its impact on the industrialized world, was also
exceptionally damaging in the rural colonies. Agricultural prices
fell much harder and faster than those of industrial goods. From
around 1925 until World War II
colonies suffered. The colonial powers concentrated on domestic
, disregarding the damage done to
flows. The colonies,
almost all primary "cash crop
lost the majority of their export
were forced away from the "open" complementary colonial economies
to "closed" systems. While some areas returned to subsistence farming
) others diversified (India,
), and some began to
industrialise. These economies would not fit the colonial
straight-jacket when efforts were made to renew the links. Further,
the European-owned and -run plantations
proved more vulnerable to extended deflation
than native capitalist
, reducing the dominance of "white"
in colonial economies and making the
and investors of the
1930s co-opt indigenous
despite the implications for the future.
The efforts at colonial reform also hastened their end — notably
the move from non-interventionist collaborative
systems towards directed,
disruptive, direct management to drive economic change. The
creation of genuine bureaucratic
government boosted the formation of indigenous bourgeoisie
. This was especially true in the
, which seemed less
capable (or less ruthless) in controlling political nationalism.
Driven by pragmatic demands of budgets and manpower the British
made deals with the nationalist elites. They dealt with the
white Dominions, retained strategic
resources at the cost of reducing direct control in Egypt, and made
numerous reforms in the Raj,
culminating in the Government of India Act
Despite these efforts though, the British Government continued to
slowly lose their control of the Raj
. The end of WWII allowed India, in
addition to various other European colonies, to take advantage of
the postwar chaos that had began to exist in Europe during the mid
1940's. Mahatma Gandhi
independence movement leader, realized the advantage in conducting
a peaceful resistance to the British Empire's attempts to retake
control of their "crown jewel." By becoming a symbol of both peace
and opposition to British Imperialism, many Indian citizens began
to view the British as the cause of India's violence leading to a
new found sense of nationalism
population. With this new wave of Indian nationalism, Gandhi was
eventually able to garner the support needed to push back the
British and create an independent India in 1947.
Africa was a very different case from Asia between the wars.
Tropical Africa was not fully drawn into the colonial system before
the end of the 19th century, excluding only the complexities of the
Union of South Africa
introducing racial segregation
from 1924 and thus catalyzing the anti-colonial political growth of
half the continent) and the Empire of
. Colonial controls ranged between extremes. Economic
growth was often curtailed. There were no indigenous nationalist
groups with widespread popular support before 1939.
The United States
The United States had almost no role in the late 19th century
imperalism as practiced by Europe and Japan. For instance, when the
aforementioned countries sought to divide up China into spheres of
influence at the end of the 19th century, the U.S. did not
participate and instead urged an open
(a policy similar to free
). Rather than seeking a mercantilist
economic advantage or the
exploitation of natural resources, U.S. imperalist ambitions that
did exist focused on national defense. At the end of the
Spanish-American War in
1898, the United States seized from Spain two of its
former colonies, the Philippines and Puerto Rico.
The United States viewed both as strategic assets and did not
seriously seek to colonize either country; both countries had grown
unhappy with Spanish rule. The Philippines in particular were seen
as part of a wider naval policy to project U.S. power into the
Pacific. This policy eventually created a buffer between the United
States and the expansionist Japanese Empire. Though the U.S. had
fought to suppress local "insurgencies" there, such as in the
U.S. had promised the Philippines independence so by the 1930s
their policy changed toward the direction of eventual
self-government. Following the defeat of a combined US and
Philippine force, Japan took control of the islands during World
War II. Three years later the U.S. returned and with the aid of
local Filipino forces liberated the islands. The Philippines gained
independence peacefully from the United States in 1946.
Puerto Ricans have held U.S. citizenship
since 1917, but do not pay federal taxes and as such do not vote in
federal elections. Puerto Rico achieved self-government in 1952 and
became a commonwealth in association with the United States. Puerto
Rico was taken off the UN list of non-sovereign territories in 1953
through Resolution 748. In 1967, 1993 and 1998, Puerto Rican voters
rejected proposals to grant the territory statehood
or independence. Nevertheless, the
island's political status remains a central issue of local
Alaska, an older
possession) became constituent states of the United States, on an
equal basis with the others - as had the American conquests in the
Despite the existence of an Alaskan Independence Party
status is not a matter of serious debate.
gained several substantial colonial concessions in east Asia such
as Taiwan and Korea.
Pursuing a colonial policy comparable to those of European powers,
Japan settled significant populations of ethnic Japanese in its
colonies while simultaneously suppressing indigenous ethnic
populations by enforcing the learning and use of the Japanese language
in schools. Other
methods such as public interaction, and attempts to eradicate the
use of Korean
, and Hakka
among the indigenous peoples, were
seen to be used.Japan also set up the Imperial university
in Korea (Keijo Imperial University
Taiwan (Taihoku University
II gave the Japanese
Empire occasion to conquer vast swaths of Asia, sweeping
into China and seizing
the Western colonies of Vietnam, Hong
Kong, the Philippines, Burma, Malaya, Timor and Indonesia among others, albeit only for the duration of the
An estimated 20 million Chinese died during the
Second Sino-Japanese War
(1931-1945). Following its surrender to the Allies
in 1945, Japan was deprived of all its
colonies. Japan further claims that the southern
Islands are a small portion of its own national territory,
colonized by the Soviet
After World War I, the colonized people were frustrated at France's
failure to recognize the effort provided by the French colonies
(resources, but more importantly colonial troops - the famous
). Although in Paris the Great Mosque of Paris was constructed
as recognition of these efforts, the French state had no intention
to allow self-rule, let alone grant
independence to the colonized
colonies became stronger in between the two wars, leading to
's Rif War
(1921-1925) in Morocco
and to the creation of Messali Hadj
's Star of North Africa
However, these movements would gain full potential only after World
War II. The October 27, 1946 Constitution creating the Fourth Republic
to the colonial empire. On
the night of March 29, 1947, a nationalist uprising in Madagascar
French government headed by Paul
to violent repression: one year of bitter fighting, in which 90,000
to 100,000 Malagasy died. On May 8, 1945, the Sétif massacre
took place in
In 1946, the states of French
withdrew from the Union, leading to the Indochina War
(1946-54) against Ho Chi Minh
, who had been a co-founder of the
French Communist Party
1920 and had founded the Vietminh
In 1956, Morocco
gained their independence, while
the Algerian War
raging (1954-1962). With Charles de
's return to power in 1958 amidst turmoil and threats of
a right-wing coup d'État to protect "French Algeria", the
decolonization was completed with the independence of Sub-Saharan
Africa's colonies in 1960 and the March 19, 1962 Evian Accords
, which put an end to the
Algerian war. The OAS
unsuccessfully tried to block the accords with a series of
bombings, including an attempted assassination against Charles de
To this day, the Algerian war — officially called until the 1990s a
"public order operation" — remains a trauma for both France and
Algeria. Philosopher Paul Ricœur
has spoken of the necessity of a "decolonization of memory",
starting with the recognition of the 1961 Paris massacre
during the Algerian
war and the recognition of the decisive role of African and
especially North African immigrant
manpower in the Trente
post-World War II economic growth period. In
the 1960s, due to economic needs for post-war reconstruction and
rapid economic growth, French employers actively sought to recruit
manpower from the colonies, explaining today's multiethnic population
The Soviet Union and anti-colonialism
The Soviet Union sought to effect the abolishment of colonial
governance by Western countries, either by direct subversion of
Western-leaning or -controlled governments or indirectly by
influence of political leadership and support. Many of the
revolutions of this time period were inspired or influenced in this
conflicts in Vietnam, Nicaragua, Congo, and Sudan, among
others, have been characterized as such.
Most Soviet leaders expressed the Marxist-Leninist
view that imperialism
was the height of capitalism
, and generated a class-stratified
society. It followed, then, that Soviet leadership would encourage
independence movements in colonized territories, especially as the
progressed. Though this was the
view expressed by their leaders, such interventions can be
interpreted as the expansion of Soviet interests (establishing the
), not just as aiding the
oppressed peoples of the world. Because so many of these wars of
independence expanded into general Cold War conflicts, the United
States also supported several such independence movements in
opposition to Soviet interests.
During the Vietnam War, Communist countries supported
anti-colonialist movements in various countries still under
colonial administration through propaganda, developmental and
economic assistance, and in some cases military aid. Notably among these
were the support of armed rebel movements by Cuba in Angola, and the
Soviet Union (as well as the People's Republic of China) in Vietnam.
The emergence of the Third World (1945-)
propaganda poster: "Africa - fighting for freedom".
The term "Third World
" was coined by
French demographer Alfred Sauvy
1952, on the model of the Third Estate
which, according to the Abbé
, represented everything, but was nothing: "...because at
the end this ignored, exploited, scorned Third World like the Third
Estate, wants to become something too" (Sauvy). The emergence of
this new political entity, in the frame of the Cold War
, was complex and painful. Several
tentatives were made to organize newly independent states in order
to oppose a common front towards both the US's and the USSR's
influence on them, with the consequences of the Sino-Soviet split
already at works.
constituted itself, around the main figures of Nehru, the leader of India, Sukarno, the Indonesian president, Tito the Communist
leader of Yugoslavia, and Nasser, head of Egypt who
successfully opposed the French and British imperial powers during
the 1956 Suez crisis.
1954 Geneva Conference
which put an end to the French war against Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, the 1955 Bandung
Conference gathered Nasser, Nehru, Tito, Sukarno, the leader of Indonesia, and Zhou Enlai, Premier of the
People's Republic of China.
In 1960, the UN General Assembly
Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries
. The next year, the Non-Aligned Movement was
officially created in Belgrade (1961), and was followed in 1964 by the creation of
Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) which
tried to promote a New
International Economic Order (NIEO). The NIEO was opposed
to the 1944 Bretton
Woods system, which had benefited the leading states which had
created it, and remained in force until 1971 after the United
States' suspension of convertibility from dollars to gold.
The main tenets of the NIEO were:
- Developing countries must be entitled to regulate and control
the activities of multinational corporations
operating within their territory.
- They must be free to nationalize or
expropriate foreign property on conditions favourable to them.
- They must be free to set up associations of primary commodities producers similar to
the OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum
Exporting Countries, created on September 17, 1960 to protest
pressure by major oil companies (mostly owned by U.S., British, and
Dutch nationals) to reduce oil prices and payments to producers.);
all other States must recognize this
right and refrain from taking economic, military, or
political measures calculated to restrict
- International trade should
be based on the need to ensure stable, equitable, and remunerative prices for
raw materials, generalized non-reciprocal and non-discriminatory tariff preferences, as well as transfer of technology to developing
countries; and should provide economic and technical assistance without any
The UNCTAD however wasn't very effective in implementing this New
International Economic Order (NIEO), and social and economic
inequalities between industrialized countries and the Third World
kept on growing through-out the 1960s until the 21st century. The
1973 oil crisis
which followed the
Yom Kippur War
(October 1973) was
triggered by the OPEC which decided an embargo against the US and
Western countries, causing a fourfold increase in the price of oil,
which lasted five months, starting on October 17, 1973, and ending
on March 18 1974. OPEC nations then agreed, on January 7, 1975, to
raise crude oil prices by 10%. At that time, OPEC nations —
including many who had recently nationalised their oil industries —
joined the call for a New International Economic Order to be
initiated by coalitions of primary producers. Concluding the First
OPEC Summit in Algiers they called for stable and just commodity
prices, an international food and agriculture program, technology
transfer from North to South, and the democratization of the
economic system. But industrialized countries quickly began to look
for substitutes to OPEC petroleum, with the oil companies investing
the majority of their research capital in the US and European
countries or others, politically sure countries. The OPEC lost more
and more influence on the world prices of oil.
The second oil crisis
the wake of the 1979 Iranian
. Then, the 1982 Latin American debt crisis
exploded in Mexico first, then
Argentina and Brazil, which
proved unable to pay back their debts, jeopardizing the existence
of the international economic system.
The 1990s were characterized by the prevalence of the Washington consensus
policies, "structural adjustment
" and "shock therapies
" for the former
Modern approaches to decolonization
As stated, decolonization is the process by which an oppressed
country or group is self-determined enough to demand its own
liberation. It is, in essence, the force of the people to claim
their own future, deciding the way they live their lives, from how
they expend their efforts, to how they care for themselves, and how
they as individuals express the right and need to be free. Many
different cultures have spawned throughout the globe, so we see
there are many different ways to live. We see there is not one way
to live that will fit all. Decolonization is an admirable step in
the direction of freedom, made by those who think for themselves
and have taken the initiative to create their own world, not
governed by their countries particular laws and social order.
Though the term "decolonization" is not well received among donors
today, the root of the emerging emphasis on
projects to promote "democracy, governance and human rights" by
international donors and to promote "institution building" and a
"human rights based approach
development is the same concept to achieve decolonization.
In many independent, post-colonial nations, the systems and
cultures of colonialism continue. Weak Parliaments and Ministerial
governments (where Ministries issue their own edicts and write laws
rather than the Parliament) are holdovers of colonialism since
political decisions were made outside the country, Parliament were
at most for show, and the executive branch (then, foreign Governor
Generals and foreign civil servants) held local power. Similarly,
militaries are strong and civil control over them is weak; a
holdover of military control exercised by a foreign military. In
some cases, the governing systems in post-colonial countries could
be viewed as ruling elites who succeeded in coup d'etats against
the foreign colonial regime but never gave up the system of
In many countries, the human rights challenges are to empower women
and reverse the legacy of proselytism
that promoted patriarchy
and to empower
individuals and civil society through changes in education systems
that were set up by colonial governments to train obedient servants
of colonial regimes.
Often the impact of colonialism is more subtle, with preferences
for clothes (such as "blue" shirts of French officials and pith
helmets), drugs (alcohol and tobacco that colonial governments
introduced, often as a way to tax locals) and other cultural
Some experts in development, such as David
, have suggested an opening of dialogues from the
colonial powers on the systems they introduced and the harms that
continue as a way of decolonizing in rights policy documents for
the UN system and for Europe. First World countries often seem
reluctant to engage in this form of decolonization, however, since
they may benefit from the legacies of colonialism that they
created, in contemporary trade and political relations.
Assassinated anticolonialist leaders
A non-exhaustive list of assassinated leaders
- Mahatma Gandhi, nonviolent leader
of the Indian independence
- Tiradentes, was a
leading member of the Brazilian seditious movement known as the Inconfidência Mineira, against
the Portuguese Empire. He
fought for an independent Brazilian republic.
- Vasil Levski,
Bulgarian leader of the struggle for liberation from Turkish rule, was hanged by the Ottomans in
Sofia on February 19, 1873.
- Michael Collins, an Irish
revolutionary leader and Director of Intelligence for the IRA, was killed in August
Shukhevych, leader of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, killed by
the MVD near Lviv on March 5,
- Ruben Um Nyobé, leader of
the Union of the
Peoples of Cameroon (UPC), killed by the French army on
September 13, 1958
Bandera, leader of the Organization of Ukrainian
Nationalists, assassinated in Munich, Germany in 1959 on
the orders of Soviet KGB head
Alexander Shelepin and Soviet
- Barthélemy Boganda, leader of a
nationalist Central African Republic movement, who died in a plane-crash on March 29,
1959, eight days before the last elections of the colonial
- Félix-Roland Moumié, successor
to Ruben Um Nyobe at the head of the UPC, assassinated in Geneva in 1960 by
the SDECE (French secret
Lumumba, the first Prime Minister of the Democratic
Republic of the Congo, was assassinated on January 17, 1961.
- Burundi nationalist Louis
Rwagasore was assassinated on October 13, 1961, while Pierre Ngendandumwe, Burundi's first
Hutu prime minister, was also murdered on
January 15, 1965.
- Sylvanus Olympio, the first
president of Togo, was
assassinated on January 13, 1963. He would be replaced by Gnassingbé Eyadéma, who ruled
Togo for nearly forty years; he died in 2005 and was succeeded by
his son Faure Gnassingbé.
- Mehdi Ben
Barka, the leader of the Moroccan National Union of Popular
Forces (UNPF) and of the Tricontinental Conference, which
was supposed to prepare in 1966 in Havana its first
meeting gathering national liberation movements from all continents
— related to the Non-Aligned
Movement, but the Tricontinal Conference gathered liberation
movements while the Non-Aligned were for the most part states — was
"disappeared" in Paris in
- Nigerian leader Ahmadu Bello was
assassinated in January 1966.
Mondlane, the leader of FRELIMO and the
father of Mozambican independence, was assassinated in 1969, allegedly
by Aginter Press, the Portuguese branch of Gladio, NATO's
paramilitary organization during the Cold War.
- Pan-Africanist Tom Mboya was killed on July 5, 1969.
- Abeid Karume,
first president of Zanzibar, was assassinated in April 1972.
- Amílcar Cabral was murdered
on January 20, 1973.
- Outel Bono, Chad opponent of François Tombalbaye, was
assassinated on August 26, 1973, making yet another example of the
existence of the Françafrique, designing by this term
post-independent neocolonial ties between France and its former
- Herbert Chitepo, leader of the
National Union (ZANU), was assassinated on March 18, 1975.
Romero, prelate archbishop of San Salvador and proponent of liberation theology, was assassinated on
March 24, 1980
- Dulcie September, leader of the
African National Congress
(ANC), who was investigating an arms
trade between France and South Africa, was murdered in Paris on
March 29, 1988, a few years before the end of the apartheid regime.
Many of these assassinations are still unsolved cases as of 2007,
but foreign power interference is undeniable in many of these cases
— although others were for internal matters. To take only one case,
the investigation concerning Mehdi Ben Barka is continuing to this
day, and both France and the United States have refused to
declassify files they acknowledge having in their possession The
, a CIA program of
during the Vietnam War
, should also be named.
Five international organizations whose membership largely follows
the pattern of previous colonial empires.
Due to a common history and culture, former colonial powers created
institutions which more loosely associated their former colonies.
Membership is voluntary, and in some cases can be revoked if a
member state loses some objective criteria (usually a requirement
for democratic governance). The organizations serve cultural,
economic, and political purposes between the associated countries,
although no such organization has become politically prominent as
an entity in its own right.
There is quite a bit of controversy over decolonisation. The end
goal tends to be universally regarded as good, but there has been
much debate over the best way to grant full independence.
Effects on the colonizers
John Kenneth Galbraith
that the post-World War II decolonization was brought about for
reasons. In A Journey Through
, he writes, "The engine of economic well-being
was now within and between the advanced industrial countries.
Domestic economic growth
— as now
measured and much discussed — came to be seen as far more important
than the erstwhile colonial trade... The economic effect
in the United
States from the granting of independence to the Philippines was unnoticeable, partly due to the Bell Trade Act, which allowed American
monopoly in the economy of the Philippines. The departure of
India and Pakistan made small economic difference in Britain. Dutch economists
calculated that the economic effect from the loss of the great
Dutch empire in Indonesia was compensated for by a couple of years or so of
domestic post-war economic growth.
The end of the colonial
era is celebrated in the history books as a triumph of national
aspiration in the former colonies and of benign good sense on the
part of the colonial powers. Lurking beneath, as so often happens,
was a strong current of economic interest — or in this case,
In general, the release of the colonized caused little economic
loss to the colonizers. Part of the reason for this was that major
costs were eliminated while major benefits were obtained by
alternate means. Decolonization allowed the colonizer to disclaim
responsibility for the colonized. The colonizer no longer had the
burden of obligation, financial or otherwise, to their colony.
However, the colonizer continued to be able to obtain cheap goods
and labor as well as economic benefits (see Suez Canal Crisis
) from the former
colonies. Financial, political and military pressure could still be
used to achieve goals desired by the colonizer. Thus decolonization
allowed the goals of colonization to be largely achieved, but
without its burdens.
Effects on the former colonies
Decolonization is not an easy matter in colonies where a large
population of settlers lives, particularly if they have been there
for several generations. This population, in general, may have to
be repatriated, often losing considerable property. For instance, the
decolonisation of Algeria by France was particularly uneasy due to the large
European and Sephardic Jewish population (see also pied noir), which largely evacuated to France
when Algeria became independent. In Zimbabwe, former Rhodesia, president
Robert Mugabe has, starting in the
1990s, targeted white farmers and forcibly seized their
property. In some cases, decolonisation is hardly
possible or impossible because of the importance of the settler
population or where the indigenous population is now in the
minority; such is the case of the British population of the
Islands, the Russian population of Kazakhstan, the Chinese population of Singapore as well as the immigrant communities of USA and
Charts of the independences
In this chronological overview, not every date is indisputably the
decisive moment. Often, the final phase, independence, is mentioned
here, though there may be years of autonomy before, e.g. as an
Associated State under the British crown. For such details, see
each national history.
Furthermore, note that some cases have been included that were not
strictly colonized but rather protectorate, co-dominium, lease...
subsequent to decolonization are usually not included; nor
dissolution of the Soviet Union.
18th Century to World War I
13 original colonies of the United States declare
independence a year after their insurrection
||The British Crown recognizes the independence of the United
the Louisiana purchase, the last
French territories in mainland North America are handed over to the
independence, the first non-white nation to emancipate itself from
largest Portuguese colony, achieves a greater degree of authonomy
after the exiled king of Portugal establishes residence
there. After he returns home in 1821, his son and regent
declares an independent "Empire" in 1822.
||United Provinces of the
River Plate and Chile.
First declaration of an autonomous government within the Spanish
Crown. Full independence would be finally achieved in 1816. (see
||Paraguay becomes independent.
||Chile and the
United Provinces of
the River Plate (former Argentina and Uruguay) declare independence. The latter would then
secede and gain independence in 1828 after periods of Brazilian
occupation and of federation with Argentina)
||Second and final declaration of independence
Granada attains independence as Gran
Colombia (later to become the independent states of Colombia, Ecuador, Panama and
Republic (then Santo Domingo), Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, El
Rica all declare independence; Venezuela and Mexico both
independence. After a long struggle independence is
finally granted by the Treaty of Constantinople in
||Ecuador attains independence from Spain (and independence
from Colombia 1830).
Bolivia attain independence.
independence, Texas would be annexed by the United States in 1845
||Liberia becomes a free and independent African
Republic gains its final independence after four years as a
independence but is reconquered.
independence. Its independence is finally recognised in July
||Bulgaria, Montenegro and Serbia achieve
independence. Bosnia and Herzegovina is placed under the administration of Austria-Hungary.
||Cuba and Puerto Rico are taken by the United States after the Spanish-American War.
Philippines declares independence but is taken by the United States in 1899; governed under U.S. military and then
civilian administration until 1934.
independence. Guantanamo Bay
is leased perpetually to and becomes a US Naval base.
||Albania declares independence. Recognized in
Treaty of London.
||Passage of the Philippine
Autonomy Act of 1916.
||Finland declares its independence.
||Estonia, Latvia and
Lithuania declare independence in 1918. The three Baltic states are subsequently occupied by the
Union (1940-1941, 1944-1991). The three Baltic
nations re-declare their independence
between 1990 and 1991, and their independence is recognized by the
Soviet Union on September 6, 1991.
||Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Poland become
of the protectorate over Afghanistan, when Britain accepts the presence of a Soviet ambassador in
||The China loses all control over Outer Mongolia but retains the larger,
progressively sinified, Inner
Mongolia), which has been granted autonomy in 1912 (as well as
Tibet), and now becomes a popular republic and, as of 1924, a
de facto "satellite" of the USSR. Recognition of
Mongolia is recognized in 1945.
Ireland, following insurgency by the IRA, most of Ireland separates from
the United Kingdom as the Irish Free
State, reversing 800 years of British presence.
Ireland, the northeast area of the island, remains
within the United Kingdom.
of the de facto protectorate over Nepal which was
never truly colonized.
United Kingdom returns the leased port territory at Weihaiwei to China, the first
episode of decolonisation in East Asia.
Statute of Westminster
grants virtually full independence to Canada, New
Zealand, Newfoundland, the Irish Free
State, the Commonwealth of Australia,
and the Union of South Africa,
when it declares the British parliament incapable of passing law over these former colonies
without their own consent.
League of Nations Mandate over Iraq.
Britain continues to station troops in the country and influence
the Iraqi government until 1958.
||Establishes the Philippine Islands into a Commonwealth under the
provisions of the Philippine
Independence Act. Abrogates Platt
Amendment, which gave it direct authority to intervene in
||Lebanon declares independence, effectively ending the
French mandate (previously together with Syria) - it is recognized
||Ethiopia, Eritrea & Tigray (appended to it), and Italian Somaliland are taken by the Allies after an uneasy occupation of Ethiopia since 1935-36, and no longer joined as one colonial
federal state; the Ogaden desert (disputed by Somalia) remains under British military control until
||Following a plebiscite, Iceland formally becomes an independent republic on June
||After surrender of Japan, North Korea is occupied by the Soviet Union and South
Korea is occupied by the United States.
government of Republic of China flees to Taiwan and becomes the de facto government of
||Vietnam declares independence, but France does not
recognize it until 1954.
||Indonesia declares independence, which Netherlands does not
recognize until December 1949.
treaty of Manila is signed
effectively ending over 350 years of foreign domination in the
States military bases continued to be stationed in the
former emirate of Transjordan (present-day Jordan) becomes an independent Hashemite kingdom when Britain relinquishes
British government leaves British
India, which is partitioned
into the secular Republic of India and the Muslim state of Pakistan (the eastern half of which will later become
independent as Bangladesh).
the Far East, Burma and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) become independent. In the Middle East,
the state of Israel is formed less than a year after the British government withdraws from the Palestine Mandate; the remainder of
Palestine becomes part of the Arab states of Egypt ( Gaza strip ) and Transjordan ( West
||Republic of Korea is established in the southern part of the Korean
||Democratic People's Republic of
Korea is established in the northern part of the
Netherlands recognises the sovereignty of Indonesia following an armed and diplomatic
struggle since 1945.
||Libya becomes an independent kingdom.
||Puerto Rico in the Antilles becomes
a self governing Commonwealth associated to
||France recognizes Cambodia's independence.
||Vietnam's independence recognized, though the nation is
partitioned. The Pondichery enclave is incorporated into India.
Beginning of the Algerian
War of Independence
United Kingdom withdraws from the last part of Egypt it controls:
||Anglo-Egyptian Sudan becomes
||Tunisia and the sherifian kingdom of Morocco in the Maghreb achieve
||Spain-controlled areas in Morocco become independent.
||Ghana becomes independent, initiating the
decolonisation of sub-Saharan
Federation of Malaya becomes independent.
||Guinea on the coast of West-Africa is granted
||Signing the Alaska Statehood
Act by Dwight D.
Eisenhower, granting Alaska the possibility of the equal rights of
trustee Britain withdraws from Iraq, which
becomes an independent Hashemite Kingdom (like Jordan, but soon to
become a republic through the first of several coups
||Hawaii becomes the fiftieth state in the United
Somaliland (present-day northern Somalia), and most of Cyprus become independent, though the UK retains
sovereign control over Akrotiri and Dhekelia.
||Benin (then Dahomey), Upper Volta (present-day
Faso), Cameroon, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Côte d'Ivoire, Gabon, the Mali Federation (split the same year into
present-day Mali and
Senegal), Mauritania, Niger, Togo and the
African Republic (the Oubangui Chari) and Madagascar all become independent.
Belgian Congo (also known as Congo-Kinshasa, later renamed Zaire
and presently the Democratic Republic of the
Congo), becomes independent.
(formerly a German colony under UK trusteeship, merged to federal
Tanzania in 1964 with the island of
Zanzibar, formerly a proper British colony wrested from
the Omani sultanate); Sierra Leone, Kuwait and British
Cameroon become independent. South Africa declares independence.
former coastal enclave colonies of Goa, Daman
and Diu are taken over by India.
||Uganda in Africa, and
Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean, achieve independence.
of Algerian War, Algeria becomes independent.
||Rwanda and Burundi (then Urundi) attain independence through the
ending of the Belgian trusteeship.
South Sea UN trusteeship over the Polynesian kingdom of Western
Samoa (formerly German Samoa and nowadays called just
Samoa) is relinquished.
||Kenya becomes independent.
||Singapore, together with Sarawak and Sabah on North Borneo, form
Malaysia with the pensinsular Federation of Malaya. Singapore was evicted from Malaysia by
Kuala Lumpur two years later.
declares independence as Zambia and Malawi, formerly Nyasaland does
the same, both from the United Kingdom. The Mediterranean island of Malta becomes independent.
(the present Zimbabwe) declares independence as Rhodesia, but is not
recognized. Gambia is recognized as independent. The British
protectorate over the Maldives archipelago in the Indian Ocean is
the Caribbean, Barbados and Guyana; and in Africa, Botswana (then Bechuanaland) and Lesotho become independent.
the Arabian peninsula, Aden colony
becomes independent as South Yemen, to
be united with formerly Ottoman North Yemen in
||Mauritius and Swaziland achieve independence.
||After nine years of organized guerrilla
resistance, most of Guinea-Bissau comes under native control.
||Equatorial Guinea (then Rio Muni) is made independent.
||Relinquishes UN trusteeship (nominally shared by the United
Kingdom and New Zealand) of Nauru in the South
Tonga are given independence; Bangladesh achieves independence from Pakistan with the
military help of India.
||Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and seven
Trucial States (the same year, six
federated together as United Arab Emirates and the seventh, Ras al-Kaimah, joined soon
after) become independent Arab monarchies in the Persian Gulf as
the British protectorates are lifted.
Bahamas are granted independence.
||Guerrillas unilaterally declare
independence in the Southeastern regions of Guinea-Bissau.
||Grenada in the Caribbean becomes independent.
||Guinea-Bissau on the coast of West-Africa is recognized as
independent by Portugal.
Comoros archipelago in the Indian Ocean off the coast
of Africa is granted independence.
||Angola, Mozambique and the island groups of Cape Verde and São Tomé
and Príncipe, all four in Africa, achieve
independence. East Timor declares independence, but is subsequently
occupied and annexed by Indonesia nine days later.
||Suriname (then Dutch Guiana) becomes
||Released from trusteeship, Papua
New Guinea gains independence.
||Seychelles archipelago in the Indian Ocean off the African
coast becomes independent (one year after granting of
Spanish colonial rule de facto terminated over the
Sahara (then Rio de Oro), when the territory was
passed on to and partitioned between Mauritania and Morocco (which annexes the entire territory in 1979),
rendering the declared independence of the Saharawi Arab Democratic
Republic ineffective to the present day. Since Spain did
not have the right to give away Western Sahara, under international
law the territory is still under Spanish administration. The de
facto administrator is however Morocco.
||French Somaliland, also known as the
French Territory of the Afars and the
Issas (after its dominant ethnic groups), the
present Djibouti, is gains independence.
||Dominica in the Caribbean and the Solomon Islands, as well as Tuvalu (then the Ellice Islands), all in the South Sea,
||Returns the Panama Canal Zone (held under a regime sui generis since
1903) to the republic of Panama.
Gilbert Islands (present-day Kiribati) in the South Sea as well as Saint
Vincent and the Grenadines and Saint Lucia in the Caribbean become
||Zimbabwe (then [Southern] Rhodesia), already independent
de facto, becomes formally independent.
joint Anglo-French colony of the New Hebrides becomes the independent island republic of
||Belize (then British Honduras) and Antigua
& Barbuda become independent.
||Canada Gains full independence from the British
parliament with the Canada
||Saint Kitts and Nevis (an associated state since 1963) becomes
||Brunei sultanate on Borneo becomes
Zealand become fully independent with the Australia Act 1986 and The New Zealand Constitution Act
||Namibia becomes independent from South
||The UN Security Council
gives final approval to end the U.S. Trust Territory of the
Pacific (dissolved already in 1986), finalizing the
independence of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of
Micronesia, having been a colonial possession of the
empire of Japan before UN trusteeship.
||Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Turkmenistan become independent from the Soviet Union.
Post-Cold War era
- Hunt, Lynn, Thomas R. Martin, Barbara H. Rosenwein, R. Po-chia
Hsia, and Bonnie G. Smith. The Making of the West Peoples and
Cultures. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2008.
- Remember role in ending fascist war
- The Poison Pistol, TIME Magazine,
December 01, 1961
Foccart, counsellor to Charles de Gaulle, Georges Pompidou
Chirac for African matters, recognized it in 1995 to
Afrique review. See also Foccart parle, interviews
with Philippe Gaillard, Fayard - Jeune Afrique and
also "The man who ran Francafrique - French politician
Jacques Foccart's role in France's colonization of Africa under the
leadership of Charles de Gaulle - Obituary" in
The National Interest, Fall
- See International Relations and Security Network (ISN),
Zurich, Switzerland hosted by ETH Zurich University
- See Mehdi Ben Barka for further information.
France has declassified some of the files, but Ben Barka's family
has stated that these have shed no new light on the affair, and
that further efforts must be done.