Comprehensive Essay on Decolonization

Decolonization refers to the undoing of colonialism, the unequal relation of polities whereby one people or nation establishes and maintains dependent territorial governments over another.

It can be understood politically (attaining independence, autonomous home rule, union with the metro pole or another state) or culturally (removal of pernicious colonial effects.)

The term refers particularly to the dismantlement of the Neo-Imperial empires established prior to World War I throughout Africa and Asia in the years after World War II.

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The United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization has stated that in the process of decolonization there is no alternative to the colonizer’s allowance of self-determination, but in practice decolonization may involve peaceful or violent resistance by the native population. It may be 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 are the breakup of the Spanish Empire in the nineteenth century; of the German, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman Empires following World War I; of the British, French, and Italian colonial empires following World War II.

Although examples of decolonisation can be found from ancient times, in modern times there have been several particularly active periods of decolonisation. These are the breakup of the Spanish Empire in the nineteenth century, of the Austrian and Ottoman Empires at around the time of World War I, of the British, French, German, Italian and American Empires in the wake of World War II, and of the Russian Soviet Empire following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Methods and Stages:


Decolonizing is a political process, frequently involving violence. In extreme circumstances, there is a war of independence, sometimes following a revolution. More often, there is a dynamic cycle where negotiations fail; minor disturbances ensue resulting in suppression by the police and military forces, escalating into more violent revolts that lead to further negotiations until independence is granted.

In rare cases, the actions of the native population are characterized by non-violence, with the Indian independence movement led by Mahatma 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) decolonisation 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 sympathies with oppressed groups, 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-emancipation following World War I, there was an institutionalized collective effort to advance the cause of emancipation through the League of Nations. Under Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, a number of mandates were created.

The expressed intention was to prepare these countries for self-government, but are often interpreted as a mere redistribution of control over the former colonies of the defeated powers, mainly Germany 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 administered by the nations defeated in World War II, including Japan.

In referendums, some colonized populations have chosen to retain their colonial status, such as Gibraltar and French Guiana. There are even examples, such as the Falklands War, in which an Imperial power goes to war to defend the right of a colony to continue to be a colony.

Colonial powers have sometimes promoted decolonisation in order to shed the financial, military and other burdens that tend to grow in those colonies where the colonial regimes have become more benign.

Decolonisation is rarely achieved through a single historical act, but rather progresses through one or more stages of emancipation, 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 decolonisation 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.

There is some debate over whether or not the Americas can be considered decolonized, as it was the colonist and their descendants who revolted and declared their independence instead of the indigenous peoples, as is usually the case.

Scholars such as Elizabeth Cook-Lynn and Devon Mihesuah) have argued that portions of the United States still are in need of decolonisation. Furthermore, included in this list of states where “decolonisation” has not occurred as per the ideas reflected above are Australia, New Zealand. Interestingly enough Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the US refused to endorse the ratification of the Declaration of Indigenous Peoples rights created at the UN level

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