chapter  4
26 Pages

The European colonial empires, 1900–45

The rapidity of the decolonization process after 1945 has meant that much of the writing on the European empires has dwelt on the immediate post-war period down to the mid-1960s. The result has been that, until recently, historical accounts have tended to portray the empires as being largely static in the pre-1939


period and then entering into a rapid decline precipitated by the Second World War and the Cold War. This, however, is a skewed and over-generalized view of a very complex phenomenon. Such an interpretation fails to take into account the many battles that took place between nationalism and imperialism in the interwar period, and overlooks the fact that after 1945 the European Powers made strenuous efforts to revitalize certain parts of their empires in what is known as ‘the second colonial occupation’. Thus, in order to understand the decolonization process and the nature of the post-colonial states, it is vital to look at the roots as well as the immediate origins of the shift towards independence, and to study the factors that over time led to the erosion of European colonial rule.