Supriya Ghosh (Editor)


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Decolonization (US) or decolonisation (UK) is the undoing of colonialism, where a nation establishes and maintains its domination over dependent territories. The Oxford English Dictionary defines decolonization as "the withdrawal from its colonies of a colonial power; the acquisition of political or economic independence by such colonies." The term refers particularly to the dismantlement, in the years after World War II, of the colonial empires established prior to World War I throughout the world. However, decolonization not only refers to the complete "removal of the domination of non-indigenous forces" within the geographical space and different institutions of the colonized, but it also refers to the "decolonizing of the mind" from the colonizers' ideas that made the colonized feel inferior.


The United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization has stated that in the process of decolonization there is no alternative to the colonizer allowing a process of self-determination, but in practice decolonization may involve either nonviolent revolution or national liberation wars by pro-independence groups. It may be intramural or involve the intervention of foreign powers acting individually or through international bodies such as the United Nations. Although examples of decolonization can be found as early as the writings of Thucydides, there have been several particularly active periods of decolonization in modern times. These include the breakup of the Spanish Empire in the 19th century; of the German, Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, and Russian Empires following World War I; of the British, French, Dutch, Japanese, Portuguese, Belgian and Italian colonial empires following World War II; and of the Soviet Union (successor to the Russian Empire) following the Cold War.

Methods and stages

Decolonization is a political process and vital internalization of the rejection of colonialist mindsets and "norms." In extreme circumstances, there is a war of independence, sometimes following a revolution. 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 that lead to further negotiations until independence is granted. In rare cases, the actions of the pro-independence movements are characterized by nonviolence, with the Indian independence movement led by Mohandas Karamchand 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 Indochina, while in some countries in French West Africa (excluding the Maghreb countries) decolonization resulted from a combination of insurrection and negotiation. The process is only complete when the de facto government of the newly independent country is recognized as the de jure sovereign state 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 the people of the country, 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 Hemisphere.

As world opinion became more pro-independence following World War I, there was an institutionalized collective effort to advance the cause of decolonization through the League of Nations. Under Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, a number of mandates were created. The 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 the German Empire and the Ottoman Empire. This reassignment work continued through the United Nations, with a similar system of trust territories created to adjust control over both former colonies and mandated territories.

In referendums, some colonial populations have chosen to retain their colonial status, such as Gibraltar and French Guiana. There are even examples, such as the Falklands War, 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 governments have become more benign.

Decolonization is rarely achieved through a single historical act, but rather progresses through one or more stages of decolonization, 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 decolonization may, in fact, concern little more than handing over responsibility for foreign relations and security, and soliciting de jure recognition 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 bases.


Beginning with the emergence of the United States in the 1770s, decolonization took place in the context of Atlantic history, against the background of the American and French revolutions. Decolonization became a popular movement in many colonies in the 20th century, and a reality after 1945.

American Revolution

Great Britain's Thirteen North American colonies were the first to break from the British Empire in 1776, and were recognized as an independent nation by France in 1778 and Britain in 1783. The United States of America was the first set of European established colonies to achieve independence and establish itself as a nation, and was the first independent nation in the Americas.

Decolonization of Spanish America

The chaos of the Napoleonic wars in Europe cut the direct links between Spain and its American colonies, allowing for process of decolonization to begin.

With the invasion of Spain by Napoleon in 1806, the American colonies declared autonomy and loyalty to the King Fernand VII. The contract was broken and the regions of the Spanish Empire had to decide whether to show allegiance to the Junta of Cadiz (the only territory in Spain free from Napoleon) or have a junta (assembly) of its own. The economic monopoly of the metropolis was the main reason why many countries decided to become independent from Spain. In 1809, the independence wars of Latin America begun with a revolt in La Paz, Bolivia. In 1807 and 1808, the Vice Royalty of the River Plate was invaded by the British, after their 2nd defeat a Frenchman called Santiague de Liniers was proclaimed new Vice Roy by the local population, and later accepted by Spain. In May 1810 in Buenos Aires, a Junta was created, but in Montevideo it was not recognized by the local government who followed the authority of the Junta of Cadiz, the rivalry between the 2 harbors was the main reason for the distrust between the 2 cities. During the next 15 years, the Spanish and Royalist on one side, and the rebels fought in South America and Mexico. Numerous countries declared their independence. In 1824, the Spanish forces were defeated in the Battle of Ayacucho. The mainland was free and in 1898, Spain lost Cuba and Puerto Rico in the Spanish–American War, Puerto Rico became a Colony of the U.S.A. but Cuba was independent in 1902.

Decolonization of the Ottoman Empire


Cyprus was invaded and taken over by the Ottoman Empire in 1570. It was later relinquished by the Ottomans in 1878. The Cypriots expressed their true disdain for Ottoman rule through revolts and nationalist movements. The Ottomans only suppressed these revolts in the harshest of fashion but that only ended up fueling the revolts and desire for independence. The Cypriots desired to merge with Greece because they felt a close connection with Greece. They were tired of 3 centuries of Turkic rule and openly expressed their desire for enosis. The Cypriots would embrace Greek culture and traditions. They abandoned Ottoman architecture and showed little respect for Ottoman rule. All these acts of defiance could be attributed to decolonization. When the Cypriots made acts of nationalism, they were participating in a form of decolonization because they were attempting to remove all trace of Turkic and Muslim influence within their society. The Greek War of Independence had major affects on Cyprus and after the Ottomans had left, Cyprus continued to create a Greek culture they wished to be a part of. Cyprus would continue to create this imagined identity of Greek culture. This can also be a form of imagined human geography because Cyprus used this identity to justify its revolts and nationalist movements.

A number of people (mainly Christians in the Balkans) previously conquered by the Ottoman Empire were able to achieve independence in the 19th century, a process that peaked at the time of the Ottoman defeat in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78.

The Ottoman Empire had failed to raise revenue and a monopoly of effective armed forces. This may have caused the fall of the Ottoman Empire.


In the wake of the 1798 French Invasion of Egypt and its subsequent expulsion in 1801, the commander of an Albanian regiment, Muhammad Ali, was able to gain control of Egypt. Although he was acknowledged by the Sultan in Constantinople in 1805 as his pasha, Muhammad Ali, and eventually his successors, were de facto monarchs of a largely independent state managing its own foreign relations. However, despite this de facto independence, Egypt did remain nominally a vassal state of the Ottoman Empire obliged to pay a hefty annual tribute to the Sultan. The Ottoman Empire's residual powers over Egypt remained a threat to its independence, as was shown in 1882 when Great Britain, with the Sultan's agreement, occupied Egypt permanently. Upon declaring war on Turkey in November 1914, Britain unilaterally declared the Sultan's rights and title over Egypt abolished and proclaimed its own protectorate over the country.


The Greek War of Independence (1821—1829) was fought to liberate Greece from a three centuries long Ottoman occupation. Independence was secured by the intervention of the British and French navies and the French and Russian armies, but Greece was limited to an area including perhaps only one-third of ethnic Greeks, that later grew significantly with the Megali Idea project. The war ended many of the privileges of the Phanariot Greeks of Constantinople.


Following a failed Bulgarian revolt in 1876, the subsequent Russo-Turkish war ended with the provisional Treaty of San Stefano established a huge new realm of Bulgaria including most of Macedonia and Thrace. The final 1878 Treaty of Berlin allowed the other Great Powers to limit the size of the new Russian client state and even briefly divided this rump state in two, Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia, but the irredentist claims from the first treaty would direct Bulgarian claims through the first and second Balkan Wars and both World Wars.


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 Great Powers.


Centuries of 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 from the Ottoman Empire was recognized at the congress of Berlin in 1878. However, the Montenegrin nation has been de facto independent since 1711 (officially accepted by the Tsardom of Russia by the order of Tsar Petr I Alexeyevich-Romanov. In the period 1795-8, Montenegro once again claimed independence after the Battle of Krusi. In 1806, it was recognized as a power fighting against Napoleon, meaning that it had a fully mobilized and supplied army ( by Russia, trough Admiral Dmitry Senyavin at the Bay of Kotor ). In the period of reign of Petar II Petrović-Njegoš, Montenegro was again colonized by Turkey, but that changed with the coming of Knyaz Danilo I, with a totally successful war against Turkey in the late 1850s ending with a decisive victory of the Montenegrin army under Grand Duke Mirko Petrović-Njegoš, brother of Danilo I, at the Battle of Grahovac. The full independence was given to Montenegro, after almost 170 years of fighting the Turks, Bosniaks, Albanians and the French (1806-1814) at the Congress of Berlin.

Western European colonial powers

The New Imperialism period, with the scramble for Africa and the Opium Wars, 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 peasant unrest and a burgeoning middle class.

Economic growth created stakeholders with their own demands, while racial issues meant 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.

There 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 1930s Great Depression.

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, the colonies suffered. The colonial powers concentrated on domestic issues, protectionism and tariffs, disregarding the damage done to international trade flows. The colonies, almost all primary "cash crop" producers, lost the majority of their export income and were forced away from the "open" complementary colonial economies to "closed" systems. While some areas returned to subsistence farming (British Malaya) others diversified (India, West Africa), and some began to industrialise. These economies would not fit the colonial straitjacket when efforts were made to renew the links. Further, the European-owned and -run plantations proved more vulnerable to extended deflation than native capitalists, reducing the dominance of "white" farmers in colonial economies and making the European governments and investors of the 1930s co-opt indigenous elites — despite the implications for the future. 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.

United Kingdom

The emergence of indigenous bourgeois elites was especially characteristic of the British Empire, 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. Across the empire, the general protocol was to convene a constitutional conference in London to discuss the transition to greater self-government and then independence, submit a report of the constitutional conference to parliament, if approved submit a bill to Parliament at Westminster to terminate the responsibility of the United Kingdom (with a copy of the new constitution annexed), and finally, if approved, issuance of an Order of Council fixing the exact date of independence.

London dealt with the white dominions, retained strategic resources at the cost of reducing direct control in Egypt, and made numerous reforms in the British Raj, culminating in the Government of India Act (1935). Despite these efforts though, the British Government continued to slowly lose their control of the Raj. The end of World War II allowed India, in addition to various other European colonies, to take advantage of the postwar chaos that had begun to exist in Europe during the mid-1940s. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, India's 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 problems leading to a newfound sense of nationalism among its 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.

Tropical Africa was only fully drawn into the colonial system at the end of the 19th century. In the north-east the continued independence of the Empire of Ethiopia remained a beacon of hope to pro-independence activists. However, with the anti-colonial wars of the 1900s (decade) barely over, new modernising forms of African Nationalism began to gain strength in the early 20th-century with the emergence of Pan-Africanism, as advocated by the Jamaican journalist Marcus Garvey (1887–1940) whose widely distributed newspapers demanded swift abolition of European imperialism, as well as republicanism in Egypt. Kwame Nkrumah (1909–1972) who was inspired by the works of Garvey led Ghana to independence from colonial rule.

United States

A former colony itself, the United States approached imperialism differently from the Great Powers and Japan. Much of its energy and rapidly expanding population was directed westward across the North American continent against Native Americans, English territorial pretensions, Spain, and Mexico. With eventual assistance from the British Navy, its Monroe Doctrine reserved the Americas as its sphere of interest, prohibiting other states (particularly Spain) from recolonizing the recently freed polities of Latin America. However, France, taking advantage of the American government's paralysis following the outbreak of the Civil War, intervened militarily in Mexico to consolidate a French-protected monarchy, and, for the same reason, Spain took the step to occupy the Dominican Republic and restore colonial rule. The end of the Civil War in 1865 prompted both France and Spain to evacuate those two countries. Spain also fought several wars against Chile and Peru for the guano deposits of their islands. Economic and political pressure, as well as assaults by filibusters, were brought to bear, but Northern fears of the expansion of slavery into new territories and the still strong Spanish Empire restrained the United States from early expansion into Cuba or Central America. America's only African colony, Liberia, was formed privately and achieved independence early. While the United States had few qualms about opening the markets of Japan, Korea, and China by military force, it advocated an Open Door Policy and opposed the direct division and colonization of those states even though Europeans kept doing it.

Following the Civil War and particularly during and after the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, direct intervention in Latin America and elsewhere expanded. The United States purchased Russian America from the tsar and accepted the offer of Hawaii from rebel expatriates and seized several colonies from Spain in 1898. Barred from annexing Cuba outright by the Teller Amendment, the U.S. established it as a client state with obligations including the perpetual lease of Guantánamo Bay to the U.S. Navy. The attempt of the first governor to void the island's constitution and remain in power past the end of his term provoked a rebellion that provoked a reoccupation between 1906 and 1909, but this was again followed by devolution. Similarly, the McKinley administration, despite prosecuting the Philippine–American War against a native republic, set out that the Territory of the Philippine Islands was eventually granted independence.

Britain's 1895 attempt to reject the Monroe Doctrine during the Venezuela Crisis of 1895, the Venezuela Crisis of 1902–1903, and the establishment of the client state of Panama in 1903 via gunboat diplomacy, however, all necessitated the maintenance of Puerto Rico as a naval base to secure shipping lanes to the Caribbean and the new canal zone. In 1917, "Puerto Ricans were collectively made U.S. citizens" via the Jones Act, and in 1952 the US Congress turned the territory into a commonwealth after ratifying the Constitution born out of United States Public Law 600. The US government then declared the territory was no longer a colony and stopped transmitting information about Puerto Rico to the United Nations Decolonization Committee. As a result, the UN General Assembly removed Puerto Rico from the U.N. list of non-self-governing territories. Dissatisfied with their new political status, Puerto Ricans turned to political referendums to let make their opinions known. Several internal plebiscites, non-binding upon the United States, proposing statehood or independence for the island did not garnish a majority in 1967, 1993, and 1998. As a result of the UN not applying the full set of criteria which was enunciated in 1960 when it took favorable note of the cessation of transmission of information regarding the non-self-governing status of Puerto Rico, the nature of Puerto Rico's relationship with the U.S. continues to be the subject of ongoing debate in Puerto Rican politics, the United States Congress, and the United Nations.

The Monroe Doctrine received the Roosevelt Corollary in 1904, providing that the United States had a right and obligation to intervene "in flagrant cases of such wrongdoing or impotence" that a nation in the Western Hemisphere became vulnerable to European control. In practice, this meant that the United States was led to act as a collections agent for European creditors by administering customs duties in the Dominican Republic (1905–1941), Haiti (1915–1934), and elsewhere. The intrusiveness and bad relations this engendered were somewhat checked by the Clark Memorandum and renounced by President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Good Neighbor Policy." The end of World War II saw America producing 46% of the world's GDP, but pouring billions of dollars into the Marshall Plan and restoring independent (if anti-Communist) democracies in Japan and West Germany. The post-war period also saw America push hard to accelerate decolonialization and bring an end to the colonial empires of its Western allies, most importantly during the 1956 Suez Crisis, but American military bases were established around the world and direct and indirect interventions continued in Korea, Indochina, Latin America (inter alia, the 1965 occupation of the Dominican Republic), Africa, and the Middle East to oppose Communist invasions and insurgencies. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the United States has been far less active in the Americas, but invaded Afghanistan and Iraq following the September 11 attacks in 2001, establishing army and air bases in Central Asia.


Japan had gained several substantial colonial possessions 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, Hokkien, and Hakka among the indigenous peoples, were seen to be used. Japan also set up Imperial universities in Korea (Keijo Imperial University) and Taiwan (Taihoku University) to compel education.

World War 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 war. 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 Kuril Islands are a small portion of its own national territory, occupied by the Soviet Union soon after it declared war on Japan in August 1945, and later annexed.

French decolonization

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 tirailleurs). 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 people. Thus, nationalism in the colonies became stronger in between the two wars, leading to Abd el-Krim's Rif War (1921–1925) in Morocco and to the creation of Messali Hadj's Star of North Africa in Algeria in 1925. However, these movements would gain full potential only after World War II. The October 27, 1946 Constitution creating the Fourth Republic substituted the French Union to the colonial empire. On the night of March 29, 1947, a nationalist uprising in Madagascar led the French government headed by Paul Ramadier (Socialist) to violent repression: one year of bitter fighting, 11,000-40,000 Malagasy died. On May 8, 1945, the Sétif massacre took place in Algeria.

In 1946, the states of French Indochina 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 in 1920 and had founded the Vietminh in 1941. In 1956, Morocco and Tunisia gained their independence, while the Algerian War was raging (1954–1962). Similarly, a decade earlier, Laos and Cambodia achieved independence in order for the French to focus to keeping Vietnam. With Charles de Gaulle's return to power in 1958 amidst turmoil and threats of a right-wing coups 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 movement unsuccessfully tried to block the accords with a series of bombings, including an attempted assassination against Charles de Gaulle.

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 Glorieuses 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

The Soviet Union, following the conclusion of the Russian Civil War in 1922, continued the Tsar's imperial policies in most of the former Russian Empire and its vassals such as Mongolia. Initially, the nations of Finland, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania were recognized as independent nations, but Soviet policy shifted towards imperialism during the rise of Joseph Stalin. The policy shift was additionally boosted by the rise of Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Of the nations that comprised former Russian Empire, only Finland would remain independent throughout the Cold War. Soviet colonial policy was most famously marked by the use of violent repression against civil disobedience in Prague in 1968 (see Prague Spring) and in Hungary in 1956.

The era of Soviet colonialism would ultimately end due to numerous anti-colonialism efforts of individuals such as Lech Walesa and alliances such as the Solidarity Movement. Poland and Czechoslovakia would achieve independence in 1989, and East Germany(from the Soviet sphere of influence) and Estonia in 1991. Other nations such as Ukraine would not achieve independence until the collapse of the Soviet Union on December 26, 1991.

The Soviet Union sought to affect the abolishment of colonial governance by Western countries and replace it with the rule of a local Communist Party under the influence of the Soviet Union, either by direct subversion of Western-leaning or -controlled governments or indirectly by influence of political leadership and support. Many of the revolutions and civil war of this time period were inspired or influenced in this way. The 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 Cold War progressed. Though this was the view expressed by their leaders, such interventions can be interpreted as the expansion of Soviet interests, 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.

Nikita Khrushchev's famous shoe-banging incident occurred in the context of a United Nations debate on colonialism in 1960. After Khrushchev had decried western colonialism, Filipino delegate Lorenzo Sumulong accused him of hypocrisy, claiming that the Soviet Union was at that time doing exactly the same thing to the countries of Eastern Europe. Khrushchev then reportedly became enraged and theatrically banged his shoe on the table while berating Sumulong as a "toady of imperialism," though accounts of the incident differ.

The emergence of the Third World (1945–)

The term "Third World" was coined by French demographer Alfred Sauvy in 1952, on the model of the Third Estate, which, according to Abbé Sieyès, 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. Thus, the Non-Aligned Movement constituted itself, around the main figures of Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India, Sukarno, the Indonesian president, Josip Broz Tito the Communist leader of Yugoslavia, and Gamal Abdel Nasser, head of Egypt who successfully opposed the French and British imperial powers during the 1956 Suez crisis. After the 1954 Geneva Conference which put an end to the First Indochina War, 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 voted the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. The next year, the Non-Aligned Movement was officially created in Belgrade (1961), and was followed in 1964 by the creation of the United 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:

  1. Developing countries must be entitled to regulate and control the activities of multinational corporations operating within their territory.
  2. They must be free to nationalize or expropriate foreign property on conditions favourable to them.
  3. They must be free to set up associations of primary commodities producers similar to the 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 it.
  4. 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 strings attached.

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 throughout 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 occurred in the wake of the 1979 Iranian Revolution. 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 on neoliberal policies, "structural adjustment" and "shock therapies" for the former Communist states.

Decolonization in the Americas after 1945

  •  United Kingdom: Newfoundland (nominally an independent dominion but under direct British rule since 1934) (1949, union with Canada); Guyana (1966); Belize (1981).
  •  Netherlands: Netherlands Antilles, Suriname (1954, both becoming constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands).
  •  Denmark: Greenland (1979, became a constituent country of the Kingdom of Denmark).
  • Decolonization of Asia

    The following list shows the colonial powers following the end of hostilities in 1945, and their colonial or administrative possessions. The year of decolonization is given chronologically in parentheses.

  •  United Kingdom: British India (1947); British Mandate of Palestine, Burma, and Ceylon (1948); British Malaya (1957); Kingdom of Sarawak, North Borneo, and Singapore (1963); Brunei (1984); Hong Kong (1997).
  •  France: French India (1954) and Indochina (comprising Vietnam (1945), Cambodia (1953) and Laos).
  •  Portugal: Portuguese India (1961); Portuguese Timor (1975); Macau (1999).
  •  United States (1946): Philippines
  •  Netherlands: Netherlands East Indies (1949); Netherlands New Guinea (1962, incorporated to Indonesia).
  • Decolonization in Europe

  •  United Kingdom: Cyprus (1960); Malta, (1964).
  • Assassinated anticolonialist leaders

    A non-exhaustive list of assassinated leaders would include:

  • 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.
  • Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, nonviolent leader of the Indian independence movement was assassinated in 1948 by Nathuram Godse.
  • Ruben Um Nyobé, leader of the Union of the Peoples of Cameroon (UPC), killed by the French SDECE on September 13, 1958. No clear cause has ever been ascertained for the mysterious crash. Assassination has been alleged.
  • 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 era.
  • Félix-Roland Moumié, successor to Ruben Um Nyobe at the head of the Cameroon's People Union, assassinated in Geneva in 1960 by the SDECE (French secret services).
  • Patrice 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.
  • 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 1965, allegedly by Moroccan agents and French police officers.
  • Nigerian leader Ahmadu Bello was assassinated in January 1966 during a coup which toppled Nigeria's post-independence government.
  • Eduardo Mondlane, the leader of FRELIMO and the father of Mozambican independence, was assassinated in 1969. Both the Portuguese intelligence or the Portuguese secret police PIDE/DGS and elements of FRELIMO, have been accused of killing Mondlane.
  • Mohamed Bassiri, Sahrawi leader of the Movement for the Liberation of Saguia el Hamra and Wadi el Dhahab was "disappeared" in El Aaiún in 1970, allegedly by the Spanish Legion.
  • Amílcar Cabral was killed on January 20, 1973 by PAIGC rival Inocêncio Kani, with the help of Portuguese agents operating within the PAIGC.
  • Post-colonial organizations

    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.

    Differing perspectives

    There is much 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. For example, in the fifty years since African independence, incredible misery has come to many "free" nations—this has come in the form of wars, civil war, genocide, disease, famine, bad government, terrorism and dictatorships.

    Effects on the colonizers

    John Kenneth Galbraith argues that the post–World War II decolonization was brought about for economic reasons. In A Journey Through Economic Time, 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 the United Kingdom. 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, disinterest."

    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.

    Settled populations

    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, was often 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 African farmers and forcibly seized their property. Other ethnic minorities that are also the product of colonialism may pose problems as well. A large Indian community lived in Uganda - as in most of East Africa - as a result of Britain colonizing both India and East Africa. As many Indians had considerable wealth Idi Amin expelled them for domestic political gain. 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 Cayman Islands or the European population of the United States of America.

    Timeline of independence

    This list includes formerly non-self-governing territories, such as colonies, protectorates, condominia, and leased territories. Changes in status of autonomy leading up to and after independence are not listed, and some dates of independence may be disputed. For details, see each national history.


    Decolonization Wikipedia

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