Decolonization: Country Trends (1950s-60s)

Figure 1.--This terrible attack at a school we believe occurred in the Congo. It appears to be an example of the ethnic violence that has taken contless lives since de-colonization. We do not have a caption for this French wire service photograph, but we do know that it occurred July 17, 1960.

Independence was greated with great optimism throughout Africa, America (Latin). Asia, and Oceania. In most cases the heady optimism of independence has not been realized. In most of the newly independent countries, the standards of living and levels of personal freedom have actually declined since independence. In large measure this is because the independemce movements of the 1950s and 60s were strongly influenced by Socialist and Communist thought and failed to recognize the political and economic structures in the West that had created productive and just societies. Violence raged in several countries and by 1960 it was no longer pimarily the resistanve of the colonial powers. A range of unanticipated problems emerged. In Africa, tribalism proved a deadadly cocktail in several countries. Religion also proved deadly in South Asia. Many of the countries got involved in the Cold War. Most European countries rapidly exited from their countries. The major exceptions were the Dutch (Indoinesia), French (Algeria and Vietnam), but by 1960 there was little resistnce to de-colonization. It was only the Portuguese tring to hold on to their colonies. , but by 1960 Few of the countries were properly prepared for independemnce. Not only did many colonies not benefit from de-colonization, but the European colonial powers found in sharp contrast to expectations that their economomies were not adversely affected by de-coloniztion.


The European countries attempted to hold on to their colonies after World War II. The major exception was India which rapidly moved toward independence, especially when the Labour Party won a general election after VE Day (1945). After a series of costly guerilla wars 1940s-50s), Belgium, Britain, and France rapidly moved toward decolonization. All of the countries involved in Africa were unprepared. Here the Belgian Congo as a speciual case. These countries had poorly trained leaders, many of ewhom thought Soviet styled political and economic organization provided for rapid modernization and conveniently oermanent power. This lead to Africa becoming a new front in the Cold war. Few African leaders knew anything about economics and those that did had European educations which suggested that free market capitalism was a failed system and that the future laid with managed, socialist economies. Not one of the new African leaders was committed to free market capitalism. Many were impressed with the Soviet Union and its achievements through Socialism. Neither they are the Soviets for that matter understood at the time that Socialism was a route to ecinomuc disaster. Another appeal for corrupt African leaders that under Socialist systems that they could control much of the economy, providing enormous opportunities for graft and corruption as well as increased personal and political power. A range of other issues, including de-colonization, tribal issues, racism, national differences became mixed in with the economic debacle. The result was that the high hopes of independence were for the most part dashed. Africa experience economic failure on a collosal scale. Living standards in many African countries actually declined after independence. And the more Socialist the government, the greater the fall in living standards. And all this occurred despiye massite amounts of foreign assistance from Europe and the United States. Only now with the beginning of democracy and free market reforms in some of the contries beginning to have some impact in improving living conditions. A British reader who has lived in Nigeria writes, "No more so than in Nigeria. It has a large, energetic population and enormous natural resources, but graft and economic mismanagement is endemic. The simple matter is if free market ecomics had been pursued, the population would have been made consumers and Nigeria would be a rich country today. Nigeria today has everyone with their hand in the till and a potentially rich people poor." Socialism and government planning has created enormous opprtunities for corruption that would not exist in a free market economy.

America, Latin

Most Latin American countries won theeir independence in the wale of the Napoleonic Wars in the early-20th century. This was the case in South and Central America, the exception was the Guianasaanbd Belize. Except for Haiti, the Wuropeans maintauned their Caribbean colonies. The primary excption was the Caribbean. The British colonies moved toward independence (1960s).


The decolonization of Asia received a substantial impetus by the Pavific war. Many Asian nationalists saw out tenous the European hol was and npved more agressively toward independemnce. Britain granted inependence to India, Pkistan, nd Burma (1947-48). The rest of the continent followed soon after and with a few exceptions the European withdrwl was completed by the 1960s. The last major step was the disolution od the Soviet Union and the development of new Central Asian countries. In addition, the Mongolians were allowed to pursue independence. The last European possession was Macau which the Portuguese returned to China (1999).

Middle-East and North Africa


Decolonization began in Oceania. The Philippines during 1898 had proclaimed independence from Spain, but it was the Spanish-American war tht ended Spanish control of the Indepdence. The United States dis not grant indedepndence. A bitter guerilla war followed. The JUnited States instituted a Commonwealth and founded a public school system and democracy infrastrure. The United States was about to grant independence when the Japanese launched the Pacific War and invaded the Philippines. after the War, the United States moved rpidly toward independence. In contrast the Dutch attempted to resurect colonial control in their Dutch East Indies colony, but failed to defeat Indonesian revolitionaries. By the 1960s many small island countries achieved independence.


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Created: 4:25 AM 11/26/2015
Last updated: 4:25 AM 11/26/2015