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Item Added: Decolonization. View Wishlist. Our Awards Booktopia's Charities. Are you sure you would like to remove these items from your wishlist? Only fifteen years later the number of formally independent states had grown to After just 30 years, from to , all the colonial empires had disappeared from the global map. The end of "European global domination" was thus a "part of the transition to a new order in the global system of states". There were considerable differences between the various regions, with cases of peaceful transition as well as extremely violent struggles for emancipation.

The colonial policies and strategic aims of the colonial powers and the strength of the respective anticolonial movements were the decisive factors. The Cold War confrontation, the growing importance of international organizations such as the United Nations, and the emergence of a regime of international human rights were central aspects of the international context in which the third phase of decolonization occurred and they had a decisive effect on that process. In contrast to the two preceding waves, this third one was "classic decolonization", with non-European populations rising up against foreign colonial rule and obtaining their political independence.

However, autochthonous resistance was not exclusively a phenomenon of the 20th century. It had existed in many forms from the beginning of European expansion and colonial penetration.


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The numerous colonial wars and rebellions in different time periods in the various regions of the world are clear proof of strong resistance to European domination. However, this anticolonial resistance was not able to fundamentally call into question or bring an end to European colonial rule.

The successful Haitian Revolution of and the victory of the troops of Negus Menelik II — on March 1 in the battle of Adua , by which the Italian invasion of Abyssinia was repelled, were rare exceptions. The technological advantage of the European states in many areas, such as transportation, communication, tropical medicine and — not least — weaponry, proved too big, and meant that the indigenous groups were not able to halt the European advance for any significant period of time.

Decolonization - New World Encyclopedia

For example, the internment of Boer civilians in British concentration camps during the Second Boer War and the reign of terror of the Belgian king Leopold II — in the Belgian Congo were sharply criticized. The perceived civilizational superiority of the "West" was dealt its first major blow. The new potency of anticolonial efforts in the 20th century resulted from the interplay between growing autochthonous nationalist anticolonial movements and the massive upheavals which occurred during the course of two global wars.

African and Asian intellectuals and political leaders deliberately highlighted this fact in order to fundamentally call into question the civilizing mission of Europe, which was repeatedly cited to legitimize colonial rule. During the Russian Revolution, V. Lenin — raised the topic of the right of nations to self-determination, for example in the Decree on Peace of October 26 Subsequently, US President Woodrow Wilson — [ ] also explicitly addressed the topic in his Fourteen Points declaration of January 8 , thereby igniting hopes in the colonies.

Even the League of Nations, which emerged from the negotiations in Versailles, formally adopted the principle in Article 22 of its Covenant, which stated that colonial territories must be guided towards independence over the long term. To achieve this, the newly established organization gave the victorious Allies guardianship over the former colonies of the German Empire and the Arab provinces of the dissolved Ottoman Empire. The aim was that these so-called mandated territories would — in accordance with their developmental progress — be eventually granted independence. In reality, however, this meant that the leading colonial powers — Great Britain and France — simply incorporated the territories in question into their imperial territories under the pretext of the League of Nations mandate.

Thus, the result was not the decolonization of the former territories of the Central Powers, but a change of colonial masters. Consequently, in the interwar period "the colonial world [reached] the apogee of its historical expansion", 55 which included the occupation of one the last remaining independent African state Abyssinia by Fascist Italy in They also received massive support from the Communist camp and increasingly established connections with one another.

The apparent security of European colonial rule on the eve of the Second World War proved illusory. The upheavals of the war of to shook the European overseas empires to their foundations. In Southeast Asia, Japanese troops succeeded in occupying almost all of the European colonies between December and April On February 15 , Japan even managed to capture the enormously important British base at Singapore to the dismay of London.

The campaign of conquest of imperial Japan caused irreparable damage to the prestige of European colonial rule. The surprisingly strong loyalty to the European colonial masters was due in part to the fact that the leaders of anticolonial nationalist movements hoped that an Allied victory would result in a liberal postwar climate based on the principles of the Atlantic Charter. Thus, immediately after the end of the war, the delegates at the Fifth Pan-African Congress, which met in Manchester from the 15th to the 21st of October , referred directly to these Allied principles and demanded the immediate end of racist colonial rule.

However, after the end of the Second World War, the European colonial powers initially showed no interest in relinquishing their colonial empires, since they — particularly Great Britain and France — viewed their empires as giving them equal status with the new super powers of the USA and the Soviet Union. Also, the vast mineral resources of the colonies were urgently needed for the economic regeneration of the metropoles after the destructive war.

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First of all, the British had to acknowledge that their position in India the "jewel of the empire" was a lost cause. Through the Indian Independence Act of August 15 , they left with immediate effect. This involved the division of the subcontinent along religious lines into the states of India under Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru — , and Pakistan under the founding father Mohammed Ali Jinnah — This process featured extreme violence between Hindus and Muslims which resulted in between The Netherlands failed in its attempt to reclaim Dutch India by violence, and on December 27 the Dutch began their withdrawal from the Indonesian archipelago, due in part to pressure from the United Nations and the USA, which threatened to cancel its assistance to the Netherlands under the Marshall Plan.

France, on the other hand, waged a costly war against the Viet Minh from to in an attempt to maintain its rule in French Indochina. Their victory over European colonialism made the new Asian states important allies of the territories in Africa which were still under colonial rule and resulted in closer ties between anticolonial forces on the two continents.

The conference held in the Indonesian city of Bandung on April , to which Indonesia 's revolutionary icon and first president Ahmed Sukarno — invited delegates from 29 Asian and African state as well as representatives of numerous independence movements, became a key moment. They demanded an immediate end to the practice of colonial rule and pledged support for the campaign to attain this goal. The Afro-Asia bloc which formed in Bandung and out of which emerged the Non-Aligned Countries in , became the international diplomatic spearhead in the fight against European colonialism and had its greatest effect in the context of the United Nations.

The two largest colonial powers — France and Britain — were also on the retreat in the Middle East, the important continental interface between Africa and Asia. The final joint attempt of Britain and France to dominate the fate of the region failed in During this period, Egypt became the leader of the Pan-Arab movement under President Gamal Abdel Nasser — and thus the greatest adversary of the two colonial powers.

Having first consulted Israel , London and Paris reacted with the military occupation of the Canal Zone on November 5. However, diplomatic pressure from the super powers of USA and the Soviet Union forced them to retreat soon after. The Suez Crisis marked a fundamental turning point which clearly demonstrated the changed reality of global power in the context of the Cold War and clearly signalled the decline of the influence of the colonial powers. These signs of the disintegration of European power were not immediately apparent in the African colonies. However, the attempt to further penetrate the region in the context of the "second colonial invasion" was grist for the mill of the anticolonial nationalist movements.

In general, the process of decolonization proceeded more slowly in Africa than in Asia, and varied considerably from region to region. They gradually transferred political responsibility to autochthonous elites. This resulted, for example, in a largely peaceful transition to independence in Ghana under Kwame Nkrumah — in However, the situation was completely different in the colonies of "white" settlement in North, Central and East Africa.

Here the European settlers insisted on retaining their racially based minority rule, and demanded that the metropoles provide them with military support to deal with growing African resistance. In the British colony of Kenya and French Algeria, which was even officially part of France, two extremely brutal decolonization wars were fought.

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There were massive resettlements and internments, systematic torture was employed, and grave war crimes were perpetrated against the indigenous populations, with hundreds of thousands of casulties. This escalation of colonial violence and the attendant serious violations of human rights resulted in colonialism — particularly with regard to the Algerian War — being increasingly vociferously condemned in the global media and becoming a central topic on the agenda of international politics.

With 17 African colonies obtaining independence in this year — Belgian rule in the Congo 78 also came to an end in this wave — went down in history as the "year of Africa".

Decolonization: A History of Failure?

In this ground-breaking document, the international community strengthened the right of nations to self-determination, while also condemning colonialism as a fundamental violation of human rights, thereby removing all justification for colonialism. In his famous address to the South African parliament on February 3 , British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan — referred to these developments as the "wind of change".

This wind subsequently swept the remaining vestiges of the European colonial empires from the map of the African continent, with three exceptions: the dictatorship in Portugal continued to cling to its overseas empire, and fought the resistance movements in Angola , Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique with grim determination from onward.

It was the Portuguese Carnation Revolution of April 25 — the causes of which were deeply rooted in the three anachronistic colonial wars — and the subsequent democratic transformation in the metropole which finally brought an end to the rule of the oldest European colonial power on the African continent in In the Cold War conflict, which left bloody traces in Southern Africa in the form of the Angolan Civil War which mutated into a proxy war, 82 the racialist regime in Pretoria was viewed by Western governments as an anti-Communist bulwark and a valuable ally.

The Soviet Union played a central role in the process of the dissolution of the European colonial empires by providing — in line with the Marxist-Leninist tradition — massive material and moral support to the anticolonial movement worldwide. The different ethnic groups gathered together in the union were subjected to a deliberate policy of Sovietization , which was intended to establish a common Soviet identity in which the Russian element — with Russian as the lingua franca and Moscow as the centre of power — was dominant.