Decolonization and the Decline of the European World Order summary




Decolonization and the Decline of the European World Order summary


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Decolonization and the Decline of the European World Order summary

Chapter 39 Decolonization and the Decline of the European World Order

  1. Introduction

Shaken by the events of twentieth-century colonialism, leaders in Asia and Africa began to reevaluate what needed to be kept from their own cultures and what accommodations with the West needed to be made. Reinvigoration of traditional beliefs and political structures was critical to the process of decolonization. The beginnings of decolonization lay in the development of Western-educated middle classes in colonized Africa and Asia. Relying on primarily peaceful means, indigenous leaders expelled colonial regimes. World War I served to sufficiently weaken the Western colonialists so that anticolonialist movements became possible. World War II crushed the ability of the European powers to maintain the colonial structure.

  1. Prototypes for the Independence Struggles: The First Phase of Decolonization in India and Egypt
    1. Introduction

Colonized long before Africa, India and Asian colonies were the first to establish independence movements. Western- educated minorities organized politically to bring about the end or modification of colonial regimes. India and Egypt provide examples of early decolonization movements.

    1. India: The Makings of the Nationalist Challenge to the British Raj

Regional associations of Western-educated Indians located in major cities coalesced to form the Indian National Congress party in 1885. Without a base of mass support, the primary function of the early party was to present grievances to the British colonial administration. Most of the issues concerned the Indian elite, not the poor. Despite its limited aims, the Congress party did allow the formation of a sense of Indian identity.

    1. Social Foundations of a Mass Movement

British economic and social policies helped the Congress party attract a mass following. Indians supported the massive costs for the colonial army, high-salaried bureaucrats, and the importation of British manufactured goods. Problems among the peasantry, including shortfalls of food supplies, induced nationalists to blame the British policies that encouraged peasants to shift from the production of food to commercial crops.

    1. The Rise of Militant Nationalism

Some nationalists, such as B. G. Tilak, emphasized the Hindu basis of the mass movement. Tilak and his supporters used Hindu religious festivals as a means of recruitment. Tilak urged the boycott of British manufactured goods. Tilak's conservative Hinduism frightened moderates, Muslims, and Sikhs. When evidence of Tilak's support for violence against the British regime surfaced, he was arrested and deported to Burma. Some Hindus embraced terrorism as a means of ending British rule. Terrorist groups favored secret organizations that targeted British officials and public buildings. British suppression and lack of mass support reduced threats from terrorism prior to World War I. Peaceful schemes for protest against the British rule, such as those developed by Mohandas Gandhi, drew support from the more violent movements of Tilak and the terrorists. With the repression of the latter groups, lawyers within the Congress party emerged as leaders of the nationalist movement.

    1. Egypt and the Rise of Nationalism in the Middle East

British occupation following the rebellion of Ahmad Orabi left the Egyptians with both the Turkish khedives and the British as overlords. Lord Cromer directed British policy in Egypt. He attempted economic reforms to reduce the khedival debts and to improve irrigation and other public works. The masses of the Egyptian population realized little benefit from the changes. The ayan, the greater landlords, were able to extend their control farther into the countryside under the British administration. The great estates came to monopolize most Egyptian land, with small landholders reduced to tenancy. Resistance to the British administration of Egypt emerged from within the ranks of the Egyptian business classes.
Journalists were particularly prominent in the nationalist movement. As journalists attacked the British administration and British racial attitudes, three nationalist parties were created. To forestall more violent nationalist movements, the British granted a new constitution to Egypt that included parliamentary representation. When World War I broke out, the British suspended the constitution and imposed martial law.

  1. World War I and the Postwar Crisis of the European Empires
    1. Introduction

World War I bolstered nationalist movements by weakening the European powers. Hundreds of thousands of African and Asian troops were conscripted for European armies during the war. Colonies also served as important sources of food and raw materials. During the course of the war, European vulnerability became evident. As troops were withdrawn from the colonies for the European fronts and administrative personnel were recalled, Africans and Asians began to fill posts previously reserved for European masters. To maintain support, European nations made many promises for future independence, but often failed to fulfill them after the war.

    1. India: Gandhi and the Nationalist Struggle

The White Dominions and India within the British Empire all played significant roles in World War I. Even the nationalist leaders of India supported the war effort. Wartime inflation reduced standards of living among the Indian peasants and produced famine in some regions. Following the war, nationalists were frustrated by British refusal to move directly toward independence. The initial promise of the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms of 1919 was offset by the Rowlatt Act, which limited Indian civil rights.
Frustrations permitted Gandhi to build a nation-wide protest against colonialism. Gandhi combined the qualities of a Hindu mystic with the acumen of a Western-educated lawyer. Both peasants and the middle classes supported his leadership. His boycotts and campaigns of civil resistance made him acceptable to both radical and moderate nationalists. As a Hindu mystic, Gandhi could mobilize widespread support for his movement.

    1. The Rise of Communalism and the Beginnings of Political Fragmentation

The one group that Gandhi found hard to convince were the Muslims, who in 1906 formed a separate organization, the Muslim League. Just as the Muslims frustrated Gandhi's attempt to create a broad-based opposition to British rule, so did Hindu extremists opposed to religious toleration. Gandhi's attempts to repeal the Rowlatt Act revealed the strengths and weaknesses of his movement. When Gandhi's non- violent opposition turned increasingly violent, he called off the campaign. The British then imprisoned Gandhi. Civil disobedience was renewed in response to the Simon Commission, which considered British responses to nationalist movements. The depression, occurring just after the Simon Commission, led to the revival of mass movements for nationalism. Gandhi started the renewed campaign with the Salt March of 1931, which forced the colonial government to make concessions. The British opened all provincial governments to Indian leaders in the Government of India Act of 1935.

    1. The Middle East: Betrayal and the Growth of Arab Nationalism

In the years after World War I, the Entente powers broke promises made to Arabs for independence in the Middle East. Instead, British and French forces occupied mandates created artificially within the League of Nations. In Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon, Arab resistance to the mandate system was common. More serious was Arab concern over the British mandate in Palestine, which was coupled with the creation of a Jewish homeland. Lord Balfour had promised Zionists in 1917 that the British would support a Jewish homeland in Palestine after the end of the war.
Pogroms against Jewish communities, particularly in Eastern Europe, accelerated the creation of Zionist planning for migration to the proposed Middle Eastern homeland. Zionism remained a largely East European movement until 1894, when Theodor Herzl mobilized West European Zionism and formed the World Zionist Organization. Zionism and the British takeover of Palestine both seemed to violate assurances to the Arabs of nationalist independence. Rising Arab opposition caused the British to limit Zionist settlement in Palestine. Zionists thus began to arm in order to resist both British government and Arab opposition to further settlement. Arabs in Palestine remained virtually without a voice in the diplomatic negotiations concerning the fate of their region.

    1. Revolt in Egypt, 1919

The imposition of martial law in Egypt during World War I imposed great hardships on the peasantry. When the war ended, British refusal to allow an Egyptian delegation to attend the Versailles peace conferences touched off a rebellion. The British were able to regain control, but were forced to recognize the nationalist Wafd party under Sa'd Zaghlul. Between 1922 and 1936, British forces were progressively withdrawn to the Suez Canal zone, although they reserved their right to defend their interests in Egypt. Although they had achieved a degree of independence, the Wafd party failed to enact significant social or economic reforms.

    1. The Beginnings of the Liberation Struggle in Africa

During World War I, most Western-educated African elites remained loyal to the colonial regimes. The war effort disrupted African economies and drew heavily on African manpower. After the war, the Europeans kept few promises of economic improvement leading to strikes and civil disobedience. As the depression took hold during the 1930s, dissatisfaction with colonialism spread.
The first nationalist movements appeared in Africa in the 1920s in the guise of unworkable pan-African organizations. Charismatic African-American leaders had significant roles in the formation of pan-African movements. In French Africa, a literary genre, negritude, celebrated black culture as an attack on European racist attitudes. In British colonies, there was more direct political organization. Although actual political parties were slow to emerge, political associations did begin the process of developing a mass base and agitating for political reform.

  1. Another Global War and the Collapse of the European World Order
    1. Introduction

World War II proved fatal to the European colonial empires. Rapid collapse of the Allies in Europe and Asia destroyed illusions of colonial strength. Even though the Allies recovered sufficiently to defeat the Axis powers, they were unable to restore the validity of their colonial governments. The war drained European resources. Because the U.S. viewed World War II as a war of liberation, they supported nationalist movements in the colonies. The Soviet Union also condemned colonialism.

    1. The Winning of Independence in South and Southeast Asia

During World War II, Indian resistance to the British government produced a campaign of civil disobedience called the Quit India movement. Only the Muslim League under Muhammad Ali Jinnah supported the war effort. Economic disruption during the war increased support for the nationalist party. When a Labour government replaced Winston Churchill's wartime ministry in 1945, the new British ministers began negotiations for independence. The Muslim League insisted on the creation of separate Muslim and Hindu states. Fearing a possible sectarian bloodbath, Congress party leaders agreed to the partition of India in 1947. Congress emerged as the political leaders of independent India, while Jinnah took over in Muslim Pakistan. Until the borders of the new nations could be secured, sectarian violence marred the independence movement.
In 1948, a radical Hindu assassinated Gandhi. With India gone, the British rapidly arranged for independence in the other Asian colonies Burma and Ceylon. With the British withdrawal from colonialism, the French, Dutch, and the United States also began the process of decolonization in Asia. The U.S. granted independence to the Philippines. Although they resisted nationalist movements, the Dutch withdrew from Indonesia in 1949. The French continued to hold Indochina, until forced to withdraw.

    1. The Liberation of Nonsettler Africa

World War II shattered the image of the colonizers in Africa, while producing some industrialization. There were two primary paths to decolonization in Africa. Kwame Nkrumah led a more radicalized independence movement based on confrontation with the colonial government of the Gold Coast through boycotts, mass rallies, and strikes. Nkrumah's ability to construct mass support for his Convention Peoples party eventually led the British to recognize him as prime minister of independent Ghana in 1957. Other nonsettler colonies within the British Empire also received independence during the 1960s.
France followed a more gradual path to independence marked by political concessions to African leaders who wished to retain ties to the mother country. Between 1956 and 1960, most French colonies in Africa achieved independence. The Belgians simply abandoned their colony in the Congo in 1960 in the absence of any nationalist movement. Only Portugal attempted to retain control of its African possessions.

    1. Repression and Guerrilla War: The Struggle for the Settler Colonies

Settler colonies with substantial white populations resisted the process of decolonization. When it became apparent that nonviolent political movements could not succeed, African groups turned to violent revolution. Radicals in Kenya, discouraged with the Kenya African Union under Jomo Kenyatta, formed the Land Freedom Army in the 1950s and began a guerrilla war against white settlers and the British colonial government. Although the British were able to defeat the military threat, the British agreed to negotiations for decolonization with Kenyatta. Kenya achieved independence in 1963.
In Algeria, the struggle for independence was longer and bloodier. The National Liberation Front began a guerrilla war against the French in the 1950s, but independence negotiations did not begin until 1958. Even after negotiations began, the violence in Algeria was sustained by white settlers organized in the Secret Army Organization against Arabs and Berbers. The OAS attempted to assassinate Charles de Gaulle and overthrow the French government to undo the independence agreements. Independence was finally granted in 1962.

    1. The Persistence of White Supremacy in South Africa

Only in South Africa was a white minority able to hold onto power into the 1990s. With a larger white population than elsewhere, the Afrikaner population of South Africa had no European homeland for retreat. They regarded themselves as white Africans. To maintain their political superiority, the Afrikaners depended on blatantly racist systems of social and political organization. In the 1930s and 1940s, the Afrikaner National party dominated the political scene. Under its direction, South Africa achieved independence in 1961. Imposing apartheid, a rigid system of racial discrimination, the Afrikaner minority imposed economic and political discrimination on blacks, mixed-race peoples, and Indians living in South Africa. A police state enforced the dictates of apartheid.

    1. Conflicting Nationalisms: Arabs, Israelis and the Palestinian Question

The fate of Palestine, more than liberation of other Arab states, continued to be a source of difficulty in the Middle East. In the aftermath of the Holocaust, many supported Zionist demands for creation of a Jewish state. Increasing Arab resistance to additional Jewish settlement in Palestine forced the British to limit Jewish immigration. The Zionist military force, the Haganah, then began a violent resistance to British government. In 1937, a British commission proposed partition of Palestine, which was endorsed by the United Nations in 1948. The Arab states surrounding the newly formed Israel immediately attacked. Despite being outnumbered, the Israelis were able to defend their new nation and expand at the expense of their Arab neighbors.

  1. Conclusion: The Limits of Decolonization

In many parts of the world, decolonization was not a revolutionary procedure. Power passed from one class of elites to another. Little social and economic reform was involved. Decolonization also did little to disrupt Western economic dominance of the system of global trade.


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