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Decolonization or Independence Movements in Asia, Africa, & the Middle East. 1920s – 1980s. Overview . By the mid-20 th century, many colonies in Africa, Asia & the Middle East had “freed” themselves from European dominance.

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Decolonization or Independence Movements in Asia, Africa, & the Middle East

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By the mid-20th century, many colonies in Africa, Asia & the Middle East had “freed” themselves from European dominance.

Decolonization is the term historians have used to describe this process

why causes of decolonization
WHY?: Causes of Decolonization

What forces led to the end of European colonial empires?

  • Education & information acquired by Asians & Africans.
    • “Lessons” on equality, democracy, revolution, government, natural rights, etc. caused people to take action for freedom.
  • World Wars
    • Asians and Africans questioned European “progress”
    • The winners of both wars talked of freedom . . . Some acted on it.
  • Nationalism!
decolonization how
Decolonization: HOW

The many differing African & Asian groups used a variety of elements in their efforts to gain independence. Some of these include . . .

  • Nationalism
  • Military force / violence
  • Mass demonstrations
  • Economic boycotts
  • Government representation & democratic processes
  • Indigenous religious beliefs & symbols
  • The wealth & power of the African and Asian middle & upper class.
colonial repercussions of the wwii
Colonial Repercussions of the WWII
  • Some defeated powers forced to give up colonies.
    • North Africa was able to exploit German occupation of France to build institutions of self-government.
    • Economically, Britain, Belgium & Netherlands devastated by war, difficult to re-establish colonial rule.
  • War’s principal victors – U.S., U.S.S.R. & China – follow anti-imperialist stances.
  • UN (post WW2) provides a forum for decolonization process.
  • India (1947) & Ghana (1957) sponsor anti-imperial movements.
effects of decolonization
EFFECTS of Decolonization

Were mixed

  • Problems remained
    • Economic Dependency
    • Little industrialization
    • Poverty
    • Tribal, racial, religious differences
mohandas mahatma gandhi
Mohandas ‘Mahatma’ Gandhi
  • Passed English bar - lawyer for Indian merchants in South Africa.
  • Gandhi’s answer to a spiritual theory of social action – Satyagraha - “soul force”. A tactic using nonviolent resistance or civil disobedience.
a revolution in indian politics
A ‘Revolution’ in Indian politics
  • Gandhi’s Satyagraha -

“What do you think? Wherein in courage required – in blowing others to pieces from behind a cannon, or with a smiling face to approach a cannon and be blown to pieces?...Believe me that a man devoid of courage and manhood can never be a passive resister.”

gandhi in india
Gandhi in India
  • 1915: back in India - Dressed in traditional clothing- crisscrossed India on third-class trains listening to common people to understand their plight.
  • Urged a boycott of British goods, jobs & honors.
the british back down
The British Back Down
  • 1931 - released Gandhi from jail & negotiated with him as an equal.
  • 1935 - Indian got a new constitution.
  • 1942- called on British to “Quit India” – civil disorder campaign – arrested & jailed.
the muslim league
The Muslim League
  • Led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah (1876-1948)
  • Feared Hindu domination of an independent India ruled by Congress Party.
  • Made Muslim separation from Hindu majority a nationalist issue.
  • In 1940 Jinnah told a Muslim League conference that Britain should give Indian Hindus & Muslims separate homelands – Gandhi appalled “victory of hate over love”
independence but partition
Independence But Partition
  • Britain agreed to speedy independence in 1945, but murderous clashes between Hindus and Muslims in 1946 led to a delay.

In the end...

  • India’s last Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten (1900-1979) proposed partition. Both sides agreed.
  • One fifth of humanity gained independence on August 14th 1947.
the tragedy of partition
The Tragedy of Partition
  • Massacres and mass expulsions.
  • 100,000 slaughtered & five million refugees
  • Gandhi said “What is there to celebrate? I see nothing but rivers of death.”
  • Gandhi was gunned down in January 1948 by a Hindu fanatic, while announcing a fast to protest Hindu persecution of Muslims.
modern india
Modern India
  • Largest democracy in the world
  • Jawaharlal Nehru became the first prime minister for the next 17 years
  • Democracy, Unity, & Economic Modernization


  • Kashmir= years of conflict that continues today
  • Cold War alignment= NON Alignment Movement
  • Industrialization= slow but coming
  • Social and cultural issues= continuous challenges with progress
    • Caste system
    • Economic
    • Women’s rights
  • Border both India & Pakistan
  • Hindu leader with large Muslim populations
  • 1947-Pakistan invaded leading Kashmir to align with India fighting cont.’d until 1949. Cease fire lead to 1/3 control by Pakistan 2/3 by India.
  • 1962- China seized part of Kashmir
  • 1972- Indian and Pakistani forces fought again
  • Today: tensions continue and flare up intermittently
nehru s family rules
Nehru’s Family Rules
  • 1964 Nehru dies
  • Congress Party left with no strong leader
  • 1966 Indira Gandhi becomes Prime Minister (Nehru’s daughter)
    • 1980 re-elected(after a short period out of office)
    • Increased food/grain production
    • Faced a threat from Sikh extremist agitating for an independent state
    • 1984 500 were killed in a violent demonstrations
    • 2 months later her Sikh bodyguards shot her
  • 1984-89 Rajiv Gandhi leader / charged with corruption
    • 1991 killed by a bomb while campaigning near Madra
pakistan 1947 sri lanka 1948
Both suffer from religious & ethic conflictsPakistan (1947) & Sri Lanka (1948)


  • 47’ Divided E/W; Separated by India
  • Ethnically/culturally different; same religion
  • 1971- W. Pakistan became independent Bangladesh
  • After 1958 Pakistan went through a series of military coups
    • Ali Bhutto lead after the civil war
    • 77’ Gen. Zia removed him
    • Bhutto later executed for corruption
    • Gen. Zia dies in a plane crash
    • Benazir Bhutto elected 2 ‘Xs
    • 96’ removed from office after period of disorder
    • More military coup ensued
    • Benazir Bhutto ran again in 07’ she was assassinated

Sri Lanka

¾ = 16 mill Buddhists

1/5 = Tamils (Hindu)

Tamil militants want a separate nation

83’ India tried unsuccessfully to help disarm the Tamils to end the violence.

May 2009 Tamil “Tigers” leader killed, they lose, civil war over!?

summary decolonization in india
Summary: Decolonization in India
  • Nationalist protests & revolutionary activities led to repression by British officials in the 19th & 20th c.
  • Gandhi launches a nationalists movement against British rule using civil disobedience
  • World Wars & broken promises by the British led to a greater desire for Independence as Hindu-Muslim splits became more pronounced.
  • 1947 – India was granted independence by the British.
  • Partition of India & E. & W. Pakistan “resolved” the religious conflicts
  • Period of Political turmoil followed
Trends (general similarities):What trends did you notice with these countries and the Decolonization process?


  • Economic: lack of industrialization
  • Political: ?s of who will rule; how will they rule=conflict
  • Social: Ethnic/religious conflicts
    • Muslim
    • Hindu (incl. Tamil)
    • Sikh

Look for such trends in the problems facing decolonizing countries

        • Economic
        • Political
        • Social
colonization in africa
Colonization in Africa
  • Europeans had divided up the continent
  • Exploited the resources
  • Left the region unprepared (no experience) to rule themselves

In addition, …

  • Borders imposed by the Europeans caused many problems (Berlin Conference of 1884)
    • Separated similar cultures
    • Enclosed traditional enemies

Two major methods in Africa:

  • Negotiated Independence: Long or short term deal between European power and African colony
  • Incomplete Decolonization: White settler minority population given political power over black majority
the road to independence
The Road to Independence
  • Interwar years: an educated middle class began to develop
    • Went to US for college
    • Influenced by American Culture (Harlem Renaissance, Black activist & leaders)
  • Pan African Congresses 1919/1921
  • Negritude Movement began in among French speaking Africans/lead by Leopold Senghor
    • Celebrated African culture, heritage, & values
  • WWII African soldiers fought along side Europeans
    • Became unwilling to accept colonial domination
    • Europeans began to ? The cost of mainitaining the colonies
decolonization in africa post wwii europeans were ready to decolonize
Decolonization in Africa:Post WWII Europeans were ready to decolonize
  • When? British wanted to Prepare the colonies for self rule
  • How? Allowed more Africans to be elected to the legislative Council
    • Africans wanted elected, not nominated rep.s
  • Where? Gold Coast first
    • Kwame Nkrumah (US ed. & Former teacher) began Non violent protest for elected rep.s
      • Strikes, boycotts
  • When? Succeeded in getting INDEPENDENCE in 1957
    • Renamed: Ghana (1st African lead country to joint the British Commonwealth)
    • Nkrumah became first Prime Minister
independent ghana 3 45 8 42


Independent Ghana 3:45-8.42
  • Nkrumah = 1st Prime Minister & then President for life
    • Pushed thru expensive development plans & econ. Projects
      • Roads, schools, healthcare facilities
    • These $$$ projects quickly crippled the country & STRENGTHED his opposition
  • Influenced by Marcus Garvey (separatist who wanted Africa for Africans)
  • Helped organize Pan African meetings in 1945 & 53.
  • 1963 he influenced the development of the (OAU) Organization of African Unity
  • Criticized for spending too much times on Pan African efforts & neglecting economic problems
  • 1966 while he was in China the Ghana army & police seized power
  • 1966-Present:

has gone back & forth btwn military & civililand gov’t.s & it continues to struggle for economic stability.

1979 an Air Force pilot Jerry Rawlings seized power & again in 1981.

2000 the first open election was held

independent kenya
Independent Kenya
  • British settlers controlled prime farmland in North & fiercely resisted Decolonization there
  • Forced to accept Independence due to:
    • the strong, popular leadership of Nationalist Jomo Kenyatta (Kikuyu educated in London) &
    • The rise of the Mau Mau secret society made up of mostly Kikuyu farmers forced out by British farmers
    • Mau Mau’s aim: frighten the white farmers into leaving
      • Kenyatta was not a Mau Mau but he did not oppose them either
  • 1963 Independence was granted but only after 10,000 Kenyans & 100 whites were killed
  • Jomo Kenyatta became President
    • Worked to unite the various ethnic /language groups
    • Nairobi (capital) grew into a major business center

1978 Kenyatta died

  • Succeeded by Daniel arap Moi
    • Faced more & more opposition to ONE Party Rule
      • University strikes and protests = DEATHS for some students & put pressure on Moi to move more toward Democracy
      • 1990s economy suffered / ethnic conflict cont.d / charges of corruption toward Moi’s govt
  • 2007-08: evidence of election corruption and ethnic violence blackened the election
belgian congo
Belgian Congo
  • Most Exploited African Colony
    • Ruthlessly plundered for resources (rubber & copper), slave labor, drained wealth
    • No social services & no preparation
history congo zaire asf independent congo 56 1 49 1 49 2 39
History congo (Zaire).asf Independent Congo :56-1:49; 1:49-2:39
  • 1960- granted independence
  • Renamed Zaire 1967-95

Tumultuous process

  • Internal conflict & Outside (UN & USSR) intervention
    • Patrice Lumumba 1st prime minister
    • Ruled a divided country (He controlled the North)
    • In the SE (Mineral rich Katanga region / copper)
    • Moise Tshombe declared SE independent of the rest
    • Tshombe backed by Belgian mining co.
    • Lumumba 1st asked UN for help against Tshombe, then he turned to the USSR
    • Colonel Mobutu (first working for Lumumba) led a military coup to over throw Lumumba & turned him over to Tshombe
    • Lumumba was murdered shortly after
    • Tshombe ruled briefly until 1965 when
    • Mobutu overthru him & seized power in a bloodless coup
  • Ruled 32 yrs
  • Used a combo of force, 1 party rule & bribes
  • Zaire’s mineral wealth & natural resources made it 1 of the richest in Africa
  • Under Mobutu it became 1 of the poorest
  • He is believed to have looted the country for billions
  • Mobutu resisted many attempted rebellions & ethnic clashes
  • 1997 Laurent Kabila took over after a 7 month long civil war
    • Banned all political parties
    • Promised transition to democracy & election by 1999
    • Never Happened
  • Country is in constant state of rebellion
algeria colonization
Algeria Colonization
  • France was the primary colonizer in North Africa
  • Population:
    • 1 million french colonists / 9 million Arab & Berber Muslims
      • Colonists were unwilling to leave w/o a fight
  • France attempted assimilation but not a reality
independents algeria
Independents Algeria
  • 1945- French troops fired on Algerian nationalist who were demonstrating--killing thousands of Muslims & 100s of Europeans
  • 1954 -Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN) moved to fight for independence
    • FLN used guerrilla tactics at home but diplomacy (talk) internationally
  • French sent ½ million troops to stop them
  • Both sides committed atrocities
  • European settlers began calling for De Gaulle to return as president in France to restore order in the colonies
de gaulle algeria
De Gaulle & Algeria
  • 1958- De Gaulle returned to power
    • He concluded that Algeria count not be held by force
    • France let go of most of its African possessions
  • 1962- a referendum set up the conditions for independence
    • Transfer of power planned
    • March -750,000 settlers fled Algeria

July 1962 = Independence

  • Ahmed Ben Bella (FLN leader, imprisoned by French) became prime minister & then President
    • Reestablished order
    • Began land refors
    • Developed new plans for education
  • 1965- he was overthrown by his Chief of Staff!
secular religious conflict over power
Secular & Religious Conflict over Power
  • 1965-1988- attempt to modernize & industrialize
    • were undermined when
    • world oil prices plunged (1985-86)
    • Unemployment & broken promises lead to an Islamic revival
  • Riots in 1988 against the secular govt occurred
    • Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) won in 1990 & 91 elections
    • Ruling govt refused the election results
    • Civil War broke out Islamic militants vs govt
    • The War continues of & on today
    • & the international community is working on an agreement
  • Portugal = 1st to imperialize Africa; and the last to leave
  • Made no preparation to assist their colonies into independence
    • No education; health facilities & little commerce
  • However, some Angolans did gain an education & they heard about other African countries gaining independence & became inspired
independent angola
Independent Angola
  • 1960s- 3 Revolutionaries Groups emerged.
    • Each supported by different foreign powers
    • Portugal sent 50,000 troops to down the rebellions
    • $$$$$ costing ½ of Portugal total nation budget $$$
    • Discontent WITHIN Portugal over colonial wars led to the military toppling the govt. there!
  • 1975- Portuguese withdrew from Angola w/out formally handing power over to any one group
  • Lack pf preparation for independence was made worse when a Communist (MPLA) group seized of power next
  • Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) took control of the capital & declared itself the rightful government
civil war in angola
Civil War in Angola
    • MPLA got help from Cuba & the USSR
    • FNLA (National Front for the Liberation of Angola) got help from Zaire and the US [they faded away]
    • The MPLA was also opposed by UNITA (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola) who got help from So. Africa & the US
    • 1988- the US with consent from the USSR pressed for a settlement among the MPLA, UNITA, So. So. Africa & Cuba
  • 1989 a Cease fire went into effect
  • 1995 the parties began discussion about representation of EACH group in the govt.
  • Negotiations broke down and a long bloody cifil war continues today. Multiple elections have been planned & then postponed. Including one in Jan. of 2010
results of decolonization
Results of Decolonization
  • Elites gained power
  • Initial political parties reflected ethnic, regional, or religious groups
  • Power was often gained by corrupt African “strongmen” (dictators) who ignored the social needs of people
  • Economic dependency continued.
  • Political turmoil and instability continued
  • Increased Jewish immigration
  • Requests for a Jewish Homeland (Zionism)
  • Increased tension btwn Jews & Palestinians (Arabs) as Jewish population continued to grow
british french wheel deal
British & French WHEEL & DEAL
  • HOW French & Britain WILL DIVIDE UP the Middle East AFTER WWI
end of wwi
  • Arab regions expect British to hold to word
    • And grant Independence
  • USSR angry supports Middle East - MISTRUST!
treaty of versailles
Treaty of Versailles
  • League of Nations attempts a solution:
    • Mandate System
      • UK, France administer (oversee) regions until they’re “Ready” for independence
      • How is this different from a colony?
mandate system1
Mandate System

UK- Mandates of:

  • Persia (Iraq)
    • Install puppet king
    • Establish 75-year-long oil concession
post wwii middle east
Post-WWII Middle East


  • Before WWI: Jews asked that a Jewish nation be carved out of the territory inhabited by the Palestinians under the Mandate of the British
  • During WWI Britain feared the loss of support from both sides
    • Balfour Agreement written (1917)
    • Seemed to make promises to both sides
    • English needed the support of both during WWII
    • The terms were unworkable b/c they could not live together
    • RESULT cameafter WWII: British can’t resolve the issue so they refer it to the “newly formed “UN
partition plan of 1937
Partition Plan of 1937
    • 1947: UN Solution: Partition of Palestine
    • WHY:
  • International sympathy for the Jews because of the Holocaust & support for the Jews desire for a Jewish homeland
israel becomes a state may 14 1948
Israel Becomes a State: May 14, 1948
  • Palestinians feared the increasing # of Jews would result in hardships
    • 1920: 20 Arab Palestinian to 1 Jew / 1947: 2 to 1
  • Post- WWII Britain was weary of failed solution for the problem & deferred to the UN
    • UN recommendation:
    • PARTIITION of Palestine into a Palestinian state & a Jewish State
    • Palestine = 66% of the Pop. & got 45% of the land / Jews = 34% of the Pop. & got 55%
    • Jerusalem was to be an international city owned by neither.
    • All Arab nations voted against this & Palestine rejected it completely
    • The Jews welcomed the decision
  • Country of Israel declared by United Nations, 1948

? of Palestinian rights, boundaries & access to things like water & farmland went undetermined

UN Partition Plan, 1947Effect: Full Scale Arab Israeli war!-Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia & Syria invaded Israel

1st of many Arab-Israeli Wars (56, 67, 73, 2006) . This ended w/in months in Israel’s Victory. Israel had strong US support

arab israeli war 1947 48
Arab Israeli War 1947-48
  • Palestinian state never came to be
  • 1948-49: Israel seized half the land set aside for the UN planned Palestinian state in the 1st Arab Israeli War
    • (Gaza Strip taken by Israel & Jordan took the West Bank)
    • Palestinians fled out of Jewish controlled areas into UN refugee camps
1956 second arab israeli war suez crisis
1956 Second Arab-Israeli War:Suez Crisis
  • Egypt seized the Suez Canal from French & British businesses
    • Pres. Nasser (Egypt) was angry b/c the US & Britain stopped financial support for the building of the Aswan Dam
  • British & French made an agreement with Israel
    • Military air support if Israel marched on the Canal – they did & took it
    • Egypt lost the canal, BUT…
  • Pressure from the international community (incl. US/USSR) forced Israel & the European Allies to withdraw & leave Egypt in charge of the canal
1967 six day war
1967: Six- Day War

Tensions Grew:

  • By early 1967, Pres. Nasser & his Arab allies, helped by USSR tanks & aircraft, moved to close off the Gulf of Aqaba(Israel’s outlet to the Red Sea)
  • Threatened, Israel attacked airfields in Egypt, Iran, Jordan, & Syria
  • Safe from air attacks, Israeli ground forces struck FAST on 3- Fronts
  • War ended in 6 days. Israel lost 800 troops Arabs lost > 15,000
  • Results: Israel militarily occupied & then annexed the old city of Jerusalem, the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights & the West Bank. (providing a buffer btwn Israel & the Arab states)
    • Palestinians living in the newly occupied Jerusalem were offered citizenship in Israel or Jordan (most chose Jordanian)
    • Palestinians living in the other occupied areas were NOT offered citizenship & became stateless
1973 yom kippur war
1973 Yom Kippur War
  • Egypt’s new Pres. Anwar Sadat, planned a joint Arab attack on the holiest Jewish holiday
    • Surprised! Israel incurred heavy casualties & lost some of the territory lost in 1967
  • Israeli prime minister, Golda Meir launched a counter attack & regained most of the lost territory.
  • An “uneasy” TRUCE (NOT a Peace Treaty) was agreed to after several weeks of fighting
land for peace
Land for Peace!
  • 1977: 4 yrs following the Yom Kippur War, Anwar Sadat offered Peace for Land!
  • Terms of Peace: Israel would have to recognize the rights of Palesinians & withdraw from territory seized in 1967 from Egypt, Jordan & Syria
  • 1978: US Pres. Carter invited Sadat & Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin to Camp David to discuss an agreement
  • 13 days of talks lead to THE CAMP DAVID ACCORDS: Egypt recognizing Israel as a state & Israel agreed to return the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt. Ending 30 years of hostilities btwn the 2 countries Sadat was assassinated later (1981 Muslim extremists enraged by his peace agreement shot him down)
the palestinian side
The Palestinian Side
  • Israel was unwilling to give up territories seized for security & began building settlements on the West Bank & Gaza Strip
  • Palestinians living in Israel resented Israeli rule
  • The PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) & its leader, Yasir Arafat attracted many angry Palestinians
    • 1970s & 80s military wing of the PLO conducted many armed struggles against Israel
  • Israel took a hard line against them
    • Bombing suspected bases in Palestinian towns
    • 1982: Israel’s army invaded Lebanon looking for PLO strongholds
      • Israel became involved in Lebanon’s civil war & were forced to withdraw
  • 1987- 1990s: Palestinians began to express their frustration in a widespread campaign of civil disobedience (boycotts, demonstrations, attacks on soldiers & rock throwing by teens) called the intifada (uprising)
  • Intifada continued with little progress toward an end BUT… Public opinionbegan to swing away from the Israelis
  • This ongoing conflict over occupied territories led to Peace Talks
  • 1991 Israel & Palestinian delegates agreed to meet for peace talks
peace talk the declaration of principles
Peace Talk: The Declaration of Principles
  • 1993: secret talks in Oslo, Norway = a surprise agreement btwn Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin & Yasir Arafat
  • The Declaration of Principles
  • Negotiated to grant the Palestinians self–rule in the Gaza Strip & the West Bank
  • 1995: Rabin was assassinated by a right-wing Jewish extremist who opposed concessions to Palestine
  • Benjamin Netanyahu succeeded Rabin & opposed the Peace Plan but he did make efforts to honor it
  • 1997: he met with Arafat to work out plans fr a partial Israeli withdrawal; from Hebron on the West Bank.
  • 1999: Barak became prime minister & supported the peace plan
  • 2001- Ariel Sharon became leader & moved away from withdrawal
  • 2004- Hamas wins election in Palestine (international community doesn’t acknowledge them)
  • 2006- Hamas kidnapped Israeli soldiers & Israel retaliated with air strikes
  • 2008-09- Hamas bombed Israel from the Gaza Strip & Israel retaliated with war & blockades
  • Today: Netanyahu is prime minister again & he supports settlement vs. withdrawal