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At the conclusion of World War II, major European powers were weakened physically, economically and psychologically, with the balance of power being firmly passed to the United states and the soviet Union. These factors together with the resurgence in non-white nationalisms directly resulted in the post war wave of decolonization. This paper compares the path of decolonization between Britain, France, Portugal and Spain, some of the major European powers. Of all the European countries, Britain had the most difficult task in trying to get rid of its possessions in the most dignified manner possible since it had the largest number of colonies. Giving up these colonies was difficult, especially with regard to the emergence of various violent non-white liberation movements after the war which was in most cases funded by the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union in particular aided the decolonization process as a way of attacking the capitalist West while at the same time establishing firm allies in the Third World. The first had to be taken despite these difficulties. Britain’s Labor Party government that had replaced Winston Churchill’s government after the elections that succeeded the war, formally recognized that the period of Empire was over. It therefore begun the post war decolonization drive by offering independence to India and Pakistan in nineteen forty seven and to Ceylon and Burma in nineteen-forty eight (Chamberlain, 1999).
Britain granted Palestine its independence after protracted guerrilla war that was carried out by the Jewish nationals, killing numerous British soldiers and senior officials. With these events in nineteen forty eight, Britain honored the 1917 Balfour Declaration and granted Palestine independence. The single major cause of conflict in the region was the displacement of many Palestinian Arabs which led to many open wars. Growing nationalism in Egypt in nineteen fifty six saw the seizure of the Suez Canal from the Great Britain. Britain and France combined forces and invaded the Suez Canal region. This invasion coincided with the Israeli-Arab war. The mission did not succeed as the Soviet Union threated to intervene.
Anti-European movements arose during the nineteen fifties in many African colonies with white settlements being attacked and several hundreds being killed in the most extreme ways. Britain had established puppet kings in Egypt, the last one being overthrown in nineteen fifty two in a coup that was organized by the Egyptian Army. The country was declared a republic in the same year. Two years later, the British granted Sudan independence while in nineteen sixty, it gave formal independence to Cyprus.
In February nineteen ninety eight, anti-European riots occurred in Accra and nine years later, the British granted it independence under the name Ghana. This was followed by Guinea in nineteen fifty eight. Seventeen African nations attained their independence in nineteen sixty and by the end of nineteen seventy, almost the entire Africa was independent. West Indian islands also gained their independence from European rule with Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago becoming independent in nineteen sixty two. Even as Britain easily gave up their colonies, other European nations attempted to maintain their hold.
Of all the European countries, Portugal held her colonies the longest which led to her fighting a vicious war in Mozambique and Angola. However, a change in government that took place in nineteen seventy four in Portugal led to them giving up their colonies as well. However, their dumping of the colonies was radically different from the way that the British departed. The Portuguese seemed not to have cared much about the state of their former colonies. With the change of Portuguese government in nineteen seventy four, Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau became independent in that very year. Spain also gave up its colonies which were known as Spanish Sahara in nineteen seventy six following the death of the France, the Spanish dictator. The colonies were later divided into Mauritania and Morocco.
In nineteen fifty six, France granted Morocco and Tunisia independence while in the French Sub-Saharan Africa, it made an attempt to thwart nationalist movements by offering the inhabitants of the black colonies complete status as citizens and allowing their representatives to sit in the French National Assembly. However, these concessions were not sufficient enough to satisfy the demands for complete independence. In nineteen seventy five, it relinquished the Comoro Islands and granted Djibouti independence two years later.
By the late nineteen fifties, almost one million French population had settled in the colony of Algeria. Even then, they had been compelled to fight a long running battle against the Algerian non-white nationalists for the control of the country. Charles de Gaulle, the leader of France during the time, put in place a policy of granting independence to all French colonies. This included Algeria despite its large French population. This French population felt that they were left at the mercy of the Algerians and thus, they established a resistance movement which was mainly composed of French soldiers that had fought against the Algerians. This movement set up a campaign against the French government officials who helped in the granting of Algerian independence. The movement even attempted to kill de Gaulle but after the majority of its leaders were killed or captured, the organization fell apart.
On seventh of April, 1962, a protest by white French settlers ended in the death of fifty white men, women and children when the French Arab troops opened fire on the crowd with live ammunition (Duara, 2004). The handover process was quickly concluded after this massacre. Before the majority of the French could live for France, three thousand French white settlers were killed by non-white Algerian nationalists which led to the country being stripped of European population almost overnight.
Japanese occupation of French Indo-China obliterated French colonies in Asia during the Second World War. When French abandoned decolonization trend and attempted to reestablish its mastery over Vietnam, a war broke out between them and the natives. They fought the Vietnamese but were severely defeated, leading to their withdrawal.
The process of decolonization was motivated by different factors among the major European countries, with every facto being unique to every country. These factors were mainly situational which varied but basically, it was motivated by the natives themselves. This process of decolonization took different paths depending on the interest of the countries but one clear fact is that the Europeans would not have managed to maintain colonies owing to the effects of the second World War and the pressure from the colonized people. One important factor that is common to all these European countries is that the process of decolonization was motivated by political factors in the parent countries. For instance, in Britain, Portugal and Spain, changes in regime came with the calls for independence of the colonized countries. As such, the attitude towards colonization had changed remarkable and hence there was need to grant independence to the colonized people.