Decolonization: A Very Short Introduction [#472]
Decolonization: A Very Short Introduction [#472]

Decolonization: A Very Short Introduction [#472]

Dane Kennedy


  • Leads to a better understanding of the process of decolonization, as well as its impact on contemporary international relations.
  • Provides a long historical perspective that notes prior waves of decolonization.
  • Makes a case for empires' abilities to adjust to the age of the nation-state.

Millions of Africans, Asians, and other peoples were the subjects of colonial rule by overseas empires through the mid-twentieth century. By the end of the century, however, nearly all of these peoples had become citizens of independent nation-states. The United Nations grew from 51 member states at its founding in 1945 to 193 today. Its nearly four-fold increase is one measure of the historic shift in international relations that has occurred over the past half-century. Decolonization is the term commonly used to refer to this transition from a world of colonial empires to a world of nation-states in the years after World War II.

Both ex-imperial states and post-colonial regimes have promoted a selective and sanitized version of decolonization that casts their own conduct in a positive light, characterizing the process as negotiated and the outcome as inevitable. This book draws on recent scholarship to challenge that view, demonstrating that considerable violence and instability accompanied the end of empire and that the outcome was often up for grabs.

This book highlights three themes. The first is that global war between empires precipitated decolonization, creating the economic and political crises that gave colonial subjects the opportunity to seek independence. The second theme is that nation-state was not the only option pursued by anti-colonial activists. Many of them sought pan- and trans-national polities instead, but a combination of international and institutional pressures made the nation-state the standard template. The third theme is that the struggle to escape imperial subjugation and create nation-states generated widespread violence and produced huge refugee populations, leading to political problems that persist to the present day. By focusing on these crucial points, Dane Kennedy reminds us how the tumultuous, even tragic, changes caused by the decolonization profoundly shaped the world we live in.


1 Waves of Decolonization
2 Global War's Colonial Consequences
3 The Deluge
4 The Problem of the Nation-State
5 Imperial Continuities and the Politics of Amnesia
Further Reading


Dane Kennedy is the Elmer Louis Kayser Professor of History and International Affairs at George Washington University and the Director of the National History Center. He is the author of five previous books on aspects of British imperial history as well as editor or co-editor of several others. He is a founding member of the International Decolonization Seminar faculty, which ran from 2006 to 2015.

"Kennedy's brief book will undoubtedly become a key resource for teaching the end of empire. It serves as an ideal launching point for anyone new to the field, whether they are interested in gaining a general understanding of decolonization or in finding ways to delve more deeply into the complications, chronologies, and meanings of the end of empire." -- Elisabeth Leake, The American Historical Review


ISBN : 9780199340491

Dane Kennedy
136 ページ
111 x 174 mm
Very Short Introductions





Decolonization: A Very Short Introduction [#472]

Decolonization: A Very Short Introduction [#472]

Decolonization: A Very Short Introduction [#472]