The age of decolonization is of crucial importance for our understanding of today’s world. By dissolving colonial rule around the world, this process led to the emergence of new sovereign states, thereby permanently changing international relations and international law.
The third phase of decolonization is the one most closely associated with the term “decolonization” today – and which refers to the end of European colonial rule after 1945. The process of the dissolution of the European overseas empires had a profound effect on the course of international history during the 20th century. This process occurred relatively quickly given that colonial rule had existed in some cases for a number of centuries. Only after just 30 years, from 1945 to 1975, all the colonial empires had disappeared from the global map.
This transformation proceeded by no means linearly or according to a set pattern. There were considerable differences between the various world regions, with cases of peaceful transition as well as extremely violent wars of decolonization. The colonial policies and strategic aims of the colonial powers and the strength of the respective anticolonial movements were the decisive factors. Additionally the Cold War confrontation and the growing importance of international organizations such as the United Nations were central aspects of the international context in which the third phase of decolonization occurred and they had a decisive effect on that process.
Concerning this international context, various contributions on hhr have already linked the dissolution of European colonial empires with the debates on universal human rights as well as humanitarianism. Most recently Andrew Thompson, University of Exeter, has argued in a public lecture as visiting fellow at the IEG Mainz that a global system of aid and development emerged through the end of empire. Thus he presented an intriguing new perspective of the entangled history of decolonization and emerging humanitarianism.
In one of my earlier posts I have already referred to the online project EGO | European History Online, a transcultural history of Europe published by the Leibniz Institute of European History Mainz (chief Editors: Irene Dingel and Johannes Paulmann).
I have now published an article including media links, maps and primary sources concerning the general topic of decolonization on the EGO webpage. If you are interested in reading my essay, you will find the English Version here.