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Nationalism Was The Prime Cause Of The Colonial Powers Rapid Retreat From Africa Between 1945 1975

1656 words - 7 pages

The decolonisation of Africa reached its peak in the period 1960-65, with only two territories becoming independent before then (Sudan in 1956, Gold Coast in 1957). Some historians credit decolonisation to gradual transfer of power. Britain's intention being to slowly introduce and install stable democracies to the region. UK Prime Minster Harold Macmillan gave his "wind of change" speech in 1960 and marked a dramatic change, suggesting that the growing consciousness of nationalism was the main force pushing decolonization. Historians such as Ferguson would argue that decolonisation was part of a liquidisation of Empire. The imperial powers could no longer control and defend their colonies, the time of Empire coming to a natural conclusion and a new world order was presented by powers such as the U.S and the Soviet Union.

Ferguson argues against the idea of African nationalism as the main cause, seeing decolonisation as a natural conclusion at the end of the epoch of Empire. Winston Churchill had led Britain through the war but had an equally hard task of protecting a post war Britain and her commonwealth, would she, as Macmillan said in the 50s "Slide into a shoddy and slushy socialism, or march to the third British Empire". The first post war government was headed by Clement Attlee. This government was responsible for the first significant decolonisation of part of the British Empire as India gained its independence (much to the dismay of staunch imperialist, Churchill). Attlee's foreign policy in Africa was less anti-colonial. The African colonies came under an unprecedented degree of direct control from Whitehall, the government hoped to renew its mandate on the African continent with programmes designed to improve living standards and economic prospects. These ventures were all in all failures, such as the Tanganyika groundnut scheme, which failed in the cultivation of ground nuts and cost British tax payer millions. Britain was effectively insolvent after the war and as such could no longer afford these African forays like in the days of Dr. Livingstone's Zambezi Expeditions.

The end of WWII saw the emergence of two world super powers, that of the United States and the Soviet Union. Both were opposed to Imperialist Empires and opposed their control of Africa. Roosevelt outlined his ideas of a post war world in the Atlantic charter (1941) which also focused upon moving British dependences towards self governance. America's anti-colonial mantra was only outweighed by its anti-communist one. The Suez crisis is a good example of America using its veto against British imperialism. Nasser of Egypt nationalised the Suez canal, Britain sought to assert its dominance over the area through a military campaign that ultimately failed and led to the contemporary Prime Minster Anthony Eden resigning amid pressure from the Eisenhower administration in the US. Harold Macmillan (Eden's successor) sped up the progress of decolonisation in an...

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