The European powers exploited the resources of what came to be known as the third world countries and subjugated their people for about four centuries by their colonial and imperialist policies.
This exploitation inevitably provoked its own contradictions in the form of liberation and democratic movements.
Hence, the process of decolonization was accelerated with the end of the second world war and the establishment of the united nations.
Causes of Decolonization
1) Modern nationalism shook the imperialism in colonies and a sense of identification with pride in the nation-state was evolved which led to the formation of national organizations to destabilize the colonial set up.
2) Disruption in traditional life through the introduction of European authority and culture led to the psychological origin of nationalism which took to decolonization eventually.
3) Missionary education and ideas of the French Revolution influenced the minds of the elite imbibing the values of democracy and freedom.
4) Marxism, another ideology emboldened the nationalist movements in the colonies and they were progressively veering towards the socialist camp.
5) The profound involvement of the united nations in the post-second war period compelled the imperialist powers to withdraw from their colonies.
6) Ideologies like rising Asiatism, pan-Africanism were equally important in decolonizing because:
a) Asiatism: Centuries of Dutch colonial oppression in Indonesia and British in India, gave rise to nationalist sentiments and a certain sense of unity among the people.
b) Pan – Africanism: By the end of the 19th century, Africans were questioning European domination. The ideals and aspirations of the peoples of Africa were expressed in terms of Pan – Americanism.
7) After the end of the first world war, the victorious powers, in a novel way, put the colonial territories under the mandatory system of the league of nations which slowly liberated them into independent nations.
Decolonization Process After the First World War
a) The term ‘decolonization’ is likely to give the impression that the process of getting independence was a peaceful one.
b) In some countries, the process was relatively peaceful as in some of the French colonies of Africa like Senegal, ivory coast in West Africa and in some British colonies such as Nigeria, Ghana, etc.
c) Some of the countries attained independence through the intervention of international organizations like the league of nations and the united nations. Some took violent turns too such as the liberation of Algeria.
Decolonization Process After the Second World War
a) The process of decolonization was accelerated after the second world war. Some of the colonial territories like French, Indo-china, Dutch Indonesia, British Malaya, and Italian East Africa were occupied by enemy conquest and were virtually cut off from their colonial governors.
b) Indonesia and Vietnam proclaimed independence shaking the yoke of Dutch domination.
c) The most momentous event is the independence of India in 1947. Various peasant and tribal revolts were raised against British and local landlords in different parts of the country which contributed to the rise of a nationalist movement with Gandhi’s weapons of non-violence and non-cooperation.
d) Among the British African colonies, the gold coast (Ghana since independence)and Nigeria became independent.
e) The union of South Africa attained dominion status and later became a sovereign independent state within the British empire in 1934 and in 1961 it broke its links with Great Britain and left Commonwealth to become a republic.
f) The racist government – The apartheid regime – of South Africa denied even the most basic human rights to the Africans. In the 1980s and early ’90s, the increasing international pressure both within the UN and from the third world forced the western nations to negotiate with African opposition. With all the negotiations, the power was transferred to the black majority after the parliamentary elections.
g) When the UN succeeded league of nations, South Africa claimed the trusteeship over southwest Africa expanding the apartheid territory which was declared illegal by the UN.
In 1967 the UN established the council for Namibia to administer the territory. Later, South Africa attained independence to become Namibia.
Effects of Decolonization
i) International relations assumed a truly international character.
ii) Ruthless exploitation by the colonial powers was curbed and democracy, equality established.
iii) Crimes against humanity such as slavery, apartheid were stuck with a final blow.
iv) After decolonization new and sovereign nations emerged in Asia, Africa and Latin America which became the battlefield of ideological competition and the cold war.
v) Decolonized nations as a policy took to neutralism and followed nonalignment as a symbol of prestige and dignity.
vi) The operation and the working of UNO underwent a sea-change owing to the presence of Afro-Asian nations.
vii) Decolonization gave rise to what is referred to as the third world.