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Historiography of Decolonisation and Ending of The British Empire


The Lost Dominion: The Story of England's Abdication in India
by A. Carthill
London, 1925

This is a book that actually predicted the End of Empire in India written as it was in 1925. Carthill believed that the increasing democratisation and political division back in Britain would inevitably lead to a dismantling of the enlightened despotism that was used to rule in India.

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The Crumbling of Empire: The Disintegration of the World Economy
by Moritz Bonn
London, 1938

Bonn was making an economic case for the weakening of empires when he stated there was a process leading to a general 'crumbling of empire'. This was not surprising given that he was writing at the end of the depression hit 1930s where many of the colonies had had a particularly tough time.

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The Political Economy of Growth
by Paul Baran
New York, 1957

Baran believed that decolonisation was as a result of a change in the structure of international capitalism. He believed that big business no longer needed the old-style colonial structures. These multinational companies saw the old order as a threat to doing deals with new nationalist politicians. They assumed that a rapid transferance of power to a friendly elite was better than destabilising countries and leading them to non-capitalist alternatives.

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The End of Empire
by John Strachey
London, 1959

Strachey believed that the British decision to give up the empire was more to do with the shift in political thinking at home. Increasing liberalism could no longer tolerate brutal colonial methods of maintaining control. Britons preferred to spend their money on the new Welfare State than on military subjagation of nationalists across the empire. Besides, Britain had realised that its future was in new partnerships with the developed economies of Europe and North America rather than with colonial commodoties producers.

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The Twilight of European Colonialism: A Political Analysis
by Stewart Easton
New York, 1960

Easton believed that Britain was just too weak to maintain its empire in the new era of Superpower rivalries. Britain could no longer match the military, economic and ideological power of the USA or the USSR in the post-war period.

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Decolonisation: The British, French, Dutch and Belgian Empires, 1919 - 1963
by Henri Grimal
1965

Grimal believed that the primary reason for decolonisation was due to the local populations themselves. Once compliant peoples were prepared to revolt or fight against foreign rule or domination.

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Africa: The Politics of Independence
by Immanuel Wallerstein
New York, 1961

Walllerstein agrees on the role of local populations but emphasises the role of colonial elites mobilising nationalist sentiment to allow themselves to come to power after the Europeans. He explains how these new leaders often had to forge an 'invented' nationalism to identify with the borders established by the colonial powers.

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Pointing the Way
by Harold Macmillan
London, 1972

Justifying his own role in the process, Macmillan insisted that The British Empire had 'planned obsolescence' built into its structure. The idea was the British had accepted the imperial burden until the colonial subjects were competent enough to manage their own affairs.

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The Non-European Foundations of European Imperialism in Studies in the Theory of Imperialism
by R. Robinson
London, 1972

Robinson believed that the role of local actors was also important. However, he believed that the decolonisation process actually made local elites to shift from supporting the colonial authorities to new nationalist parties that were hoping to take power from Britain. Basically, they could see power ebbing and wanted to ensure that their position was maintained in a post-colonial era.

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Decline, Revival and Fall of The British Empire
by John Gallagher
Cambridge, 1982

Gallagher felt that the key to the decline and fall of the empire was due to the triangular relationship between Great Power diplomacy, domestic political imperatives and the extent of colonial collaboration. Although his thesis only ran to 1945 and the ending of the Second World War.

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European Decolonization, 1918 - 1981
by R. F. Holland
London, 1985

Holland thought that there was a process of mutual 'disimperialism' as both the core and the periphery reacted to one another's change in tone and circumstances. New interests and needs for both parties led to the obsolescence of the old collaborative working relationships. Europeans were becoming more concerned at sustaining a welfare state and a bulwark against Communism whilst colonial elites threw up leaders who sought new international opportunities or protections. Therefore he saw decolonisation as a process of voluntary disengagement from both sides but for different reasons.

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Britain and Decolonisation: The Retreat from Empire in the Post-War World
by John Darwin
London, 1988

Darwin felt that the British had been weakened by WW2 which in turn lead to a problematic post-war economic situation and the rising influence of the two new Superpowers. He believed that the British did try and set up a more informal empire through the Commonwealth but ultimately this failed due to the continued economic and political weakness of Britain in the Post-War World. Bascially, the thesis is that the Second World War started a vicious circle in declining influence which Britain struggled to break out of.

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British Imperialism
by P. J. Cain and A. G. Hopkins
London, 1993 (2 vols)

In Volume 2, Cain and Hopkins pointed out that the British were trying to create an economic empire in order to maintain its international position well after 1945. It was hoped that the Commonwealth might maintain Britain's economic opportunities whilst still attaching the colonies to the 'Free World' during the Cold War. They referred to this as the final stages of 'gentlemanly capitalism' which they believed was a constant motivating factor for British Imperialism as a whole. However, currency and financial imperatives ultimately made this too difficult to implement - although it was still a primary factor when granting terms to colonies upon their independence.

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Britain and the Sterling Area: From Devaluation to Convertability in the 1950s
by Catherine Schenk
London, 1994

Shenck emphasises British attempts at converting their empire into an economic empire in the post-war period. In particular she examined the role of Sterling in the 1950s and how its slow demise ultimately laid low Britain's Post-war imperial plans.

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Anticolonialism in British Politics: The Left and the End of Empire, 1918-1964
by Stephen Howe
Oxford, 1993

Howe believed that the view of the 'left' and 'progressives' in British politics set the tone for the post-war decolonisation period. He believed that the Left reconciled themselves to the concept of self-determination and so were at ease in allowing colonies to gain their independence. He further believed that the left's ideas on equality regardless of nationality or colour of skin and their ideas on international cooperation made decolonisation more acceptable to them.

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Party Politics and Decolonization: The Conservative Party and British Colonial Policy in Tropical Africa, 1951 - 64
by Philip Murphy
Oxford, 1995

Murphy believed that it was the Conservatives who should get most of the credit for the decolonisation process. He thought that they were persuaded that the end of empire was the logical fulfilment of its deeper purpose. He believed that this became particularly clear after the 1959 election. He explored the relationship between businessmen and their interests in Africa and their ties to the Conservative party and attempts by the Conservatives to establish 'friendly' regimes who would allow British commercial relations to continue.

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The British Empire in the Middle East, 1945 - 51: Arab Nationalism, the United States and Post-War Imperialism
by William Roger Louis
Oxford, 1984

Wm. Roger Louis believed that Britain's experience of the more informal nature of empire in the Middle East reveals Britain's post-war aims at trying to convert all the empire to a more informal one during a period of economic distress for Britain. He also emphasised Britain's complex relationship with the growing power of the USA and Britain reconciling itself to a weakened position.

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Merchant Capital and Economic Decolonization: The United Africa Company 1929-1987
by D. K. Fieldhouse
Oxdord, 1994

Looking at economic imperatives, Fieldhouse analysed the fortunes of the United Africa Company but came to the conclusion that it received few favours from the colonial authorities during the decolonisation process. He believed that it basically had to adapt and change itself to respond to the new commercial and political realities unfolding for the post-colonial economy.

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Decolonization in Africa
by John Hargreaves
London, 1996

Hargreaves concentrated on the motivations and actions of the Africans themselves in their decolonisation process. He sees Africans as being the prime drivers but within the context of shifting power balances from the old imperial powers to the Super powers and also the emerging role of the newly created post-war international institutions.

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Emergencies and Disorders in the European Empires after 1945
ed by R. F. Holland
London, 1994

This collection of essays challenges the widely held belief that the decolonisation process was a largely peaceful affair. It examines and discusses the wide spread incidences of violence and disobedience in the post war period.

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Britain's Declining Empire: The Road to Decolonisation, 1918-1968
by Ronald Hyam
Cambridge, 2007

Hyam believed that Britain had already been fundamentally weakened by the commitments to the First World War and the depression years of the 1930s even before the effects of the Second World War. When combined with increasing international criticism from allies and enemies alike, he believed that Britain's inability to retain its empire was due to the imbalance of her capabilities when coupled with her substantial global commitments. Within this context, the Cold War meant that Britain would have to shift its defensive priorities back towards Europe.

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British Government Policy and Decolonisation 1945-1963: Scrutinising the Official Mind
by Frank Heinlein
London, 2002

Heinlein beleived that the British were trying to transform and manage the decolonisatin process. He believed that officials wanted to retain influence but under the realisation that Britain's economic power was severely waning. The British also sought to manage more successful transfers that would chart a middle way between the collapse of Belgian authority in the Congo and the grim realities for the French in trying to hold on to Algeria at all costs. He also explains that transferring power was not always straightforward and often led to delays as discussions, systems and suitable partners were identified.

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Ends of British Imperialism: The Scramble for Empire, Suez, and Decolonization
by Wm. Roger Louis
Oxford, 2006

Expanding on his earlier work, Wm. Roger Louis explains that the Suez Canal Crisis provided the fulcrum for the decolonisation process. He believed that the British were forced to re-evaluate their power and influence in an era of the Superpower.

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