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. Scholars focus especially on the movements in the colonies demanding independence, such as Creole nationalism.
The fundamental right to self-determination is identified by the United Nations as core to decolonization, allowing not only independence, but also other ways of decolonization. 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. Self-determination continues to be claimed, also within independent states, to demand decolonization, as in the case of Indigenous Peoples.
Decolonization may involve either nonviolent revolution or national liberation wars by pro-independence groups. It may be intranational 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.
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.
Independence is often difficult to achieve without the encouragement and practical support from one or more external parties. The motives for giving such aid are varied: nations of the same ethnic and/or religious stock may sympathize with the people of the country, or a strong nation may attempt to destabilize a colony as a tactical move to weaken a rival or enemy colonizing power or to create space for its own sphere of influence; examples of this include British support of the Haitian Revolution against France, and the Monroe Doctrine of 1823, in which the United States warned the European powers not to interfere in the affairs of the newly independent states of the Western Hemisphere.
As world opinion became more pro-independence following World War I, there was an institutionalized collective effort to advance the cause of decolonization through the League of Nations. Under Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, a number of mandates were created. The expressed intention was to prepare these countries for self-government, but 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.
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 wider movement in many colonies in the 20th century, and a reality after 1945.
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.: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".:807
Great Britain's Thirteen North American colonies were the first colonies to break from their colonial motherland by declaring independence as the United States of America in 1776, and being recognized as an independent nation by France in 1778 and Britain in 1783.
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.
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 Viceroyalty of the River Plate was invaded by the British. After their 2nd defeat, a Frenchman called Santiague de Liniers was proclaimed new Viceroy by the local population and later accepted by Spain. In May 1810 in Buenos Aires, a Junta was created, but in Montevideo it was not recognized by the local government who followed the authority of the Junta of Cadiz. The rivalry between the 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.
Cyprus was invaded and taken over by the Ottoman Empire in 1570. It was later relinquished by the Ottomans in 1878. 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. 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. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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; Ireland had been an integral part of the United Kingdom until 1922 and not a colony. 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. 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.
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.
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.
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. Large-scale communicable violence broke out after the British left in 1947, turning India over to the new nations of India and Pakistan.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After 1898 direct intervention expanded in Latin America. The United States purchased Alaska from the Russian Empire in 1867 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. 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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 favored 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.
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. 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.
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 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.
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.
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 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 attempts 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:
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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." 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.
The decolonization of Oceania occurred after World War II when nations in Oceania achieved independence by transitioning from European colonial rule to full independence.
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.
Except for a few absolute monarchies, most post-colonial states are either republics or constitutional monarchies. These new states had to devise constitutions, electoral systems, and other institutions of representative democracy.
Nation-building 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. Nation-building after independence often continues the work began by independence movements during the colonial period.
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.
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.
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.
Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o has written about colonization and decolonization in the film universe. Born in Ethiopia, filmmaker Haile Gerima describes the "colonization of the unconscious" he describes experiencing as a child:
...as kids, we tried to act out the things we had seen in the movies. We used to play cowbows and Indians in the mountains around Gondar...We acted out the roles of these heroes, identifying with the cowboys conquering the Indians. We didn't identify with the Indians at all and we never wanted the Indians to win. Even in Tarzan movies, we would become totally galvanized by the activities of the hero and follow the story from his point of view, completely caught up in the structure of the story. Whenever Africans sneaked up behind Tarzan, we would scream our heads off, trying to warn him that 'they' were coming".
In Asia, kung fu cinema emerged at a time Japan wanted to reach Asian populations in other countries by way of its cultural influence. The surge in popularity of kung fu movies began in the late 1960s through the 1970s. Local populations were depicted as protagonists opposing "imperialists" (foreigners) and their "Chinese collaborators".
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 Power||Organisation||Founded|
|United Kingdom||Commonwealth of Nations||1931|
|Spain & Portugal||Latin Union||1954|
|Organisation of Ibero-American States||1991|
|Portugal||Community of Portuguese Language Countries||1996|
|Russia||Commonwealth of Independent States||1991|
|Freely Associated States||1982|
|Netherlands||De Nederlandse Unie||1949|
|De Nederlandse Taalunie||1980|
A non-exhaustive list of assassinated leaders would include:
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.
|1783||Great Britain||United States||In 1776, the 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.|
|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.|
|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 (since 1954 de jure part of Ukraine, since 2014 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.|
|Ukraine||The Ukrainian People's Republic (UNR) declared independence in January 1918, and was recognized by several states from February, including by Bolshevik Russia in the March Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. It would lose its international recognition after the Paris Peace Conference, and its territory to the Russian-created Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, which was formally subordinated to Moscow by the formation of the Soviet Union in 1922.|
|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.|
|Ukraine||The West Ukrainian People's Republic (ZUNR) declared independence November 1, 1918, and symbolically united with the Ukrainian People's Republic on January 22, 1919. It allied with Poland in the 1920 Treaty of Warsaw, but was absorbed after the 1921 Peace of Riga.|
|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||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, 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, 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||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||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||Indonesia||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||Iceland||Following a plebiscite, Iceland formally becomes a republic, ending the personal union between Denmark and Iceland.|
|1945||Japan||Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia||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)||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 be 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||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.|
|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||The British government leaves India, which is partitioned into the secular, but Hindu-majority state of India and the Muslim state of Pakistan.|
|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.|
|1952||France||Chandernagore (today part of West Bengal state of India)||The French enclave of Chandernagore (present-day Chandannagar) is formally ceded to India.|
|1953||France||Cambodia, Laos||The two non-Vietnamese protectorates of French Indochina, Cambodia and Laos, became independent.|
|1954||France||Vietnam||Before France is able to regain control over French Indochina, Vietnam declares independence in 1945. On May 20, 1949, the French National Assembly approved the reunification of Cochinchina with the rest of Vietnam. The decision took effect on June 14 and the State of Vietnam was officially proclaimed on July 2. From 1949 to 1954, after reunification with Cochinchina, the State of Vietnam had partial autonomy from France as an associated state within the French Union.
France will recognize Vietnam in 1954 following a severe 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.
|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||Rhodesia||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.|
|Pakistan||Bangladesh||Rise of the Bengali nationalist and self-determination movement in East Pakistan led to the Liberation War and eventually resulted in the emergence of Bangladesh as an independent sovereign in 1971|
|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.|
|India||Kingdom of Sikkim||In 1975, After disarming the palace, a referendum on the monarchy was held, in which the Sikkimese people overwhelmingly voted to abolish the monarchy, and the new parliament of Sikkim, led by Kazi Lhendup Dorjee, proposed a bill for Sikkim to become an Indian state, which was promptly accepted by the Government of India.|
|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.|
|Soviet Union||Lithuania||Declared the end of Soviet occupation and restoration of its 1918 independence on March 11.|
|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.|
|1991||Soviet Union||Estonia||Adopted a resolution on March 30 that its independent status had never been suspended and only subject to an illegal occupation since 1940, and another on August 20 restoring an Estonian republic.|
|Georgia||Declared independence on April 9 after a referendum.|
|Latvia||Restored pre-Soviet-occupation independence on May 4, and full independence on August 21.|
|Belarus, Ukraine||Following a coup attempt by Russian hardliners against the Soviet government, Ukraine declared independence on August 24, and its people ratified this in a referendum on December 1, gaining international recognition, including by the Russian Republic, the following day. Belarus declared independence August 25. With Russia, both agreed to dissolve the Soviet Union when they signed the Belavezha Accords on December 8.|
|Moldova, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Armenia, Turkmenistan, Russian Federation, Kazakhstan||With Belarus and Ukraine, the remaining Soviet republics signed the Almaty Protocol on December 21, agreeing to dissolve the Soviet Union and create a Commonwealth of Independent States. On December 25, Soviet president Gorbachev resigned and the Soviet Union was effectively dissolved.|
|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.|
The decolonization agenda championed by the United Nations is not based exclusively on independence. There are three other ways in which an NSGT can exercise self-determination and reach a full measure of self-government (all of them equally legitimate): integration within the administering power, free association with the administering power, or some other mutually agreed upon option for self-rule. [...] It is the exercise of the human right of self-determination, rather than independence per se, that the United Nations has continued to push for.
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))
|Library resources about |
Works related to United Nations General Assembly Resolution 66 at Wikisource Works related to United Nations Trusteeship Agreements listed by the General Assembly as Non-Self-Governing at Wikisource Works related to United Nations General Assembly Resolution 1514 at Wikisource Works related to United Nations General Assembly Resolution 1541 at Wikisource
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