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Decolonization (American English) or Decolonisation (British English) is the undoing of colonialism, the latter being the process whereby a nation establishes and maintains its domination on overseas territories. The concept particularly applies to the dismantlement, during the second half of the 20th century, of the colonial empires established prior to World War I throughout the world. [1] Scholars focus especially on the movements in the colonies demanding independence, such as Creole nationalism. [2]

American and British English spelling differences Comparison between US and UK English spelling

Many of the differences between American and British English date back to a time when spelling standards had not yet developed. For instance, some spellings seen as "American" today were once commonly used in Britain and some spellings seen as "British" were once commonly used in the United States. A "British standard" began to emerge following the 1755 publication of Samuel Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language, and an "American standard" started following the work of Noah Webster and in particular his An American Dictionary of the English Language, first published in 1828.

Colonialism Creation, and maintenance of colonies by people from another territory

Colonialism is the policy of a nation seeking to extend or retain its authority over other people or territories, generally with the aim of economic dominance. The colonising country seeks to benefit from the colonised country or land mass. In the process, colonisers imposed their religion, economics, and medicinal practices on the natives. Colonialism is largely regarded as a relationship of domination of an indigenous majority by a minority of foreign invaders where the latter rule in pursuit of its interests.

20th century Century

The 20th (twentieth) century was a century that began on January 1, 1901 and ended on December 31, 2000. It was the tenth and final century of the 2nd millennium. It is distinct from the century known as the 1900s which began on January 1, 1900 and ended on December 31, 1999.


The United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization has stated that in the process of decolonization there is no alternative to the colonizer but to allow a process of self-determination, [3] 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) at the end of the Cold War in 1991. [4]

The right of a people to self-determination is a cardinal principle in modern international law, binding, as such, on the United Nations as authoritative interpretation of the Charter's norms. It states that people, based on respect for the principle of equal rights and fair equality of opportunity, have the right to freely choose their sovereignty and international political status with no interference.

Nonviolent revolution

A nonviolent revolution is a revolution using mostly campaigns with civil resistance, including various forms of nonviolent protest, to bring about the departure of governments seen as entrenched and authoritarian. While many campaigns of civil resistance are intended for much more limited goals than revolution, generally a nonviolent revolution is characterized by simultaneous advocacy of democracy, human rights, and national independence in the country concerned. In some cases a campaign of civil resistance with a revolutionary purpose may be able to bring about the defeat of a dictatorial regime only if it obtains a degree of support from the armed forces, or at least their benevolent neutrality.

United Nations Intergovernmental organization

The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization tasked with maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations, achieving international co-operation, and being a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations. It was established after World War II, with the aim of preventing future wars, and succeeded the ineffective League of Nations. Its headquarters, which are subject to extraterritoriality, are in Manhattan, New York City, and it has other main offices in Geneva, Nairobi, Vienna and The Hague. The organization is financed by assessed and voluntary contributions from its member states. Its objectives include maintaining international peace and security, protecting human rights, delivering humanitarian aid, promoting sustainable development, and upholding international law. The UN is the largest, most familiar, most internationally represented and most powerful intergovernmental organization in the world. At its founding, the UN had 51 member states; there are now 193.

Decolonization has been used to refer to the intellectual decolonization from the colonizers' ideas that made the colonized feel inferior. [5] [6] [7]

Methods and stages

Decolonization is a political process. In extreme circumstances, there is a war of independence. 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 ]

War of independence conflict occurring over a territory that has declared independence

A war of independence or independence war is a conflict occurring over a territory that has declared independence. Once the state that previously held the territory sends in military forces to assert its sovereignty or the native population clashes with the former occupier, a separatist rebellion has begun. If a new state is successfully established, the conflict is usually known as a 'War of Independence'.

Nonviolence philosophy, personal or collective attitude, refusing to legitimate violence and promoting the respect of others in conflicts

Nonviolence is the personal practice of being harmless to self and others under every condition. It comes from the belief that hurting people, animals or the environment is unnecessary to achieve an outcome and refers to a general philosophy of abstention from violence. This may be based on moral, religious or spiritual principles, or it may be for purely strategic or pragmatic reasons.

Indian independence movement Indian struggle for freedom from British

The Indian Independence movement was a series of activities whose ultimate aim was to end the British rule in India. The movement spanned a total of 90 years (1857–1947).

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.

Sphere of influence area where a state has a level of political, military, economic or cultural influence

In the field of international relations, a sphere of influence (SOI) is a spatial region or concept division over which a state or organization has a level of cultural, economic, military, or political exclusivity, accommodating to the interests of powers outside the borders of the state that controls it.

Haitian Revolution Slave revolt in the French colony of Saint-Domingue

The Haitian Revolution was a successful anti-slavery and anti-colonial insurrection by self-liberated slaves against French colonial rule in Saint-Domingue, now the sovereign nation of Haiti. It began on 22 August 1791, and ended in 1804 with the former colony's independence. It involved blacks, mulattoes, French, Spanish, and British participants—with the ex-slave Toussaint L'Ouverture emerging as Haiti's most charismatic hero. It was the only slave uprising that led to the founding of a state which was both free from slavery, and ruled by non-whites and former captives. It is now widely seen as a defining moment in the history of racism in the Atlantic World.

Monroe Doctrine US foreign policy regarding Latin American countries in 1823

The Monroe Doctrine was a United States policy of opposing European colonialism in the Americas beginning in 1823. It stated that further efforts by European nations to take control of any independent state in North or South America would be viewed as "the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States." At the same time, the doctrine noted that the U.S. would recognize and not interfere with existing European colonies nor meddle in the internal concerns of European countries. The Doctrine was issued on December 2, 1823 at a time when nearly all Latin American colonies of Spain and Portugal had achieved, or were at the point of gaining, independence from the Portuguese and Spanish Empires.

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 the mandates 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.

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as, "the war to end all wars," it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the resulting 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

League of Nations 20th-century intergovernmental organisation, predecessor to the United Nations

The League of Nations, abbreviated as LN or LoN, was an intergovernmental organisation founded on 10 January 1920 as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first worldwide intergovernmental organisation whose principal mission was to maintain world peace. Its primary goals, as stated in its Covenant, included preventing wars through collective security and disarmament and settling international disputes through negotiation and arbitration. Other issues in this and related treaties included labour conditions, just treatment of native inhabitants, human and drug trafficking, the arms trade, global health, prisoners of war, and protection of minorities in Europe. At its greatest extent from 28 September 1934 to 23 February 1935, it had 58 members.

German Empire empire in Central Europe between 1871–1918

The German Empire, also known as Imperial Germany, was the German nation state that existed from the unification of Germany in 1871 until the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1918.

Comorians protest against Mayotte referendum on becoming an overseas department of France, 2009 Gungu la mcezo contre la France a Mayotte.jpg
Comorians protest against Mayotte referendum on becoming an overseas department of France, 2009

In referendums, some dependent territories have chosen to retain their dependent status, such as Gibraltar and French Guiana. There are even examples, such as the Falklands War, in which a geopolitical power goes to war to defend the right of a dependent territory to continue to be such. Colonial powers have sometimes promoted decolonization in order to shed the financial, military and other burdens that tend to grow in those colonies where the colonial governments have become more benign.

Decolonization is rarely achieved through a single historical act, but rather progresses through one or more stages of decolonization, each of which can be offered or fought for: these can include the introduction of elected representatives (advisory or voting; minority or majority or even exclusive), degrees of autonomy or self-rule. Thus, the final phase of decolonization may, in fact, concern little more than handing over responsibility for foreign relations and security, and soliciting de jure recognition for the new sovereignty. But, even following the recognition of statehood, a degree of continuity can be maintained through bilateral treaties between now equal governments involving practicalities such as military training, mutual protection pacts, or even a garrison and/or military bases.


Beginning with the emergence of the United States in the 1770s, decolonization took place in the context of Atlantic history, against the background of the American and French revolutions. Decolonization became a popular movement in many colonies in the 20th century, and a reality after 1945. [8]

The historian William Hardy McNeill, in his famous 1963 book The Rise of the West , appears to have interpreted the post-1945 decline of European empires as paradoxically being due to Westernization itself, writing that

Although European empires have decayed since 1945, and the separate nation-states of Europe have been eclipsed as centres of political power by the melding of peoples and nations occurring under the aegis of both the American and Russian governments, it remains true that, since the end of World War II, the scramble to imitate and appropriate science, technology, and other aspects of Western culture has accelerated enormously all round the world. Thus the dethronement of western Europe from its brief mastery of the globe coincided with (and was caused by) an unprecedented, rapid Westernization of all the peoples of the earth. [9] :566

In the same book, McNeill wrote that "The rise of the West, as intended by the title and meaning of this book, is only accelerated when one or another Asian or African people throws off European administration by making Western techniques, attitudes, and ideas sufficiently their own to permit them to do so". [9] :807

American Revolution

Great Britain's Thirteen North American colonies were the first to break from the British Empire in 1776, and were recognized as an independent nation by France in 1778 and Britain in 1783. The United States of America was the first set of European established colonies to achieve independence and establish itself as a nation, and was the first independent settler state in the Americas. [10] [11]

Haitian Revolution

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.

Spanish America

The Chilean Declaration of Independence on 18 February 1818 JuraIndependencia.jpg
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. [12]

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 began with a revolt in La Paz, Bolivia. In 1807 and 1808, the Vice royalty of the River Plate was invaded by the British. After their 2nd defeat, a Frenchman called Santiague de Liniers was proclaimed new 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 two cities was the main reason for the distrust between them. During the next 15 years, the Spanish and Royalist on one side, and the rebels on the other 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 US, but Cuba became independent in 1902.

Ottoman Empire


Cyprus was invaded and taken over by the Ottoman Empire in 1570. It was later relinquished by the Ottomans in 1878. [13] 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 fuelling the revolts and desire for independence. [14] 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. [15] 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. [16] 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. [17]

Russian and Bulgarian defence of Shipka Pass against Turkish troops was crucial for the independence of Bulgaria. The defeat of Shipka Peak, Bulgarian War of Independence.JPG
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. [18] This may have caused the fall of the Ottoman Empire.


In the wake of the 1798 French Invasion of Egypt and its subsequent expulsion in 1801, the commander of an Albanian regiment, Muhammad Ali, was able to gain control of Egypt. Although he was acknowledged by the Sultan in Constantinople in 1805 as his pasha , Muhammad Ali, and eventually his successors, were de facto monarchs of a largely independent state managing its own foreign relations. However, despite this de facto independence, Egypt did remain nominally a vassal state of the Ottoman Empire obliged to pay a hefty annual tribute to the Sultan. Throughout the 'long 19th century', Muhammad Ali would send scores of Azhar scholars to France and other European countries to be educated in the empirical sciences (due to the heavy inferiority complex ingrained from French defeat); however, such scholars would unwittingly participate in their country's intellectual colonization throughout this century and establish the national public educational system on Secular Humanist (Enlightenment) philosophy and principles and Western culture in general to this day. [6] 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.


Greek War of Independence Marsigli Filippo - The Death of Markos Botsaris - Google Art Project.jpg
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.


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.


Romanian War of Independence Battle at river Skit 1877.jpg
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. [19] [20]


Centuries [21] [22] of armed and unarmed struggle ended with the recognition of Serbian independence from the Ottoman Empire at the Congress of Berlin in 1878.


The independence of the Principality of Montenegro from the Ottoman Empire was recognized at the congress of Berlin in 1878. However, the Montenegrin nation has been de facto independent since 1711 (officially accepted by the Tsardom of Russia by the order of Tsar Petr I Alexeyevich-Romanov. In the period 1795–1798, 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, through 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.

British Empire

A mural in Belfast depicting the Easter Rising of 1916 Easter 1916.jpg
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. [23]

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 Balfour Declaration of 1926 declared the British Empire dominions as equals, and the 1931 Statute of Westminster established full legislative independence for them. The equal dominions were six– Canada, Newfoundland, Australia, the Irish Free State, New Zealand, and the Union of South Africa. However, some of the Dominions were already independent de facto, and even de jure and recognized as such by the international community. Thus, Canada was a founding member of the League of Nations in 1919 and served on the Council from 1927 to 1930. [24] That country also negotiated on its own and signed bilateral and multilateral treaties and conventions from the early 1900s onward. Newfoundland ceded self-rule back to London 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 British rule. By becoming a symbol of both peace and opposition to British imperialism, many Indians 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. [25]

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 modernizing 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.

Independence for the colonies in Africa began with the independence of Sudan in 1956, and Ghana in 1957. All of the British 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.

Some of the British 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.

Violence, civil warfare and partition

Significant violence was involved in several prominent cases of decolonization of the British Empire; partition was a frequent solution. In 1783, the North American colonies were divided between the independent United States, and British North America, which later became Canada.

The Indian Rebellion of 1857 was a revolt of a portion of the Indian Army. It was characterized by massacres of civilians on both sides. It was not a movement for independence, however, and only a small part of India was involved. In the aftermath, the British pulled back from modernizing reforms of Indian society, and the level of organised violence under the British Raj was relatively small. Most of that was initiated by repressive British administrators, as in the Amritsar massacre of 1919, or the police assaults on the Salt March of 1930. [26] Large-scale communicable violence broke out after the British left in 1947, turning India over to the new nations of India and Pakistan. [27]

The independence movement in Ireland and the 19th and early 20th century was marked by occasional outbursts of violence, culminating in the small-scale Easter Rising of 1916 and the much larger Irish War of Independence of 1919 to 1921. It was resolved when London gave independence to the Catholic regions of southern Ireland, and kept control of Protestant Northern Ireland. [28]

Cyprus, which came under full British control in 1914 from the Ottoman Empire, was culturally divided between the majority Greek element (which demanded "enosis" or union with Greece) and the minority Turks. London for decades assumed it needed the island to defend the Suez Canal; but after the Suez crisis of 1956, that became a minor factor, and Greek violence became a more serious issue. Cyprus became an independent country in 1960, but ethnic violence escalated until 1974, when Turkey invaded and partitioned the island. Each side rewrote its own history, blaming the other. [29]

Palestine became a British mandate from the League of Nations, and during the war the British gained support from both sides by making promises both to the Arabs and the Jews. See Balfour Declaration. Decades of enthno—religious violence resulted. The British pulled out, and the mandate was effectively partitioned. [30]

French Empire

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.

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 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.

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 "decolonisation 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.

After 1918

Western European colonial powers

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

A union of former colonies itself, the United States approached imperialism differently from the other Powers. Much of its energy and rapidly expanding population was directed westward across the North American continent against English and French claims, the Spanish Empire and Mexico. The Native Americans were sent to reservations, often unwillingly. With support from Britain, its Monroe Doctrine reserved the Americas as its sphere of interest, prohibiting other states (particularly Spain) from recolonizing the newly independent polities of Latin America. However, France, taking advantage of the American government's distraction during the Civil War, intervened militarily in Mexico and set up a French-protected monarchy. Spain took the step to occupy the Dominican Republic and restore colonial rule. The Union victory in the Civil War in 1865 forced both France and Spain to accede to American demands to evacuate those two countries. America's only African colony, Liberia, was formed privately and achieved independence early; Washington unofficially protected it. By 1900 the US advocated an Open Door Policy and opposed the direct division of China. [31]

Manuel L. Quezon, the first president of the Commonwealth of the Philippines (from 1935 to 1944) Manuel L. Quezon (November 1942).jpg
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 TTPI-locatormap.png
Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands in Micronesia administered by the United States from 1947 to 1986

After 1898 direct intervention expanded in Latin America. In 1867 the United States purchased Russian America from the tsar and annexed Hawaii in 1898. It added most of Spain's remaining colonies in 1898-99. Deciding not to annex Cuba outright, 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. [32] In 1917, the US purchased the Danish West Indies (later renamed the US Virgin Islands) from Denmark and Puerto Ricans became full U.S. citizens that same year. [33] The US government declared Puerto Rico the territory was no longer a colony and stopped transmitting information about it 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. Four referenda showed little support for independence, but much interest in statehood such as Hawaii and Alaska received in 1959. [34]

The Monroe Doctrine was expanded by 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."

After 1947, the U.S. poured tens of billions of dollars into the Marshall Plan, and other grants and loans to Europe and Asia to rebuild the world economy. Washington pushed hard to accelerate decolonization 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.


U.S. troops in Korea, September 1945 US Army in Korea under Japanese Rule.JPG
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 the Imperial Universities in Korea (Keijō Imperial University) and Taiwan (Taihoku Imperial 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. [35]

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.

Central Europe

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.

After 1945

Planning for decolonization

U.S. and Philippines

In the United States, the two major parties were divided on the acquisition of the Philippines, which became a major campaign issue in 1900. The Republicans, who favoured permanent acquisition, won the election, but after a decade or so, Republicans turned their attention to the Caribbean, focusing on building the Panama Canal. President Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat in office from 1913 to 1921, ignored the Philippines, and focused his attention on Mexico and Caribbean nations. By the 1920s, the peaceful efforts by the Filipino leadership to pursue independence proved convincing. When the Democrats returned to power in 1933, they worked with the Filipinos to plan a smooth transition to independence. It was scheduled for 1946 by Tydings–McDuffie Act of 1934. In 1935, the Philippines transitioned out of territorial status, controlled by an appointed governor, to the semi-independent status of the Commonwealth of the Philippines. Its constitutional convention wrote a new constitution, which was approved by Washington and went into effect, with an elected governor Manuel L. Quezon and legislature. Foreign Affairs remained under American control. The Philippines built up a new army, under general Douglas MacArthur, who took leave from his U.S. Army position to take command of the new army reporting to Quezon. The Japanese occupation 1942 to 1945 disrupted but did not delay the transition. It took place on schedule in 1946 as Manuel Roxas took office as president. [36]


Although a small, poor country, Portugal had the oldest (it started, in 1415, with the conquer of Ceuta) and one of the largest colonial empires, due to the Portuguese discoveries. Portugal was an authoritarian state (ruled by António de Oliveira Salazar), with no taste for democracy at home or in its colonies. There was a fierce determination to maintain possession at all costs, and aggressively defeat any insurgencies. However, Portugal was helpless when India seized Goa in 1961. In 1961, nationalist forces began organizing in Portugal, and the revolts (and, then, war - Portuguese Colonial War) spread to Angola, Guinea Bissau and Mozambique. [37] Lisbon escalated its effort in the war: for instance, it increased the number of natives in the colonial army and built strategic hamlets. Portugal sent another 300,000 European settlers into Angola and Mozambique until 1974. In 1974, left-wing revolution (Carnation Revolution) inside Portugal destroyed the old system and encouraged pro-Soviet elements to attempt to seize control in the colonies. The result was a very long and extremely difficult multi-party Civil War in Angola, and lesser insurrections in Mozambique. [38]


Belgium is a small, rich European country that had an empire forced upon it by international demand in 1908 in response to the malfeasance of its King Leopold in greatly mistreating the Congo. It added Rwanda and Burundi as League of Nations mandates from the former German Empire in 1919. The colonies remained independent during the war, while Belgium itself was cruelly occupied by the Germans. There was no serious planning for independence, and exceedingly little training or education provided. The Belgian Congo was especially rich, and many Belgian businessmen lobbied hard to maintain control. Local revolts grew in power and finally, the Belgian king suddenly announced in 1959 that independence was on the agenda – and it was hurriedly arranged in 1960, for country bitterly and deeply divided on social and economic grounds. [39]

The Netherlands

The Netherlands, a small rich country in Western Europe, had spent centuries building up its empire. By 1940 it consisted mostly of the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). Its massive oil reserves provided about 14 percent of the Dutch national product and supported a large population of ethnic Dutch government officials and businessmen in Jakarta and other major cities. The Netherlands was overrun and almost starved to death by the Nazis during the war, and Japan sank the Dutch fleet in seizing the East Indies. In 1945 the Netherlands could not regain these islands on its own; it did so by depending on British military help and American financial grants. By the time Dutch soldiers returned, an independent government under Sukarno, originally set up by the Japanese, was in power. The Dutch in the East Indies, and at home, were practically unanimous (except for the Communists) that Dutch power and prestige and wealth depended on an extremely expensive war to regain the islands. Compromises were negotiated, were trusted by neither side. When the Indonesian Republic successfully suppressed a large-scale communist revolt, the United States realized that it needed the nationalist government as an ally in the Cold War. Dutch possession was an obstacle to American Cold War goals, so Washington forced the Dutch to grant full independence. A few years later, Sukarno seized all Dutch properties and expelled all ethnic Dutch—over 300,000—as well as several hundred thousand ethnic Indonesians who supported the Dutch cause. In the aftermath, the Netherlands prospered greatly in the 1950s and 1960s but nevertheless public opinion was bitterly hostile to the United States for betrayal. Washington remained baffled why the Dutch were so inexplicably enamoured of an obviously hopeless cause. [40] [41]

United Nations Trust Territories

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–present)

Czechoslovak anti-colonialist propaganda poster: "Africa - in fight for freedom". 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 tentative 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 nationalise 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 Organisation 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 recognise 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, generalised 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. UN Human Development Report 2015.svg
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 nationalized 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

British decolonisation in Africa British Decolonisation in Africa.png
British decolonisation in Africa

The decolonisation of North Africa, and sub- Saharan Africa took place in the mid-to-late 1950s, very suddenly, with little preparation. There was widespread unrest and organised revolts, especially in French Algeria, Portuguese Angola, the Belgian Congo and British Kenya. [42] [43] [44] [45]

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.

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 1979 in Rhodesia, which became Zimbabwe-Rhodesia that year and Zimbabwe the next, 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

Decolonization of Asia

Western European colonial empires in Asia and Africa all collapsed in the years after 1945 Colonization 1945.png
Western European colonial empires in Asia and Africa all collapsed in the years after 1945
Four nations (India, Pakistan, Dominion of Ceylon, and Union of Burma) that gained independence in 1947 and 1948 Partition of India.PNG
Four nations (India, Pakistan, Dominion of Ceylon, and Union of Burma) that gained independence in 1947 and 1948

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, as well as Taiwan. Only Hong Kong and Macau remained in outside control.

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.

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. [46]

Decolonization in Europe

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 control of its non-Russian member republics weakened rapidly as 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, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Historian Robert Daniels says, "A special dimension that the anti-Communist revolutions shared with some of their predecessors was decolonization." [47] Moscow's policy had long been to settle ethnic Russians in the non-Russian republics. After independence, minority rights for Russian-speakers has been an issue; see Russians in the Baltic states. [48]

Decolonization of Oceania

The decolonization of Oceania occurred after World War II when nations in Oceania achieved independence by transitioning from European colonial rule to full independence.


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


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 organisations after independence, varied greatly between colonial powers, and between individual colonies. [49]

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.


The Black Star Monument in Accra, built by Ghana's first president Kwame Nkrumah to commemorate the country's independence Black Star Monument, Accra, Ghana.JPG
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. [49] Nation-building after independence often continues the work began by independence movements during the colonial period.

Settled populations

Decolonization is not an easy matter in colonies where a large population of settlers lives, particularly if they have been there for several generations. This population, in general, was often repatriated, often losing considerable property. For instance, the decolonization of Algeria by France was particularly uneasy due to the large European 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.

Economic development

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

Many colonies were 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 neighbouring 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

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

Post-colonial organizations

Four international organisations whose membership largely follows the pattern of previous colonial empires. Postempire Orgs Map.png
Four international organisations 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 organisation has become politically prominent as an entity in its own right.

Former Colonial PowerOrganisationFounded
United Kingdom Commonwealth of Nations 1931
France French Union 1946
French Community 1958
La Francophonie 1970
Spain & Portugal Latin Union 1954
Organisation 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

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

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

YearColonizerDecolonized stateEvent
1776 Great Britain United States 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 Haiti 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 (today part of the United States) 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 Paraguay achieves independence. Recognised by Spain in 1880.
Venezuela Venezuela declares its independence. During its revolution, it joins Gran Colombia, before seceding to achieve independence in 1830.
Gran Colombia (today Colombia and Panama) 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 Uruguay 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 Argentina 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. [51]
1818 Spain Chile 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 East Florida (today part of the United States)The Adams-Onís Treaty cedes 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 Mexico Following a failed liberal insurrection in New Spain, the colony declares its independence as the Mexican Empire after a liberal mutiny succeeds in Spain. Recognised 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.
Central America (today Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, and part of Mexico)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.
Dominican Republic 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.
Peru A Chilean expeditionary force declares the independence of Peru. Bolivia formed from Upper Peru in 1825. Recognized by Spain in 1879.
Ottoman Empire Greece Greece revolts. Recognized by the Porte in 1832 in the Treaty of Constantinople.
1822 Spain Ecuador Quito declares independence as a part of Gran Colombia. Independent from Colombia as Ecuador in 1830. Recognized by Spain in 1840.
Portugal Brazil 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 Liberia declares its independence as an organised nation. Independence was officially recognized by the United States in 1862
1852 Ottoman Empire Montenegro Montenegro declares its independence. Recognized in 1878 at the Congress of Berlin. Voluntarily united with Serbia as Yugoslavia in 1918.
1864 United Kingdom Ionian Islands (today part of Greece)The United States of the Ionian Islands, a majority Greek protectorate, peaceably united with modern Greece by the Treaty of London.
1865 Spain Dominican Republic Santo Domingo regains independence as the Dominican Republic after four years as a restored colony.
1867 United Kingdom Canada Britain grants internal autonomy to Canada, while keeping control of foreign policy. Britain retained legal powers over Canada until 1931, and a role in Canada constitutional law until 1982.
1869 Ottoman Empire Serbia Serbia declares its full independence from the Ottoman Empire. Recognized in 1878 at the Congress of Berlin.
1877 Ottoman Empire Romania The United Principalities of Romania declare their independence. Recognized in 1878 at the Congress of Berlin.
1898 Spain Cuba, Philippines 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, causing an immediate backlash among the Philippine revolutionaries who have been fighting for independence since 1896. The Philippine Republic would fall to the United States in 1901 following the capture of President Emilio Aguinaldo. In 1935, the Insular Government over the Philippines was replaced with the Commonwealth.
1900 United Kingdom Australia Britain grants internal autonomy to Australia, while keeping control of foreign policy. Britain retained legal powers over Australia until 1942, and shared a role in Australia constitutional law until 1986.
1902 United States Cuba Cuba granted independence. Guantanamo Bay is leased in perpetuity as a US Naval base.
1908 Ottoman Empire Bulgaria Bulgaria, largely autonomous since the Congress of Berlin, declares itself fully independent of the Ottoman Empire.
1910 United Kingdom South Africa Britain grants internal autonomy to South Africa, while keeping control of foreign policy. Britain retained legal powers over South Africa until 1931, and shared a head of state until 1961.
1912 Ottoman Empire Albania Albania declares independence. Recognized in the 1913 Treaty of London.

Interwar period

YearColonizerDecolonized stateEvent
1916 Russia Poland 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 Russia Finland Finland declares its independence. Recognized in the 1918 Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, although Karelia remained disputed.
Crimea (today de jure part of Ukraine, de facto part of Russia) Crimean People's Republic declares independence but Crimean Tatar forces hold out less than a month against the Bolsheviks.
Idel-Ural (today part of Russia) Volga Tatars declare independence of the Idel-Ural State; other ethnic groups including Volga Germans and Bashkirs join them. The republic was crushed by the Bolsheviks a few months later.
Kazakhstan Kazakhs declare independence of the Alash Autonomy. This lasted for less than three years before being defeated by the Bolsheviks.
1918 Russia Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia The Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, the Republic of Georgia and the Republic of Armenia declare independence on May 26–28. All three would be conquered by the Red Army in 1920–1921.
Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania declare independence. All three were initially able to secure their independence by 1920; however, on 1940, all three were invaded by the Soviet Union and were later annexed.
Austria-Hungary Czechoslovakia (today the Czech Republic and Slovakia) 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.
State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs (today Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina) 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.
Denmark Iceland After the signing of the Danish–Icelandic Act of Union, Iceland becomes a sovereign state in personal union with Denmark.
1919 United Kingdom Afghanistan End of the protectorate over Afghanistan, when the United Kingdom accepts the presence of a Soviet ambassador in Kabul.
1920 Ottoman Empire Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine (today Israel and Palestine)The San Remo conference establishes League of Nations mandates from Ottoman Mesopotamia and Syria. The 1920 Iraqi revolt prevents the mandate over Mesopotamia from being enacted, and was replaced with the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty in 1922. In 1926, Greater Lebanon became the Lebanese Republic.
1921 China Mongolia Communist Mongolian revolutionaries, with the help of the Red Army, expel the Chinese government presence from Outer Mongolia. Mongolia was recognized by the United Nations in 1961.
1922 United Kingdom 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 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.
1926 United Kingdom Canada, Ireland, South Africa The Balfour Declaration declares the dominions of the British empire as autonomous Communities within the British Empire, equal in status.
1930 United Kingdom Weihai (today part of China)The United Kingdom returns the leased port territory at Weihaiwei to China.
1931 United Kingdom Canada, Ireland, South Africa 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. This doesn't take effect over New Zealand, Newfoundland, and the Commonwealth of Australia, until independently ratified by these dominions.
1932 United Kingdom Iraq End of League of Nations Mandate over Iraq. The United Kingdom continues to station troops in the country and influence the Iraqi government until 1958.
1940 France Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia [52] After the Fall of France, the new French State de facto cedes control of French Indochina to Japan, weakening the colonial system that would make it difficult for France to control their colony once it is returned to them.
1941 Italy Eritrea, Somalia, Ethiopia [53] Eritrea, Tigray Province (appended to it), Italian Somaliland, and Ethiopia are taken by the Allies after an uneasy occupation of Ethiopia since 1935–36, and no longer joined as one colonial federal state. Ethiopia, the only African state to escape the Scramble for Africa, returns to being a sovereign nation, while the Ogaden desert (disputed by Somalia) remains under British military control until 1948.
1942 United Kingdom Australia Australia ratifies the Statute of Westminster.
Netherlands [54] Indonesia [55] Japanese seize control of the Dutch East Indies. Throughout the occupation the Japanese dismantle the colonial system and stirs national fervour among the native population, which will cause major problems for the Dutch when the colony is returned to them.
1943 France Lebanon Lebanon declares independence, effectively ending the French mandate (previously together with Syria).
1944 Denmark [56] Iceland Following a plebiscite, Iceland formally becomes a republic, ending the personal union between Denmark and Iceland.
1945 Japan Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia [52] In the last months of World War II, Japanese forces in French Indochina overthrew the largely powerless colonial administration and declare the independence of the Vietnam (which was formed from three separate colonies) Cambodia, and Laos. After the surrender of Japan, all three states would be disestablished and, in theory, returned to French colonial rule.
Korea (today North Korea and South Korea)After the surrender of Japan, Korea is occupied by the Soviet Union and the United States.
Taiwan (today de jure part of China, de facto an independent state with limited recognition), Mengjiang (today part of China), Manchuria (today part of China) [57] After the 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; this would prove to very useful for Nationalist-led China, as within four years, Taiwan would serve as a refuge for Chiang Kai-shek and his forces following the Communist takeover of China.
Indonesia [55] After the surrender of Japan, the Dutch East Indies is returned to the Netherlands.
Netherlands Indonesia However, just two days later, the Dutch East Indies declares independence, which after four years of armed struggle and mounting international pressure is recognised by the Netherlands in 1949.
France Vietnam Before France is able to regain control over French Indochina, Vietnam declares independence. France will recognize Vietnam in 1954 following a humiliating defeat, although between that year and 1975 Vietnam was divided into a communist north and a largely anti-communist south under American influence, before reuniting under North Vietnam rule.

Cold War

YearColonizerDecolonized stateEvent
1946 United States Philippines 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 Jordan The former Emirate of Transjordan became an independent Hashemite kingdom when the United Kingdom relinquishes its League of Nations mandate.
France Syria The former Mandate of Syria became an independent Republic.
1947 United Kingdom New Zealand New Zealand ratifies the Statute of Westminster 1931.
United Kingdom India, Pakistan (today Pakistan and Bangladesh)The British government leaves India, which is partitioned into the secular, but Hindu-majority state of India and the Muslim state of Pakistan (the eastern half of which will later became independent as Bangladesh in 1971).
1948 United Kingdom Myanmar, Sri Lanka Burma, which had separated from British India earlier and did not gain independence in 1947, and Ceylon, which despite being a part of the Indian subcontinent was only briefly a part of British India, became independent.
Israel, Palestine The Jewish-controlled part of Palestine declares independence as the state of Israel; the remainder of Palestine became de facto part of the Arab states of Egypt (Gaza strip) and Transjordan (West Bank).
United States South Korea The Republic of Korea is established in the southern part of the Korean peninsula.
Soviet Union North Korea The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is established in the northern part of the peninsula.
1949 United Kingdom Newfoundland (today part of Canada)The Dominion of Newfoundland joins Canada.
1951 United Kingdom Eritrea The Mandate of Eritrea is given by the British to Ethiopia.
France, United Kingdom Libya The British-controlled Tripolitania and the French-controlled Fezzan unifies with the Emirate of Cyrenaica to form the Kingdom of Libya.
1953 France Cambodia, Laos The two non-Vietnamese protectorates of French Indochina, Cambodia and Laos, became independent.
1954 France Pondicherry (today part of India)The Puducherry enclave is incorporated into India.
United Kingdom Suez Canal (today part of Egypt)In the aftermath of July 23 revolution, the United Kingdom withdraws from the last part of Egypt it controls: the Suez Canal zone.
1956 United Kingdom, Egypt (de jure, de facto just United Kingdom) Sudan (today Sudan and South Sudan)Egypt ends it claims of sovereignty over Sudan, forcing the United Kingdom to do the same. The southern non-Arab half will later became an independent state in 2011.
France Tunisia Tunisia achieve independence.
France, Spain Morocco After large-scale protests forces France to return the sultan of Morocco, the French-controlled territories, most of the Spanish-controlled territories (except Cape Juby and Ifni) and the Tangier International Zone are united into an independent kingdom.
1957 United Kingdom Ghana The Gold Coast became independent, initiating the decolonization of sub-Saharan Africa.
Malaysia The Federation of Malaya became independent.
1958 France Guinea After being the only colony to vote against the 1958 French constitution, Guinea is granted independence.
1960 United Kingdom Cyprus (today de facto Cyprus and Northern Cyprus)Most of Cyprus became independent, though the UK retains sovereign control over Akrotiri and Dhekelia. In 1983, the northern Turkish half of Cyprus declared its independence (this state is only recognized by Turkey).
Nigeria Nigeria became independent.
Italy, United Kingdom Somalia (today de facto Somalia and Somaliland) British Somaliland became independent. As the State of Somaliland, the former British Somaliland protectorate merges as scheduled five days later with the Trust Territory of Somaliland (the former Italian Somaliland) to form the Somali Republic. (In the aftermath of the Somali Civil War, the former British Somaliland split from Somalia and has been an internationally unrecognized independent state called Somaliland since 1991.)
France Ivory Coast, Benin, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali Federation (today Mali and Senegal)All remaining colony members of French West Africa became independent, including Côte d'Ivoire, Dahomey, Mauritania, Niger, Upper Volta, French Sudan, and Senegal (the last two originally as a single-entity called the Mali Federation; within the same year the two split off into Mali and Senegal).
Chad, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Gabon All colony members of French Equatorial Africa became independent, including Chad, Ubangi-Shari, the French Congo, and Gabon.
Cameroon, Togo The United Nations trust territories of Cameroun and French Togoland became independent.
Madagascar Madagascar became independent.
Belgium Democratic Republic of the Congo The Belgian Congo (also known as Congo-Kinshasa, later renamed Zaire and presently the Democratic Republic of the Congo) became independent.
1961 United Kingdom Tanzania The United Nations trust territory of Tanganyika became independent.
Sierra Leone Sierra Leone became independent.
Kuwait The United Kingdom ends its protectorate over the Sheikhdom of Kuwait.
British Cameroons (today part of Nigeria and part of Cameroon)After a referendum, United Nations trust territory of Cameroons is dissolved, with the northern Muslim half deciding to merge with Nigeria and the southern Christian half deciding to merge with Cameroon.
South Africa The Union of South Africa declares itself a republic.
Portugal Goa, Daman and Diu (today part of India)The former coastal enclave colonies of Goa, Daman and Diu are taken over by India.
1962 United Kingdom Uganda Uganda achieves independence.
Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago With the collapse of the West Indies Federation, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago became independent as separate entities.
France Algeria Following the end of the Algerian War and the signing of the Évian Accords, both French and Algerian voters approve the independence of Algeria.
Belgium Rwanda, Burundi Following a period of ethnic violence in Rwanda that led to abolition of its monarchy, Belgium ends its trusteeship over it and Burundi.
New Zealand Samoa The South Sea UN trusteeship over Western Samoa (formerly German Samoa and nowadays called just Samoa) is relinquished.
1963 United Kingdom Kenya, Zanzibar (today part of Tanzania)The United Kingdom and the Sultanate of Zanzibar ceded its sovereignty over Kenya. Zanzibar, itself a British Protectorate, would also have its protectorate terminated in the same year. After the Zanzibar Revolution that occurred a year later, Zanzibar merged with Tanganyika, which promptly renamed itself the United Republic of Tanzania.
Sarawak (today part of Malaysia), North Borneo (today part of Malaysia), Singapore Sarawak, North Borneo and Singapore merges with the independent Federation of Malaya, which promptly renamed itself Malaysia. Within two years, however, Singapore would be expelled from Malaysia.
United Nations Western New Guinea (today part of Indonesia)Less than a year after Netherlands transferred Netherlands New Guinea to the United Nations, the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority transfers West Papua to Indonesia.
1964 United Kingdom Zambia, Malawi Following the dissolution of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland declare independence.
Malta The Mediterranean island of Malta became independent.
1965 United Kingdom Zimbabwe Southern Rhodesia declares independence as Rhodesia, but is not recognized due to its unwillingness to accommodate to black-majority rule.
The Gambia The Gambia receives independence.
Maldives The British protectorate over the Maldives archipelago in the Indian Ocean ends.
1966 United Kingdom Barbados, Guyana In the British West Indies, Barbados (which was a former member of the West Indies Federation) and British Guiana became independent.
Botswana, Lesotho Near South Africa, Bechuanaland and Basutoland became independent.
1967 United Kingdom South Yemen (today part of Yemen)On the Arabian peninsula, the Protectorate of South Arabia and the Federation of South Arabia became independent as a single entity called the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (or South Yemen). In 1990, South Yemen merged with the Yemen Arab Republic (or North Yemen), which promptly renamed itself as the Republic of Yemen.
1968 United Kingdom Mauritius Mauritius achieves independence.
Swaziland The Kingdom of Swaziland has its protectorate terminated.
Spain Equatorial Guinea Spanish Guinea achieves independence.
Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom (de jure, de facto just Australia) Nauru Australia relinquishes UN trusteeship (nominally shared by the United Kingdom and New Zealand) of Nauru in the South Sea.
1970 United Kingdom Oman The United Kingdom ends its protectorate over Muscat and Oman.
1971 United Kingdom Fiji, Tonga In Oceania, Fiji became independent, while the protectorate over the Kingdom of Tonga ends.
United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar All seven members of the Trucial States became independent upon the termination of their protectorates, with six (Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain) forming the United Arab Emirates; the seventh, Ras al-Khaimah, would join the UAE a year after. Two other Arab monarchies in the Persian Gulf, Bahrain and Qatar (which despite discussions of joining the UAE were not considered part of the Trucial States) also became independent as their British protectorates are lifted.
1973 United Kingdom The Bahamas The Bahamas are granted independence.
Portugal Guinea-Bissau After more than a decade of fighting, guerrillas unilaterally declare independence in the Southeastern regions of Portuguese Guinea. It would not be recognized by Portugal until a year later, in the aftermath of Carnation Revolution.
1974 United Kingdom Grenada Grenada, a former member of the West Indies Federation became independent.
1975 France Comoros The Comoros archipelago in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa is granted independence.
Portugal Angola, Mozambique After the Carnation Revolution, the two other colonies who have been fighting against colonial rule, Angola and Mozambique achieve independence. East Timor declares independence, but is subsequently occupied and annexed by Indonesia nine days later.
Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe After the Carnation Revolution, the Western African island groups of Cape Verde and São Tomé and Príncipe achieve independence.
East Timor After the Carnation Revolution, East Timor declares independence, but is subsequently invaded and occupied by Indonesia nine days later.
Netherlands Suriname Surinam (also known as Dutch Guiana) achieves independence.
Australia Papua New Guinea Released from Australian trusteeship, Papua New Guinea gains independence.
1976 United Kingdom Seychelles The Seychelles archipelago in the Indian Ocean off the African coast became independent (one year after granting of self-rule).
Spain Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic The Spanish colonial rule is 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 Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic ineffective to the present day.
1977 France Djibouti French Somaliland, also known as the "French Territory of the Afars and the Issas" (after its dominant ethnic groups), gains independence.
1978 United Kingdom Dominica Dominica, a former member of the West Indies Federation, became independent.
Solomon Islands, Tuvalu The Solomon Islands and the Ellice Islands (which previously split off from the Gilbert and Ellice Islands) became independent.
1979 United States Panama Canal (today part of Panama)The United States promises to return the Panama Canal Zone (held under a regime sui generis since 1903) to the republic of Panama after 1999.
United Kingdom Kiribati The Gilbert Islands became independent.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Saint Lucia, both former members of the West Indies Federation, became independent.
1980 United Kingdom Zimbabwe In the aftermath of the Rhodesian Bush War, Rhodesia, which temporary regained its colonial status, became formally independent under black-majority rule.
United Kingdom, France Vanuatu The joint Anglo-French colony of the New Hebrides became the independent island Republic of Vanuatu.
1981 United Kingdom Belize, Antigua and Barbuda In the British West Indies, British Honduras and Antigua and Barbuda (which was a former member of the West Indies Federation) became independent.
1982 United Kingdom Canada Canada gains full independence from the British parliament with the Canada Act 1982.
1983 United Kingdom Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Kitts and Nevis (an associated state since 1963) became independent.
1984 United Kingdom Brunei The United Kingdom ends its protectorate over the Brunei sultanate.
1986 United Kingdom Australia, New Zealand Australia and New Zealand became fully independent with the Australia Act 1986 and the Constitution Act 1986.
1990 South Africa Namibia South West Africa, the only League of Nation mandate that did not become a United Nation trust territory via independence, became independent from South Africa. South Africa would continue hold on to Walvis Bay and the Penguin Islands until 1994.
United States Marshall Islands, Micronesia 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.

Post–Cold War era

YearColonizerDecolonized stateEvent
1993 Ethiopia Eritrea Eritrea, a former Italian colony declares independence and is subsequently recognized.
1994 United States Palau 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 Hong Kong The British overseas territory of Hong Kong is given to People's Republic of China.
1999 Portugal Macau 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 organised 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 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 South Sudan formally achieves independence.

See also

Related Research Articles

British Empire States and dominions ruled by the United Kingdom

The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. It originated with the overseas possessions and trading posts established by England between the late 16th and early 18th centuries. At its height, it was the largest empire in history and, for over a century, was the foremost global power. By 1913, the British Empire held sway over 412 million people, 23% of the world population at the time, and by 1920, it covered 35,500,000 km2 (13,700,000 sq mi), 24% of the Earth's total land area. As a result, its political, legal, linguistic and cultural legacy is widespread. At the peak of its power, the phrase "the empire on which the sun never sets" was often used to describe the British Empire, because its expanse around the globe meant that the sun was always shining on at least one of its territories.

Colony territory under the political control of an overseas state, generally with its own subordinate colonial government

In history, a colony is a territory under the immediate complete political control and occupied by settlers of a state, distinct from the home territory of the sovereign. For colonies in antiquity, city-states would often found their own colonies. Some colonies were historically countries, while others were territories without definite statehood from their inception.

Imperialism Policy or ideology of extending a nations rule over foreign nations

Imperialism is a policy or ideology of extending a nation's rule over foreign nations, often by military force or by gaining political and economic control of other areas. Imperialism was both normal and common worldwide throughout recorded history, the earliest examples dating from the mid-third millennium BC, diminishing only in the late 20th century. In recent times, it has been considered morally reprehensible and prohibited by international law. Therefore, the term is used in international propaganda to denounce an opponent's foreign policy.

French colonial empire Set of territories that were under French rule primarily from the 17th century to the late 1960s

The French colonial empire constituted the overseas colonies, protectorates and mandate territories that came under French rule from the 16th century onward. A distinction is generally made between the "first colonial empire," that existed until 1814, by which time most of it had been lost, and the "second colonial empire", which began with the conquest of Algiers in 1830. The second colonial empire came to an end after the loss in later wars of Indochina (1954) and Algeria (1962), and relatively peaceful decolonizations elsewhere after 1960.

Portuguese Empire Global empire centered in Portugal

The Portuguese Empire, also known as the Portuguese Overseas or the Portuguese Colonial Empire, was composed of the overseas colonies and territories governed by Portugal. One of the largest and longest-lived empires in world history, it existed for almost six centuries, from the capture of Ceuta in 1415, to the handover of Portuguese Macau to China in 1999. The empire began in the 15th century, and from the early 16th century it stretched across the globe, with bases in North and South America, Africa, and various regions of Asia and Oceania. The Portuguese Empire has been described as the first global empire in history, a description also given to the Spanish Empire.

Scramble for Africa Invasion, occupation, colonization and annexation of Africa by European powers

The Scramble for Africa, also called the Rape of Africa, was the occupation, division, and colonisation of African territory by European powers during the period of the New Imperialism, between 1881 and 1914. In 1870, only 10 percent of Africa was under formal European control; by 1914 it had increased to almost 90 percent of the continent, with only Ethiopia (Abyssinia) and Liberia remaining independent. After the Italian occupation of Ethiopia in 1936, only Liberia remained independent. There were multiple motivations for European colonizers, including desire for valuable resources available throughout the continent, the quest for national prestige, tensions between pairs of European powers, religious missionary zeal and internal African native politics.

Berlin Conference international conference that regulated European colonisation and trade in Africa

The Berlin Conference of 1884–85, also known as the Congo Conference or West Africa Conference, regulated European colonization and trade in Africa during the New Imperialism period and coincided with Germany's sudden emergence as an imperial power. The conference was organized by Otto von Bismarck, first Chancellor of Germany; its outcome, the General Act of the Berlin Conference, can be seen as the formalisation of the Scramble for Africa, although some scholars of history warn against an overemphasis of its role in the colonial partitioning of Africa, drawing attention to bilateral agreements concluded before and after the conference. The conference ushered in a period of heightened colonial activity by European powers, which eliminated or overrode most existing forms of African autonomy and self-governance.

The territorial evolution of the British Empire is considered to have begun with the foundation of the English colonial empire in the late 16th century. Since then, many territories around the world have been under the control of the United Kingdom or its predecessor states.

Decolonisation of Africa process wherein colonial powers withdrew their administrators from Africa following World War II

The decolonisation of Africa took place in the mid-to-late 1950s and 1960s, with sudden and radical regime changes on the continent as colonial governments made the transition to independent states; this was often quite unorganized and marred with violence and political turmoil. There was widespread unrest and organized revolts in both Northern and sub-Saharan colonies, especially in French Algeria, Portuguese Angola, the Belgian Congo and British Kenya.

United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories UN General Assembly document listing places that are not self-governing and subject to decolonization

The United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories is a list of places that the United Nations General Assembly deems to be "non-self-governing" and subject to the decolonization process. Chapter XI of the United Nations Charter embodies a "Declaration on Non-Self-Governing Territories" which declares that the interests of the occupants of dependent territories are paramount and requires member states of the United Nations in control of non-self-governing territories to submit annual information reports concerning the development of those territories. Since 1946, the General Assembly has maintained a list of non-self governing territories under member states' control. Since its inception, dozens of territories have been removed from the list, typically when they attained independence or internal self-government, while other territories have been added as new administering countries joined the United Nations or the General Assembly reassessed the status of certain territories.

A colonial empire is a collective of territories, mostly overseas, settled by the population of a certain state and governed by that state.

History of Western civilization

Western civilization traces its roots back to Europe and the Mediterranean. It is linked to the Roman Empire and with Medieval Western Christendom which emerged from the Middle Ages to experience such transformative episodes as the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, scientific revolution, and the development of liberal democracy. The civilizations of Classical Greece and Ancient Rome are considered seminal periods in Western history; a few cultural contributions also emerged from the pagan peoples of pre-Christian Europe, such as the Celts and Germans, as well as some significant religious contributions derived from Judaism and Hellenistic Judaism stemming back to Second Temple Judea, Galilee, and the early Jewish diaspora; and some other Middle Eastern influences. Christianity and Roman Catholicism has played a prominent role in the shaping of Western civilization, which throughout most of its history, has been nearly equivalent to Christian culture.. Western civilization has spread to produce the dominant cultures of modern Americas and Oceania, and has had immense global influence in recent centuries in many ways.

Decolonization of the Americas process by which the countries in the Americas gained their independence from European rule

Decolonization of the Americas refers to the process by which the countries in the Americas gained their independence from European rule. Decolonization began with a series of revolutions in the late 18th and early to mid-19th centuries. The status quo then prevailed for more than a century, excepting the independence of Cuba.

This is a non-exhaustive chronology of colonialism-related events, which may reflect political events, cultural events, and important global events that have influenced colonization and decolonization. See also Timeline of imperialism.

History of colonialism aspect of history

The historical phenomenon of colonization is one that stretches around the globe and across time. Modern state global colonialism, or imperialism, began in the 15th century with the "Age of Discovery", led by Portuguese, and then by the Spanish exploration of the Americas, the coasts of Africa, the Middle East, India and East Asia. The Portuguese and Spanish empires were the first global empires because they were the first to stretch across different continents, covering vast territories around the globe. In 1492, notable Genoese (Italian) explorer Christopher Columbus and his Castilian (Spanish) crew discovered the Americas for the Crown of Castile. The phrase "the empire on which the sun never sets" was first used for the Spanish Empire in the 16th century. During the late 16th and 17th centuries, England, France and the Dutch Republic also established their own overseas empires, in direct competition with each other.

The decolonisation of Asia was the gradual growth of independence movements in Asia, leading ultimately to the retreat of foreign powers and the creation of a number of nation-states in the region. A number of events were catalysts for this shift, most importantly the Second World War. Prior to World War II, some countries had already proclaimed independence.

The military history of North America can be viewed in a number of phases.

Wind of Change (speech) speech by British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan

The "Wind of Change" speech was a historically significant address made by the UK Prime Minister Harold Macmillan to the Parliament of South Africa, on 3 February 1960 in Cape Town. He had spent a month in Africa visiting a number of what were then British colonies. The speech signalled clearly that the Conservative-led UK Government had no intention to block the independence to many of these territories. The Labour government of 1945–51 had started a process of decolonisation, but this policy had been halted by the Conservative governments from 1951 onwards.


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  32. Levinson, Sanford; Sparrow, Bartholomew H. (2005). The Louisiana Purchase and American Expansion: 1803–1898. New York: Rowman and Littlefield. pp. 166, 178. ISBN   978-0-7425-4983-8. 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))
  33. Kelly M. Torres, "Puerto Rico, the 51st state: the implications of statehood on culture and language." Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies/Revue canadienne des études latino-américaines et caraïbes 42.2 (2017): 165-180.
  34. "Remember role in ending fascist war". Retrieved 2016-02-25.
  35. H. W. Brands, Bound to Empire: The United States and the Philippines (1992) pp 138-60. online free
  36. John P. Cann, Counterinsurgency in Africa: The Portuguese Way of War 1961-74 Solihull, UK (Helion Studies in Military History, No. 12), 2012.
  37. Norrie MacQueen, The Decolonisation of Portuguese Africa: Metropolitan Revolution and the Dissolution of Empire (1997).
  38. Henri Grimal, Decolonisation: The British, French, Dutch and Belgian Empires, 1919-63 (1978).
  39. Frances Gouda (2002). American Visions of the Netherlands East Indies/Indonesia: US Foreign Policy and Indonesian Nationalism, 1920-1949. Amsterdam UP. p. 36. ISBN   9789053564790.
  40. Henri Baudet, "The Netherlands after the Loss of Empire" Journal of Contemporary History 4#1 (1969), pp. 127- 139 online
  41. John Hatch, Africa: The Rebirth of Self-Rule (1967)
  42. William Roger Louis, The transfer of power in Africa: decolonisation, 1940-1960 (Yale UP, 1982).
  43. John D. Hargreaves, Decolonisation in Africa (2014).
  44. for the viewpoint from London and Paris see Rudolf von Albertini, Decolonisation: the Administration and Future of the Colonies, 1919-1960 (Doubleday, 1971).
  45. Baylis, J. & Smith S. (2001). The Globalisation of World Politics: An introduction to international relations.
  46. David Parker, ed. (2002). Revolutions and the Revolutionary Tradition: In the West 1560–1991. Routledge. pp. 202–3. ISBN   9781134690589.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  47. Askel Kirch, et al. "Russians in the Baltic States: To be or not to be?." Journal of Baltic Studies 24.2 (1993): 173–188. in JSTOR
  48. 1 2 Glassner, Martin Ira (1980). Systematic Political Geography 2nd Edition. John Wiley & Sons, New York.
  49. 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 ‹See Tfd› (in 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
  50. Spain proffered a treaty of recognition in 1857, but it was rejected by the Argentine legislature.
  51. 1 2 The Japanese rule over French Indochina is usually seen on par with other occupations at that time.
  52. The Italian rule over Ethiopia is usually seen on par with other occupations at that time.
  53. Occupied by Germany.
  54. 1 2 The Japanese rule over the Dutch East Indies is usually seen on par with other occupations at that time.
  55. Occupied by Germany.
  56. The Japanese rule over large parts of China is usually seen on par with other occupations at that time.

Further reading

Primary sources

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