HIS 1515-101: History of Modern Empires
The Rise and Fall of the Colonial Empire 1800-2000
According to the Traditions and Encounters, the process of decolonization refers to “a form of regime shift, a changed relationship between the colonizing power and colony.” Such decolonization occurred with the end of European empires in African and Asian countries after the pressures of the First and Second World War and the rise of nationalism. The period between the years 1900 to 1959 reflect a shift of power between the European colonial powers and the nationalist movements of their colonies. The strength and movement of key countries led others to follow suit on the movement for independence. Traditions and Encounters best describes the decolonization movement as:
Decolonization, in essence the relinquishing of all colonial possessions by imperial powers of the ends to empires, brought the world to its current international standing. Imperial agents lost their control, new independent states gained autonomy and self-determination, and - given the concurrent developments in the cold war - the globe was no longer demarcated by clearly identifiable spheres of influence.
The factors that contributed to the rapid decline of the colonial empire in Africa and Asia between 1919 and 1949 are agreements such as The Atlantic Charter, the effects brought on by both World Wars, the achievements of the United Nations, the colonies’ desire for self-determination and the rise of nationalism. The Atlantic Charter was a critical factor in the decolonization of European colonies in Africa and Asia that established a vision for post-war settlement. The meeting between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill changed the course of World War II, and therefore affected the course of world history. According to the documentary, The Atlantic Charter: The End of Colonialism, the Atlantic Charter provided a blueprint for the United Nations while marking the end of world order built on European colonial empires. It was a joint declaration that documented the goals of the Allied powers concerning the war. Before World War II, British and French empires dominated the world. The United States was anti-colonialism and remained isolated. Their isolation ended when Germany invaded Poland, and Britain sought the United States’ involvement in the war. The documentary stated that Adolf Hitler’s invasion of France caused Churchill to officially “set out to woo” Roosevelt. The United States did not support colonialism like the British Empire did. The threat of Germany to Britain continued to increase, so Roosevelt and Churchill decided it was necessary to meet face-to-face to sort out their intentions in the war. Britain started with the goal of enlisting the United States’ help. The British did not want a commitment that bound them to the U.S. after the war, while the Americans desired that Britain end colonialism. The eight points of The Atlantic Charter were reached without a formal commitment from the United States to enter the war. The Axis Powers interpreted the agreements made in the Charter as a potential alliance against them. It may have sparked Hitler in changing his timeline of Germany’s progression in the war and the exterminations of the Jewish population. In Japan, it caused militarists to push for a more aggressive approach against the Allied Powers. The attack on Pearl Harbor followed causing the United States to enter the war. The third point of The Atlantic Charter, which stated “the people’s right to self-determination”, sparked much debate among Britain’s colonial empires. According to The Atlantic Charter, Churchill agreed to respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they live. Although Churchill stated his meaning of the point to have been referring to those empires ruled by Nazi Germany, he was unable to cap the desires of the colonies for independence....
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Namibia: Genocide and the Second Reich. Dir. David A. Olusoga. BBC Productions Bristol,
The Wind of Change: The End of Colonialism in Africa. Dir. Peter Du Cane. Humanities and
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Gewald, Jan B. Herero Heroes: A Socio-Political History of the Herero of Namibia, 1890-
United Nations. “Global Issues: Decolonization.” Accessed October 7, 2011.
[ 1 ]. Jerry H. Bentley, Traditions and Encounters (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2008), 1096.
[ 2 ]. “Global Issues: Decolonization,” United Nations, accessed October 7, 2011, http://www.un.org/en/globalissues/decolonization/index.shtml
[ 3 ]
[ 4 ]. Bentley, 1106.
[ 5 ]. Jan B. Gewald, Herero Heroes (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1999), 31-32.
[ 6 ]. Bentley, 1111-1112.
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