Martin Thomas’s path-breaking book Fight or Flight: Britain, France, and their Roads from Empire tells how the world’s two largest colonial empires disintegrated dramatically after the Second World War. Although shattered by war, in 1945 Britain and France still controlled the world’s two largest colonial empires, with imperial territories stretched over four continents. And they appeared determined to keep them: the roll-call of British and French politicians, soldiers, settlers and writers who promised in word and print at this time to defend their colonial possessions at all costs is a long one. Yet, within twenty years both empires had almost completely disappeared.
The collapse was cataclysmic. Peaceable ‘transfers of power’ were eclipsed by episodes of territorial partition and mass violence whose bitter aftermath still lingers. Hundreds of millions across four continents were caught up in the biggest reconfiguration of the international system ever seen.
In this new Talking Empire podcast Professor Thomas talks about the book with Professor Richard Toye.
One thought on “Britain, France, and their Roads From Empire: A New Talking Empire Podcast”
I appreciate the argument that the East/West cold war may not have played a dominant role in decolonization following WWII — but it was surely an important factor, and one I wouldn’t discount too heavily. Communism was at the very least presenting a distraction to both Great Britain and France — not just as nascent ideology in the colonies, but in much of Europe as well, from Greece westward.
The “East/West divide” is code for the ideological conflict that underpinned the cold war, not a geographic generalization.
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