Decolonization In Asia And Africa

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Decolonization in Asia and Africa

Decolonization in Asia and Africa


The shift toward decolonization during the post- World War II era was complex. Often independence movements were composed of broad coalitions of nationalists, students, the intelligentsia, and peasants, frequently led by Western-educated intellectuals (e.g., Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, Mohandas Gandhi in India). The cold war rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union afforded such movements a political space that allowed them to play the superpowers off against each other because both the United States and the Soviet Union were eager to appear different from older European colonial conquerors and friendly to the masses of the emerging states. Often the struggle for independence was violent, involving protracted guerrilla conflicts and wars (e.g., Malaysia, Vietnam, and Algeria). The relatively peaceful independence movement in India was the exception, although the division of South Asia into India and Pakistan involved extensive civil strife and the deaths of millions.

Independence movements gradually succeeded throughout the late 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, leading to a proliferation of newly independent countries (from roughly 50 in 1945 to approximately 200 today in the United Nations). Major milestones in this process include India and Pakistan in 1947, Indonesia in 1949, and Angola and Mozambique in 1975. Virtually all parts of the globe have been decolonized, with a few small exceptions (e.g., French Guiana, Martinique, Gibraltar, Puerto Rico).

Decolonization involved political, economic, and ideological changes. Politically, this shift brought with it a new administrative and legal apparatus in the former colony, typically modeled after the colonial one. Indeed, often the very same people who served the foreign colonial power became leaders in the newly independent one. Ideologically, decolonization opened the door to challenges to long-standing racist notions of white inferiority (e.g., Ghana's Kwame Nkrumah), allowing a variety of experimental social projects (e.g., Tanzania's ...
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