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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 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.[1]

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,[2] 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)[3] following the October Revolution.

Methods and stages[edit | edit source]

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.[citation needed]

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.

Comorians protest against Mayotte referendum on becoming an overseas department of France, 2009

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.

History[edit | edit source]

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.[4]

American Revolution[edit | edit source]

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 settler state in the Americas.[5][6]

Haitian Revolution[edit | edit source]

The Haitian Revolution was a slave uprising that began in 1791 in the French colony of Saint-Domingue, on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. In 1804, Haiti secured independence from France as the Empire of Haiti, which later became a republic.

Decolonization of Spanish America[edit | edit source]

Portrait of the Chilean declaration of independence

The Chilean Declaration of Independence on 18 February 1818

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.[7]

With the invasion of Spain by Napoleon in 1806, the American colonies declared autonomy and loyalty to King Ferdinand 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 Viceroyalty of the River Plate was invaded by the British, after their 2nd defeat a Frenchman called Santiague de Liniers was proclaimed new Viceroy 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[edit | edit source]


Cyprus was invaded and taken over by the Ottoman Empire in 1570. It was later relinquished by the Ottomans in 1878.[8] 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.[9] 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.[10] 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.[11] 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.[12]

Russian and Bulgarian defence of Shipka Pass against Turkish troops was crucial for the independence of Bulgaria.

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.[13] This may have caused the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

Egypt[edit | edit source]

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.

Greece[edit | edit source]

Greek War of Independence

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.

Bulgaria[edit | edit source]

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[edit | edit source]

Romanian War of Independence

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.[14][15]

Serbia[edit | edit source]

Centuries[16][17] of armed and unarmed struggle ended with the recognition of Serbian independence from the Ottoman Empire at the Congress of Berlin in 1878.

Montenegro[edit | edit source]

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.

Decolonization after 1918[edit | edit source]

Western European colonial powers[edit | edit source]

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Czechoslovak anti-colonialist propaganda poster: "Socialism opened the door of liberation for colonial nations."

The New Imperialism period of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which included the scramble for Africa and the Opium Wars, marked the zenith of European colonization. It also accelerated the trends that would end colonialism. 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[edit | edit source]

A mural in Belfast depicting the Easter Rising of 1916

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.[18]

After World War I, several former German and Ottoman territories in the Middle East, Africa, and the Pacific were governed by the UK as League of Nations mandates. Some were administered directly by the UK, and others by British dominions - Nauru and the Territory of New Guinea by Australia, South West Africa by the Union of South Africa, and Western Samoa by New Zealand.

Egypt became independent in 1922, although the UK retained security prerogatives, control of the Suez Canal, and effective control of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. The 1931 Statute of Westminster established full legislative independence for six dominions – Canada, Newfoundland, Australia, the Irish Free State, New Zealand, and the Union of South Africa. Newfoundland ceded self-rule back to the UK in 1934. Iraq, a League of Nations mandate, became independent in 1932.

In response to a growing Indian independence movement, the UK made successive reforms to the British Raj, culminating in the Government of India Act (1935). These reforms included creating elected legislative councils in some of the Provinces of British India. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, India's independence movement leader, led a peaceful resistance to the British rule. 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.[19]

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[edit | edit source]

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,[20] 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.[citation needed] 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.

Manuel L. Quezón, the first president of the Commonwealth of the Philippines (from 1935 to 1944)

Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands in Micronesia administered by the United States from 1947 to 1986

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.[21]

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"[22] 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.[23] 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,[24][25] 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,[26] and the United Nations.[27][28]

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,[29] 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[edit | edit source]

U.S. troops in Korea, September 1945

Before World War I, Japan had gained several substantial colonial possessions in East Asia such as Taiwan (1895) and Korea (1910). Japan joined the allies in World War I, and after the war acquired the South Pacific Mandate, the former German colony in Micronesia, as a League of Nations Mandate. 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.

In 1931, Japan seized Manchuria from the Republic of China, setting up a puppet state under Puyi, the last Manchu emperor of China. In 1933 Japan seized the Chinese province of Jehol, and incorporated it into its Manchurian possessions. The Second Sino-Japanese War started in 1937, and Japan occupied much of eastern China, including the Republic's capital at Nanjing. An estimated 20 million Chinese died during the 1931-1945 war with Japan.[30]

In December 1941, the Japanese Empire joined World War II by invading the European and US colonies in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, including French Indochina, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Burma, Malaya, Indonesia, Portuguese Timor, and others. Following its surrender to the Allies in 1945, Japan was deprived of all its colonies. The Soviet Union declared war on Japan in August 1945, and shortly after occupied and annexed the southern Kuril Islands, which Japan still claims.

France[edit | edit source]

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.

After World War I, France administered the former Ottoman territories of Syria and Lebanon, and the former German colonies of Togoland and Cameroon, as League of Nations mandates. Lebanon declared its independence in 1943, and Syria in 1945.

Central Europe[edit | edit source]

The Russian, German, and Austro-Hungarian empires collapsed at the end of World War I, and were replaced by republics. Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Czechoslovakia became independent countries. Yugoslavia and Romania expanded into former Austro-Hungarian territory. The Soviet Union succeeded the Russian empire in the remainder if its former territory, and Germany, Austria, and Hungary were reduced in size.

In 1938, Nazi Germany annexed Austria and part of Czechoslovakia, and in 1939, Nazi Germany and the USSR concluded a pact to occupy the countries that lie between them; the USSR occupied Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, and Germany and the USSR split Poland in two. The occupation of Poland started World War II. Germany attacked the USSR in 1941. The USSR allied with the UK and USA, and emerged as one of the victors of the war, occupying most of central and eastern Europe. .

Decolonization after 1945[edit | edit source]

United Nations Trust Territories[edit | edit source]

When the United Nations was formed in 1945, it established trust territories. These territories included the League of Nations mandate territories which had not achieved independence by 1945, along with the former Italian Somaliland. The Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands was transferred from Japanese to US administration. By 1990 all but one of the trust territories had achieved independence, either as independent states or by merger with another independent state; the Northern Mariana Islands elected to become a commonwealth of the United States.

The emergence of the Third World (1945–)[edit | edit source]

File:Africa cs poster.jpg

Czechoslovak anti-colonialist propaganda poster: "Africa - in fight for freedom".

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 first 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 UN Human Development Index (HDI) is a quantitative index of development, alternative to the classic Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which some use as a proxy to define the Third World. While the GDP only calculates economic wealth, the HDI includes life expectancy, public health and literacy as fundamental factors of a good quality of life. Countries in North America, the Southern Cone, Europe, East Asia, and Oceania generally have better standards of living than countries in Central Africa, East Africa, parts of the Caribbean, and South Asia.

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 of Africa[edit | edit source]

In 1945, Africa had four independent countries - Egypt, Ethiopia, Liberia, and South Africa.

After Italy's defeat in World War II, France and the UK occupied the former Italian colonies. Libya became an independent kingdom in 1951. Eritrea was merged with Ethiopia in 1952. Italian Somaliland was governed by the UK, and by Italy after 1954, until its independence in 1960.

Although France was ultimately a victor of World War II, Nazi Germany's occupation of France and its North African colonies during the war had disrupted colonial rule. On October 27, 1946 France adopted a new constitution creating the Fourth Republic, and substituted the French Union for the colonial empire. However power over the colonies remained concentrated in France, and the power of local assemblies outside France was extremely limited. 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.

In 1956, Morocco and Tunisia gained their independence from France. In 1960 eight independent countries emerged from French West Africa, and five from French Equatorial Africa. The Algerian War of Independence raged from 1954 to 1962. To this day, the Algerian war — officially called a "public order operation" until the 1990s — 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 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.

Independence for the United Kingdom's colonies in Africa began with the independence of Sudan in 1956, and Ghana in 1957. All of the UK's colonies on mainland Africa became independent by 1966, although Rhodesia's unilateral declaration of independence in 1965 was not recognized by the UK or internationally.

In 1975, Spain ceded administration of Western Sahara to Morocco and Mauritania. Mauritania later withdrew, and Morocco's claim to the territory is not internationally recognized.

By 1977 European colonial rule in mainland Africa had ended. Most of Africa's island countries had also become independent, although Réunion and Mayotte remain part of France. However the black majorities in Rhodesia and South Africa were disenfranchised until 1980 in Rhodesia, which became Zimbabwe that year, and until 1994 in South Africa. Namibia, Africa's last UN Trust Territory, became independent of South Africa in 1990.

Most independent African countries exist within prior colonial borders. However Morocco merged French Morocco with Spanish Morocco, and Somalia formed from the merger of British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland. Eritrea merged with Ethiopia in 1952, but became an independent country in 1993.

Most African countries became independent as republics. Morocco, Lesotho, and Swaziland remain monarchies under dynasties that predate colonial rule. Egypt and Libya gained independence as monarchies, but both countries' monarchs were later deposed, and they became republics.

African countries cooperate in various multi-state associations. The African Union includes all 55 African states. There are several regional associations of states, including the East African Community, Southern African Development Community, and Economic Community of West African States, some of which have overlapping membership.

Decolonization in the Americas after 1945[edit | edit source]

  •  United Kingdom: Newfoundland (nominally an independent dominion but under direct British rule since 1934) (1949, union with Canada); Jamaica (1962); Trinidad and Tobago (1962); Barbados (1962); Guyana (1966); Bahamas (1973): Grenada (1974); Dominica (1978); Saint Lucia (1979); St. Vincent and the Grenadines (1979); Antigua and Barbuda (1981); Belize (1981); Saint Kitts and Nevis (1983).
  •  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[edit | edit source]

Western European colonial empires in Asia and Africa all collapsed in the years after 1945

Japan expanded its occupation of Chinese territory during the 1930s, and occupied Southeast Asia during World War II. After the war, the Japanese colonial empire was dissolved, and national independence movements resisted the re-imposition of colonial control by European countries and the United States.

The Republic of China regained control of Japanese-occupied territories in Manchuria and eastern China. Taiwan was put under the post-war occupation of the Republic of China in accordance with the arrangement in General Order No. 1, however, the sovereignty of Taiwan has never been officially transferred to China. European countries and the United States ceded control of Treaty Ports in China, with the exceptions of Hong Kong and Macau.

The Allied powers divided Korea into two occupation zones, which became the states of North Korea and South Korea. The Philippines became independent of the US in 1946.

In 1946, the states of French Indochina withdrew from the French Union, leading to the Indochina War (1946–54). Ho Chi Minh, who had been a co-founder of the French Communist Party in 1920 and had founded the Vietminh in 1941, declared independence from France, and led the armed resistance against France's reoccupation of Indochina. Cambodia and Laos became independent in 1953, and the 1954 Geneva Accords ended France's occupation of Indochina, leaving North Vietnam and South Vietnam independent.

Some of the United Kingdom's colonies in Asia were directly administered by British officials, while others were ruled by local monarchs as protectorates or in subsidiary alliance with the UK.

In 1947, British India was partitioned into the independent dominions of India and Pakistan. Hundreds of princely states, states ruled by monarchs in treaty of subsidiary alliance with Britain, were integrated into India and Pakistan. India and Pakistan fought several wars over the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. French India was integrated into India between 1950 and 1954, and India annexed Portuguese India in 1961, and the Kingdom of Sikkim in 1975.

The Netherlands recognized Indonesia's independence in 1949, after a four-year independence struggle. Indonesia annexed Netherlands New Guinea in 1963, and Portuguese Timor in 1975. In 2002, former Portuguese Timor became independent as East Timor.

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: Transjordan (1946), British India (1947); British Mandate of Palestine, Burma, and Ceylon (1948); British Malaya (1957); Kuwait (1961), Kingdom of Sarawak, North Borneo, and Singapore (1963); Maldives (1965), Trucial States (1971), 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: Philippines (1946)
  •  Netherlands: Netherlands East Indies (1949); Netherlands New Guinea (1962, incorporated to Indonesia).

Decolonization in Europe[edit | edit source]

The Soviet Union emerged as a victor in World War II, and controlled most of central and eastern Europe. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania were incorporated into the USSR, together with portions of Finland, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Romania. Of the nations that comprised former Russian Empire, only Finland would remain independent throughout the Cold War. Other neighboring countries were dominated by the USSR, and integrated into Soviet-led military and economic organizations like the Warsaw Pact and Comecon. Most Western states did not formally recognize the incorporation of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania into the USSR.

Italy had occupied the Dodecanese islands in 1912, but Italian occupation ended after World War II, and the islands were integrated into Greece. British rule ended in Cyprus in 1960, and Malta in 1964, and both islands became independent republics.

Soviet colonial policy was most famously marked by the use of violent repression against liberalization and dissent, including Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and the Prague Spring in 1968.[31][32] 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. The Revolutions of 1989 ended of Soviet domination and Communist party rule in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, East Germany, Romania, and Bulgaria. Within the USSR, movements for democratization and self-government gained strength during 1990 and 1991. The Soviet coup d'état attempt in August 1991 began the breakup of the USSR, which formally ended on December 26, 1991. The Republics of the Soviet Union become sovereign states - Armenia, Azerbaijan, Byelorussia (later Belarus), Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. Historian Robert Daniels says, "A special dimension that the anti-Communist revolutions shared with some of their predecessors was decolonisation."[33] Moscow's policy was to settle ethnic Russians in the USSR's non-Russian republics. After independence, minority rights for Russian-speakers has been an issue; see Russians in the Baltic states.[34]

Challenges of Decolonization[edit | edit source]

Typical challenges of decolonization include state-building, nation-building, and economic development.

State-building[edit | edit source]

After independence, the new states needed to establish or strengthen the institutions of a sovereign state – governments, laws, a military, schools, administrative systems, and so on. The amount of self-rule granted prior to independence, and assistance from the colonial power and/or international organizations after independence, varied greatly between colonial powers, and between individual colonies.[35]

Except for a few absolute monarchies, most post-colonial states are either republics or constitutional monarchies. These new states had to devise constitutions, electoral systems, and other institutions of representative democracy.

Nation-building[edit | edit source]

The Black Star Monument in Accra, built by Ghana's first president Kwame Nkrumah to commemorate the country's independence

Nation-building is the process of creating a sense of identification with, and loyalty to, the state. Nation-building projects seek to replace loyalty to the old colonial power, and/or tribal or regional loyalties, with loyalty to the new state. Elements of nation-building include creating and promoting symbols of the state like a flag and an anthem, monuments, official histories, national sports teams, codifying one or more indigenous official languages, and replacing colonial place-names with local ones.[36] Nation-building after independence often continues the work began by independence movements during the colonial period.

Settled populations[edit | edit source]

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.[37]

Economic Development[edit | edit source]

Newly independent states also had to develop independent economic institutions - a national currency, banks, companies, regulation, tax systems, etc.

Many colonies were economically dependent on the colonizing country – serving as resource colonies which produced raw materials and agricultural products, and as a captive market for goods manufactured in the colonizing country. Many decolonized countries created programs to promote industrialization. Some nationalized industries and infrastructure, and some engaged in land reform to redistribute land to individual farmers or create collective farms.

Some decolonized countries maintain strong economic ties with the former colonial power. The CFA franc is a currency shared by 14 countries in West and Central Africa, mostly former French colonies. The CFA franc is guaranteed by the French treasury.

After independence, many countries created regional economic associations to promote trade and economic development among neighboring countries, including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Effects on the colonizers[edit | edit source]

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.

Effects on the former colonies[edit | edit source]

Post-colonial organizations[edit | edit source]

Four 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.

Former Colonial Power Organization Founded
United Kingdom Commonwealth of Nations 1931
France French Union 1946
French Community 1958
La Francophonie 1970
Spain & Portugal Latin Union 1954
Organization of Ibero-American States 1991
Portugal Community of Portuguese Language Countries 1996
Russia Commonwealth of Independent States 1991
United States Commonwealths 1934
Freely Associated States 1982
Netherlands De Nederlandse Unie 1949
De Nederlandse Taalunie 1980

Assassinated anti-colonialist leaders[edit | edit source]

Gandhi in 1947, with Lord Louis Mountbatten, Britain's last Viceroy of India, and his wife Vicereine Edwina Mountbatten.

A non-exhaustive list of assassinated leaders would include:

Timeline of independence[edit | edit source]

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.

18th century to World War I[edit | edit source]

Year Colonizer Event
1776 Great Britain Thirteen colonies of British America declare their independence a year into a general insurrection. Recognized by Great Britain in 1783 at the Treaty of Paris.
1804 France After initially revolting only to restore French control, Saint-Domingue declares its independence as Haiti. Recognized by France in 1825 in exchange for a ₣150 million indemnity, financed through French banks.
1810 Spain West Florida declares independence, but is almost immediately annexed by the United States as part of Orleans Territory under its claims from the Louisiana Purchase. Annexation recognized by Spain in 1819.
1811 Spain Paraguay achieves independence. Recognized by Spain in 1880.
Venezuela declares its independence. During its revolution, first yields, then joins Gran Colombia, before seceding to achieve independence in 1830.
Cartagena declares its independence. Cundinamarca and the United Provinces of New Granada followed suit in 1813. Briefly retaken by Spain, saved by Simon Bolivar and united as Colombia in 1821. Panama seceded 1903.
1815 Spain The Federal League declares its independence of the restored Spanish crown, after having successfully revolted against Napoleonic Spain in 1811. Attacked by Portugal, some provinces united with the future Argentina; others, after a protracted struggle, successfully formed Uruguay in 1828. Recognized by Spain in 1870.
1816 Spain The United Provinces of South America formally declare their independence of the restored Spanish crown, after having successfully revolted against Napoleonic Spain in its name in 1810. Became Argentina in 1826. Recognized by Spain in 1859.[39]
1818 Spain Chile declares its independence of the restored crown, after having unsuccessfully revolted against Napoleonic Spain in its name in 1810. Recognized by the Spanish in 1844.
1819 Spain The Adams-Onís Treaty cedes Florida (also called East Florida) to the United States in exchange for US cession of its claims to Texas under the Louisiana Purchase and in exchange for settling $5 million of its residents' claims against Spain.
1821 Spain Following a failed liberal insurrection in New Spain, the colony declares its independence as the Mexican Empire after a liberal mutiny succeeds in Spain. Recognized by Spain in 1836. Texas independent in 1836, annexed to the United States in 1845. Upper California and New Mexico lost to the United States in 1848.
Chiapas and then all of Guatemala declares its independence as part of the Mexican Empire. Independent from Mexico in 1823 as the Federal Republic of Central America. Divided into Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Guatemala in 1838; remnant renamed El Salvador in 1841.
Santo Domingo declares independence as Spanish Haiti, requests union with Gran Colombia, and is swiftly annexed by Haiti. It will achieve independence in 1844 only to restore Spanish rule in 1861.
A Chilean expeditionary force declares the independence of Peru. Bolivia formed from Upper Peru in 1825. Recognized by Spain in 1879.
Ottoman Empire Greece revolts. Recognized by the Porte in 1832 in the Treaty of Constantinople.
1822 Spain Quito declares independence as a part of Gran Colombia. Independent from Colombia as Ecuador in 1830. Recognized by Spain in 1840.
Portugal Brazil, long the seat of the Portuguese royal government, declares independence under a rogue prince after the king returns to Lisbon. Recognized by Portugal in 1825.
1847 United States Liberia declares its independence as an organized nation.
1852 Ottoman Empire Montenegro declares its independence. Recognized in 1878 at the Congress of Berlin. Voluntarily united with Serbia as Yugoslavia in 1918.
1864 Great Britain The United States of the Ionian Islands, a majority Greek protectorate, peaceably united with modern Greece by the Treaty of London.
1865 Spain Santo Domingo regains independence as the Dominican Republic after four years as a restored colony.
1867 Great Britain Britain grants internal autonomy to Canada, while keeping control of foreign policy. This is popularly considered Canada's independence day; Britain retained legal powers over Canada until 1931, and a role in Canada constitutional law until 1982.
1868 Spain Cuba briefly declares itself independent before being reconquered.
1869 Ottoman Empire Serbia declares its full independence from the Ottoman Empire. Recognized in 1878 at the Congress of Berlin. Renamed Yugoslavia in 1929.
1877 Ottoman Empire The United Principalities of Romania declare their independence. Recognized in 1878 at the Congress of Berlin.
1898 Spain The United States (barred from annexing Cuba itself by the Teller Amendment) forces Spain to abjure its own claims to the island in the Treaty of Paris ending the Spanish–American War. Various other Spanish colonies are purchased for $20 million, including the Philippines, which are granted independence in 1934.
1902 United States Cuba granted independence. Guantanamo Bay is leased in perpetuity as a US Naval base.
1908 Ottoman Empire Bulgaria, largely autonomous since the Congress of Berlin, declares itself fully independent of the Ottoman Empire.
1912 Ottoman Empire Albania declares independence. Recognized in the 1913 Treaty of London.

Interwar period[edit | edit source]

Year Colonizer Event
1916 Russian Empire The independence of Russian Poland as a new kingdom is proclaimed by occupying German and Austro-Hungarian forces. Recognized by Soviet Russia in the 1918 Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Absorbed Polish regions from Germany, Austria, and Hungary following World War I and from Soviet Russia and Soviet Ukraine after the Polish-Soviet War.
1917 Russian Empire Finland declares its independence. Recognized in the 1918 Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, although Karelia remained disputed. Crimean People's Republic declares independence but Crimean Tatar forces hold out less than a month against the Bolsheviks. Wolga Tatars declare independence of the Idel-Ural State, other ethnic groups including Volga Germans join them. Kazakhs declare independence of the Alash Autonomy.
1918 Russian Empire Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, Republic of Georgia and Republic of Armenia declare independence on May 26–28. Occupied by the Soviet Russia in 1920-1921. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania also declare independence. Occupied by the Soviet Union from 1940 to 1991.
Austria-Hungary Bohemia, Moravia, and sections of Silesia, Galicia, and Hungary declare their independence as Czechoslovakia. Recognized in the Treaty of Trianon in 1920. Slovakia independent from 1939 to 1945. Carpathian Ruthenia independent in 1939, eventually annexed to Ukraine. Secession of Slovakia in 1993.
Croatia-Slavonia and Dalmatia declare their independence as the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs and swiftly unites with Serbia as the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes which later became Yugoslavia.
1919 United Kingdom End of the protectorate over Afghanistan, when the United Kingdom accepts the presence of a Soviet ambassador in Kabul.
1921 China Communist Mongolian revolutionaries, with the help of the Red Army, expel the Chinese government presence from Outer Mongolia, and Mongolia passes into the heavy influence of the Soviet Union. Mongolia was recognized by the United Nations in 1961.
1922 United Kingdom In Ireland, following insurgency by the Irish Republican Army, most of Ireland separates from the United Kingdom as the Irish Free State, remaining as a dominion. Northern Ireland, the north-east area of the island, remains within the United Kingdom.
Egypt is unilaterally granted independence by the United Kingdom. However, four matters (imperial communications, defence, the protection of foreign interests and minorities, as well as Sudan) remain "absolutely reserved to the discretion" of the British government, which greatly restricts the full exercise of Egyptian sovereignty.
1923 United Kingdom End of the de facto protectorate over Nepal which was never truly colonized.
1930 United Kingdom The United Kingdom returns the leased port territory at Weihaiwei to China, the first episode of decolonisation in East Asia.
1931 United Kingdom The Statute of Westminster grants virtually full independence to Canada, the Irish Free State, and the Union of South Africa when it declares the British parliament incapable of passing law over these former colonies without their own consent. Doesn't take effect over New Zealand, Newfoundland, and the Commonwealth of Australia, until independently ratified by these dominions.
1932 United Kingdom Ends League of Nations Mandate over Iraq. The United Kingdom continues to station troops in the country and influence the Iraqi government until 1958.
1934 United States 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 Cuba.
1941 France Lebanon declares independence, effectively ending the French mandate (previously together with Syria) - it is recognized in 1943.
1941 Italy Ethiopia, Eritrea and Tigray Province (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 1948.
1942 United Kingdom Australia ratifies the Statute of Westminster.
1944 Denmark Following a plebiscite, Iceland formally becomes an independent republic on June 17, 1944.
1945 Japan After surrender of Japan, Korea is occupied by the Soviet Union and the United States.
After surrender of Japan, Mengjiang and Manchukuo are returned to China. Taiwan is put under the post-war occupation of China in accordance with the arrangement in General Order No. 1, but China has never officially grained sovereignty of Taiwan.
France Vietnam declares independence, but France does not recognize it until 1954.
Netherlands Indonesia declares independence, which the Netherlands does not recognize until December 1949.

Cold War[edit | edit source]

Year Colonizer Event
1946 United States The treaty of Manila is signed, effectively ending over 380 years of foreign domination in the Philippines. United States military bases continued to be stationed in the islands.
United Kingdom The former emirate of Transjordan (present-day Jordan) becomes an independent Hashemite kingdom when the United Kingdom relinquishes UN trusteeship.
France The former Mandate of Syria becomes an independent Republic.
1947 United Kingdom New Zealand ratifies the Statute of Westminster.
United Kingdom The British government leaves British India, which is partitioned into the secular state of Republic of India and the Muslim state of Pakistan (the eastern half of which will later become independent as Bangladesh).
1948 United Kingdom In 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 de facto part of the Arab states of Egypt (Gaza strip) and Transjordan (West Bank).
United States Republic of Korea is established in the southern part of the Korean peninsula.
Soviet Union Democratic People's Republic of Korea is established in the northern part of the peninsula.
1949 United Kingdom The Dominion of Newfoundland joins Canada.
End of the de facto protectorate over Bhutan.
France Laos becomes independent.
Netherlands The Netherlands recognises the sovereignty of Indonesia following an armed and diplomatic struggle since 1945.
1951 Italy, United Kingdom The Mandate of Eritrea is given by the British to Ethiopia.
Italy, France, United Kingdom Libya becomes an independent kingdom.
1952 United States According to the United States, Puerto Rico becomes a self-governing Commonwealth associated to the U.S. through the creation of the 1952 Constitution for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, which stands as a bilateral pact between two nations. This issue has been under review by the United Nations Special Committee, who continue to urge the United States to expedite self-determination processes for the island.[citation needed]
1953 France France recognizes Cambodia's independence.
1954 France Vietnam's independence recognized, though the nation is partitioned. The Puducherry enclave is incorporated into India. Beginning of the Algerian War of Independence
United Kingdom The United Kingdom withdraws from the last part of Egypt it controls: the Suez Canal zone.
1955 United States The Bell Trade Act is repealed, providing a more independent market for the Philippines. The Laurel–Langley Agreement is signed to take its place.
1956 United Kingdom Anglo-Egyptian Sudan becomes independent.
France Tunisia and the sherifian kingdom of Morocco in the Maghreb achieve independence.
Spain Spain-controlled areas in Morocco become independent.
1957 United Kingdom Ghana becomes independent, initiating the decolonisation of sub-Saharan Africa.
The Federation of Malaya became independent.[40]
1958 France Guinea on the coast of West Africa is granted independence.
United States Signing of the Alaska Statehood Act by Dwight D. Eisenhower, granting Alaska the possibility of the equal rights of statehood
United Kingdom UN trustee, the United Kingdom, withdraws from Iraq, which becomes an independent Hashemite Kingdom (like Jordan, but soon to become a republic through the first of several coups d'état).
1959 United States Hawaii becomes the fiftieth state in the United States.
1960 United Kingdom Nigeria, British Somaliland (present-day northwestern Somalia), and most of Cyprus become independent, though the UK retains sovereign control over Akrotiri and Dhekelia. As the State of Somaliland, the former British Somaliland protectorate merges as scheduled five days later with the newly independent Trust Territory of Somaliland (the former Italian Somaliland) to form the Somali Republic (Somalia).
France Benin (then Dahomey), Upper Volta (present-day Burkina Faso), Cameroon, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Gabon, the Mali Federation (split the same year into present-day Mali and Senegal), Mauritania, Niger, Togo and the Central African Republic (the Oubangui Chari) and Madagascar all become independent.
Belgium The Belgian Congo (also known as Congo-Kinshasa, later renamed Zaire and presently the Democratic Republic of the Congo), becomes independent.
1961 United Kingdom Tanganyika (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 itself a republic.
Portugal The former coastal enclave colonies of Goa, Daman and Diu are taken over by India.
1962 United Kingdom Uganda in Africa, and Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean, achieve independence.
France End of Algerian War, Algeria becomes independent.
Belgium Rwanda and Burundi (then Urundi) attain independence through the ending of the Belgian trusteeship.
New Zealand The South Sea UN trusteeship over the Polynesian kingdom of Western Samoa (formerly German Samoa and nowadays called just Samoa) is relinquished.
1963 United Kingdom Kenya becomes independent.
Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah (North Borneo) formed Malaysia with the independent Federation of Malaya.[41] Singapore became independent of Malaysia two years later.[42]
Netherlands Netherlands New Guinea occupied by Indonesia.
1964 United Kingdom Northern Rhodesia declares independence as Zambia and Malawi, formerly Nyasaland does the same. The Mediterranean island of Malta becomes independent.
1965 Southern Rhodesia (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 ended.
1966 In the Caribbean, Barbados and Guyana; and in Africa, Botswana (then Bechuanaland) and Lesotho become independent.
1967 On the Arabian peninsula, Aden colony becomes independent as South Yemen, to be united with formerly Ottoman North Yemen in 1990–1991.
1968 Mauritius and Swaziland achieve independence.
Portugal After nine years of organized guerrilla resistance, most of Guinea-Bissau comes under native control.
Spain Equatorial Guinea (then Rio Muni) achieves independence.
Australia Relinquishes UN trusteeship (nominally shared by the United Kingdom and New Zealand) of Nauru in the South Sea.
1971 United Kingdom Fiji and Tonga are given independence
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.
Pakistan Bangladesh achieves independence from Pakistan with the military help of India.
1973 United Kingdom The Bahamas are granted independence.
Portugal Guerrillas unilaterally declare independence in the Southeastern regions of Guinea-Bissau.
1974 United Kingdom Grenada in the Caribbean becomes independent.
Portugal Guinea-Bissau on the coast of West-Africa is recognized as independent by Portugal.
United States The Laurel–Langley Agreement is repealed by Ferdinand Marcos.
1975 France The Comoros archipelago in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa is granted independence.
Portugal 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.
Netherlands Suriname (then Dutch Guiana) achieves independence.
Australia Released from trusteeship, Papua New Guinea gains independence.
1976 United Kingdom Seychelles archipelago in the Indian Ocean off the African coast becomes independent (one year after granting of self-rule).
Spain The Spanish colonial rule de facto terminated over the Western 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.
1977 France French Somaliland, also known as the "French Territory of the Afars and the Issas" (after its dominant ethnic groups), the present Djibouti, gains independence.
1978 United Kingdom Dominica in the Caribbean and the Solomon Islands, as well as Tuvalu (then the Ellice Islands), all in the South Sea, become independent.
1979 United States Returns the Panama Canal Zone (held under a regime sui generis since 1903) to the republic of Panama.
United Kingdom The Gilbert Islands (present-day Kiribati) in the South Sea as well as Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Saint Lucia in the Caribbean become independent.
1980 Zimbabwe (then [Southern] Rhodesia), already independent de facto, becomes formally independent. The joint Anglo-French colony of the New Hebrides becomes the independent island republic of Vanuatu.
1981 Belize (then British Honduras) and Antigua & Barbuda become independent.
1982 Canada gains full independence from the British parliament with the Canada Act.
1983 Saint Kitts and Nevis (an associated state since 1963) becomes independent.
1984 Brunei sultanate on Borneo achieves independence.
1986 Australia and New Zealand become fully independent with the Australia Act 1986 and The New Zealand Constitution Act 1986.
1990 South Africa Namibia becomes independent from South Africa.
United States 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.
1991 Soviet Union Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Turkmenistan become independent from the Soviet Union.

Post–Cold War era[edit | edit source]

Year Colonizer Event
1993 Ethiopia Eritrea, a former Italian colony declares independence and is subsequently recognized.
1994 United States Palau (after a transitional period as a Republic since 1981, and before part of the U.S. Trust territory of the Pacific) becomes independent from its former trustee, having been a mandate of the Japanese Empire before UN trusteeship.
1997 United Kingdom The British dependent territory of Hong Kong is given to People's Republic of China.
1999 Portugal Macau is given to People's Republic of China. It is the last in a series of coastal enclaves that militarily stronger powers had obtained through treaties from the Ming and Qing Empire which ruled China. Macau, like Hong Kong, is not organized into the existing provincial structure applied to other provinces of the People's Republic of China, but is guaranteed an autonomous system of government within the People's Republic of China as a "Special Administrative Region" or S.A.R.
2002 Indonesia East Timor formally achieves independence after a transitional UN administration, three years after Indonesia ended its quarter-century occupation of the former Portuguese colony.
2006 Serbia and Montenegro Montenegro
2011 Sudan South Sudan formally achieves independence.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Hack, Karl (2008). International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA. pp. 255–257. ISBN 978-0-02-865965-7. 
  2. Adopted by General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) (14 December 1960). "Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples". The United Nations and Decolonization. https://www.un.org/en/decolonization/declaration.shtml. 
  3. "Reader 3". 2004. p. 3. http://www.learner.org/courses/worldhistory/support/reading_26_3.pdf. 
  4. David Strang, "Global patterns of decolonization, 1500-1987." International Studies Quarterly (1991): 429-454. online
  5. Robert R. Palmer, The age of the Democratic Revolution: a political history of Europe and America, 1760-1800 (1965)
  6. Richard B. Morris, The emerging nations and the American Revolution (1970).
  7. Nicole Bousquet, "The Decolonization of Spanish America in the Early Nineteenth Century: A World-Systems Approach." Review (Fernand Braudel Center) (1988): 497-531. in JSTOR
  8. Luke, Harry (1969). "Cyprus under the Turks, 1571-1878.". 
  9. Sant Cassia, Paul (1986). "Religion, politics and ethnicity in Cyprus during the Turkocratia(1571-1878)."". 
  10. Koumoulides, John (1974). "Cyprus and the war of Greek Independence, 1821-1829.". 
  11. Dictionary of Human Geography, Colonialism. Oxford: Blackwell reference. 1981. pp. 95–96. 
  12. Said, Edward (1978). Orientalism. United States: Vintage books. pp. 358–364. 
  13. Howe, Stephen (2002). Empire: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford UP. ISBN 0-19-280223-2. 
  14. The Treaty of Berlin, 1878 - Excerpts on the Balkans. Berlin: Fordham University. July 13, 1878. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1878berlin.html. Retrieved 2008-08-31. 
  15. Patterson, Michelle (August 1996). "The Road to Romanian Independence". Archived from the original on 2008-03-24. https://archive.is/20080324063246/http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3686/is_199608/ai_n8755098. Retrieved 2008-08-31. 
  16. "The Serbian Revolution and the Serbian State". msu.edu. http://staff.lib.msu.edu/sowards/balkan/lecture5.html. Retrieved 2016-02-25. 
  17. Boyd, M. L. (1991). "The evolution of agrarian institutions: The case of medieval and Ottoman Serbia". p. 36. Digital object identifier:10.1016/0014-4983(91)90023-C. 
  18. J.H.W. Verzijl. 1969. International Law in Historical Perspective, Volume II. Leyden: A.W. Sijthoff. Pp. 76-68.
  19. 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.
  20. Abud, Francis (29 May 2015). "Diviser pour mieux régner. L’Empire Mexicain et l’intervention française au Mexique de 1861." (in French). The Huffington Post. Quebec. http://monde68.brebeuf.qc.ca/2015/05/29/diviser-pour-mieux-regner-lempire-mexicain-et-lintervention-francaise-au-mexique-de-1861/. 
  21. Wong, Kwok Chu (1982). "The Jones Bills 1912–16: A Reappraisal of Filipino Views on Independence". pp. 252–269. Digital object identifier:10.1017/S0022463400008687. 
  22. Levinson, Sanford; Sparrow, Bartholomew H. (2005). The Louisiana Purchase and American Expansion: 1803–1898. New York: Rowman and Littlefield. pp. 166, 178. ISBN 0-7425-4983-6. "U.S. citizenship was extended to residents of Puerto Rico by virtue of the Jones Act, chap. 190, 39 Stat. 951 (1971) (codified at 48 U.S.C. § 731 (1987))" 
  23. Act of July 3, 1950, Ch. 446, 64 Stat. 319.
  24. General Assembly Resolution 748 Archived 2012-09-25 at the Wayback Machine. (27 November 1953), "Cessation of transmission of the information under article 73 e of the Charter in respect of Puerto Rico".
  25. GA Resolution 1541 Archived 2011-05-14 at the Wayback Machine. (15 December 1960), "Principles which should guide Members in determining whether or not an obligation exists to transmit the information called for in article 73 e of the Charter. (See ANNEX).
  26. Keith Bea (May 25, 2005). "Political Status of Puerto Rico: Background, Options, and Issues in the 109th Congress" (PDF). Congressional Research Service. https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL32933.pdf. Retrieved 2007-10-01. 
  27. "Special committee on decolonization approves text calling on United States to expedite Puerto Rican self-determination process". Department of Public Information, United Nations General Assembly. June 13, 2006. https://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2006/gacol3138.doc.htm. Retrieved 2007-10-01. 
  28. Puerto Rico: Commonwealth, Statehood, or Independence? Constitutional Rights Foundation. Bill of Rights in Action: Law of Empires. Volume 17, Issue 4. Fall 2001. Retrieved December 3, 2009. Archived June 10, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  29. Julius, Deanne. "US Economic Power: Waxing or Waning?" Energy Vol. 26 (4). Winter 2005. Op cit. Harvard International Review. Accessed 7 August 2010.
  30. "Remember role in ending fascist war". chinadaily.com.cn. http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2005-08/15/content_468908.htm. Retrieved 2016-02-25. 
  31. Király, Béla K., and Paul Jónás. The Hungarian revolution of 1956 in retrospect. Vol. 6. Columbia University Press, 1978.
  32. Milan Svec, "The Prague spring: 20 years later." Foreign Affairs 66.5 (1988): 981-1001. in JSTOR
  33. David Parker, ed. (2002). Revolutions and the Revolutionary Tradition: In the West 1560-1991. Routledge. pp. 202–3. https://books.google.com/books?id=cMGEAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA203. 
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  37. https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/
  38. Jacques Foccart, counsellor to Charles de Gaulle, Georges Pompidou and Jacques Chirac for African matters, recognized it in 1995 to Jeune Afrique review. See also Foccart parle, interviews with Philippe Gaillard, Fayard - Jeune Afrique (French) 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 1997
  39. Spain proffered a treaty of recognition in 1857, but it was rejected by the Argentine legislature.
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Further reading[edit | edit source]

  • Betts, Raymond F. Decolonization (2nd ed. 2004)
  • Betts, Raymond F. France and Decolonisation, 1900-1960 (1991)
  • Butler, Larry, and Sarah Stockwell, eds. The Wind of Change: Harold Macmillan and British Decolonization (2013) excerpt
  • Chafer, Tony. The end of empire in French West Africa: France's successful decolonization (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2002).
  • Chamberlain, Muriel E. ed. Longman Companion to European Decolonisation in the Twentieth Century (Routledge, 2014)
  • Clayton, Anthony. The wars of French decolonization (Routledge, 2014).
  • Cooper, Frederick. "French Africa, 1947–48: Reform, Violence, and Uncertainty in a Colonial Situation." Critical Inquiry (2014) 40#4 pp: 466-478. in JSTOR
  • Grimal, Henri. Decolonization: The British, Dutch, and Belgian Empires, 1919-1963 (1978).
  • Hyam, Ronald. Britain's Declining Empire: The Road to Decolonisation, 1918-1968 (2007) excerpt
  • Ikeda, Ryo. The Imperialism of French Decolonisation: French Policy and the Anglo-American Response in Tunisia and Morocco (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015)
  • Jansen, Jan C. & Jürgen Osterhammel. Decolonization: A Short History (princeton UP, 2017). online
  • Jones, Max, et al. "Decolonising imperial heroes: Britain and France." Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 42#5 (2014): 787-825.
  • Lawrence, Adria K. Imperial Rule and the Politics of Nationalism: Anti-Colonial Protest in the French Empire (Cambridge UP, 2013) online reviews
  • McDougall, James. "The Impossible Republic: The Reconquest of Algeria and the Decolonization of France, 1945–1962," The Journal of Modern History 89#4 (December 2017) pp 772–811 excerpt
  • MacQueen, Norrie. The Decolonization of Portuguese Africa: Metropolitan Revolution and the Dissolution of Empire (1997)
  • Rothermund, Dietmar. The Routledge companion to decolonization (Routledge, 2006), comprehensive global coverage; 365pp
  • Rothermund, Dietmar. Memories of Post-Imperial Nations: The Aftermath of Decolonization, 1945-2013 (2015) excerpt; Compares the impact on Great Britain, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Portugal, Italy and Japan
  • Shepard, Todd. The Invention of Decolonization: The Algerian War and the Remaking of France (2006)
  • Simpson, Alfred William Brian. Human Rights and the End of Empire: Britain and the Genesis of the European Convention (Oxford University Press, 2004).
  • Smith, Simon C. Ending empire in the Middle East: Britain, the United States and post-war decolonization, 1945-1973 (Routledge, 2013)
  • Smith, Tony. "A comparative study of French and British decolonization." Comparative Studies in Society and History (1978) 20#1 pp: 70-102. online
  • Smith, Tony. "The French Colonial Consensus and People's War, 1946-58." Journal of Contemporary History (1974): 217-247. in JSTOR
  • Thomas, Martin, Bob Moore, and Lawrence J. Butler. Crises of Empire: Decolonization and Europe's imperial states (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015)
  • White, Nicholas. Decolonisation: the British experience since 1945 (2nd ed. Routledge, 2014) excerpt online

Primary sources[edit | edit source]

  • Le Sueur, James D. ed. The Decolonization Reader (Routledge, 2003)

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