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The Start Of The Sunset Essay

1116 words - 5 pages

The British Empire was one of grandeur and magnificence; it’s reaches stretched from North America all the way to Asia. However, after World War II the slow inevitable descent of decolonization reached a turning point, when Britain’s arguably most important asset, India, gained independence. India’s inception as a colony began in 1858, and even from then there were nationalist and resistance movements that evolved into the ones seen before and during the war. And Although India would have us believe that it was these very nationalist movements that freed them, and Britain would have us believe that their financial fragility rendered them unable to maintain control over India, it was actually ...view middle of the document...

It didn’t help that the nature of Gandhi’s campaigns and movements were simple: demand freedom through aversion and peaceful resistance. This ‘aversion’ or ‘Swadeshi’ movement included boycotting British retailers and goods and encouraging the revival of domestic products and production processes. This “boycotting of British goods from 1920 to the end of the war” tied with simple daily resistance to British colonial policies “observed by large segments of the Indian population closed Indian market to British interests” making India ungovernable in the long run (Unknown, World War II as a Catalyst for decolonization). These movements, combined with the war, only strengthened the Indian resolve for independence. The people of India were no longer willing to fight for the British and live by their rules, however regardless of how strong their nationalism was, Independence could not have arrived with this factor alone.
As well as strengthening Indian Independence, World War II also caused Britain to be replaced by other super powers like the USSR and USA, effectively lowering its dominance on the world stage. Furthermore along with a loss of power, the war also caused Britain to go into a large amount of debt, which lead to an increased economic fragility. This was because, during the war, the British Treasury was dependent on lend lease from United States, which ended after September 2nd, 1945. Under the lend lease, a total of $31.4 billion (at 1939 prices) aid was given by US to Britain (Mandle). As Rosemary Rees, the author of India: 1900-47 puts it:
“Six years of war had drained Britain’s financial reserves. Wartime debts had run at 70 million pounds per day toward the end and by 1945 the country owed 2370 million pounds. On top of this, Britain would have to deal with suppressing and controlling nationalistic movements within India. Could maintaining an empire in India be afforded?”

Britain was physically unable to maintain control over India and keep up with the costs of running a colony. It had cost them 500 million pounds a year before the war, and that amount increased significantly after as well. Moreover as a consequence of the abrupt halt of wartime production, Indian markets became less lucrative; increasing the amount of money that Britain would have to provide to run the colony. Moreover Indian Nationalistic movements were also costing a significant amount of money to...

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