Decolonization map smaller


  • Explain how former European colonies in Africa and Asia
    gained independence (there’s more than one way)
  • Discuss the long-term impacts of European imperialism


In the late 1800’s, European Imperialism took over nations in Africa in Asia. Europeans carved empires without any regard to the people they took over. During this time, people attempted to resist being taken over. These attempts to fight back usually ended badly.

For example, the Chinese attempted to resist several times. In the Opium Wars, the Chinese government attempted to stop British trade of opium in their country. The British invaded and forced the Chinese to sign the Treaty of Nanking. Then, in 1900, Chinese nationalist called the Boxers attempted to remove foreigners from the country again. They killed Westerners to encourage all foreigners to leave. Again, the Boxer Rebellion did not remover foreign influence. It actually caused the foreigners to take firmer control of parts of China.

People in India also tried to resist foreign rule. In 1857, the Indian troops working for the British East India Company’s army revolted. The Sepoy Mutiny caused the British military to invade India and take direct control of it as a formal colony.

Following World War II, European nations could not hold on to their colonies anymore. European nations were weakened by the two world wars and could not stand up to nationalist movements in their colonies.

Creation of Israel


The British took control of Palestine in the late 1800’s. The area was inhabited by people who are Arabs and most of them practiced Islam. Also in the late 1800’s, a nationalist movement developed amongst Jew around the world. It was called Zionism and it talked about gaining a home and for Jews.

During World War I, Britain, desperate for support, promised the Jews a homeland in Palestine in a document called Balfour Declaration. It also promised the Palestinians that it would keep Jews out. In the 1920’s and 1930’s, Jews began moving to Palestine in preparation for this homeland.

Once World War II was over and the horrors of the Holocaust were revealed, some people started to think that the Jews did need a country of their own. Many Jewish refugees that survived the Holocaust moved to Palestine, despite the British trying to strictly limit immigration. Extremist Jewish nationalist groups began committing acts of terrorism to force the British to give them their own country. The deadliest of these terrorist acts was the bombing of the King David Hotel, which was where the British run government was centered.

In 1947, under the pressure of terrorism and the world, the United Nations partitioned the area controlled by Britain into two countries: Palestine (for the Arabs) and Israel, the Jewish homeland.

The creation of Israel has created many problems. Immediately at its inception, it was at war with its Arab neighbors. In the succeeding wars, Israel conquered Palestine. Palestinian nationalists, in turn, have committed acts of terrorism to try and force Israel to give them a homeland again.

India-Pakistan Partition


Lawyer Mohandas Gandhi wanted to fight against the injustices of British rule in India. Starting around the time of World War I, he led an independence movement that was remarkable for its non-violent tactics, as well as its effectiveness.

After British officers ordered their troops to fire on a crowd of peace protesters in Amritsar—known as the Amritsar Massacre—Indian demands for home rule—or freedom from imperial control—intensified. But Gandhi’s method for resistance did not resort to terrorism, as most nationalist movements have. Instead, he called for boycotting British goods and refusal to obey British laws. Civil disobedience, as his method is known, depends on calling attention to the unjust laws by peaceably protesting them, even in being arrested for breaking them.

Gandhi led on boycott called the Homespun Movement. British mercantilist polices required all cloth to be imported from England. Indians were not allowed, by law, to make their own clothes. Gandhi called on all Indians to make their own cloth instead of submitting to British rule.

Gandhi’s other famous protest was over salt. At the Salt March, Gandhi defied a British law banning the manufacture of salt without a license. Only British companies were ever given permission. Gandhi and other members of the Indian National Congress—the leaders of the independence movement—were imprisoned for violating the law.

Gandhi wanted the area controlled by the British to become a free India. But Muslim leaders in the Muslim League, such as Muhammad Ali Jinnah, wanted a separate Muslim state. When the British freed India, it was partitioned—or divided—into two separate countries: India and Pakistan. Despite gaining freedom, India has struggled with problems since independence. It’s large population, tension with Pakistan and internal problems have been significant issues for India.



The British also held a colony in West Africa that they called the Gold Coast. By 1948, they began transitioning it to self-rule. Wanting immediate independence, nationalist leader Kwame Nkrumah encouraged people to revolt and strike, trying to encourage the British to leave. For this, he was imprisoned. When the British left in 1951, Nkrumah became the first Prime Minister of Ghana, the newly renamed Gold Cost that was named after the ancient African trading kingdom.



Kenya was another British colony. Nationalist leader Jomo Kenyatta fought against British rule. A terrorist group called the Mau Mau raided home and slaughtered foreigners without mercy. Their goal was to convince foreigners to leave. The British jailed Kenyatta, accusing him of inciting the Mau Mau attacks. But the attacks continued. The British realized that they had to give Kenya independence. They gradually shifted power to the Kenyans. In 1961, Kenyatta became the first elected prime minster.

Korean War map


Korea was taken over by Japan in 1894. The Russian Empire attempted to challenge Japan for control of the peninsula, but was soundly defeated by the Japanese in 1905. At the end of World War II, American and Soviet troops invaded Korea to kick the Japanese out. The Soviet invaded the northern part of the peninsula, while the Americans invaded the South. Korean was divided into two parts, split at the 38th Parallel.

The two countries agreed to occupy the country for a while and to reunify it later. The Soviets withdrew their troops in 1948, the United States in 1949.

On June 25, 1950, North Korean forces invaded South Korea. The North Koreans, who were receiving support from both the Soviet Union and newly-turned communist China, wanted to reunify the country as a communist state. The United Nations immediately condemned North Korea’s actions and the United States, already committed to the foreign policy of containment (not allowing communism to spread), sent troops to help South Korea.

Under a United Nations command, mostly American and British troops fought the North Koreans back. The even crossed into North Korea, almost reaching the border of China. The Chinese, concerned that the UN forces were going to keep pushing into their country, sent troops to help the North Koreans. They pushed the UN forces back to the 38th Parallel. On July 27, 1953, the two sides signed an armistice. No treaty was ever negotiated and Korea has remained divided at the 38th Parallel ever since, with the North being communist and the South being non-communist.

Vietnam War map


Vietnam was a French colony called French Indo-China. The French, who were invaded and occupied during World War II by the Germans, lost control of the colony. Then the Japanese swooped in to try and take over the country. Nationalist leader Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh declared the country free and fought the Japanese.

At the closing of World War II, the French attempted to retake control of Indo-China. They fought the Indochina War. Ho and the Viet Minh received support from the Soviet Union and communist China. By 1954, the French conceded defeat.

Because the Cold War was going on, at the conclusion of the war, Vietnam was divided into two parts to satisfy the superpowers. North Vietnam was communist and South Vietnam was—well, not democratic, but non-communist. The partition was meant to be temporary and the country was to be reunified later.

When the president of South Vietnam—Ngo Dinh Diem—refused to reunify, the Ho began a guerilla campaign to overthrow his government. Diem was overthrown and executed.

Because of the Cold War, the United States got involved. Seeking to stop South Vietnam from becoming communist and an ally of the Soviet Union, the U. S. sent military advisors to help the military dictatorship that replace Diem. As the situation worsened, the United States got more and more involved. The Americans sent troops to try and stop the Viet Cong take over of Vietnam. But the war did not go as planned for the Americans. By 1971, they started to withdraw troops. As the Americans pulled out their last troops in 1975, South Vietnam was taken over and unified under on communist government, with Ho as the leader.

cambodia map


Cambodia was a French colony, but was freed from French rule when the French gave Indo-China independence. The United States bombed and invaded Cambodia—who was officially neutral in the Cold War—during the Vietnam Conflict in an attempt top cut off supply lines to the Viet Cong.

This caused the government to topple. Communist rebels called the Khmer Rouge (Khmer is the main ethnic group in Cambodia, Rouge is French for red, the color of communism) took over the country and established a strict communist-totalitarian government.

The Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot, renamed the country Kampuchea. They hated the West and what they did to Cambodia. They sought to erase all remnants of western influence. They forced people to abandon the cities and move on government run communes in the countryside.

As part of this “cleansing” of the country, the Khmer Rouge killed anyone associated with the west. They also executed anyone who resisted their rule. Almost 1,000,000 people were killed during their rule.

In 1979, Kampuchea was invaded by Vietnam. The Khmer Rouge government was exiled and the killing stopped. The Vietnamese occupied the country until 1989.

Pol Pot was captured in 1997, and put under house arrest. But he died before he could be punished for the genocide he orchestrated in Cambodia.

south africa map

South Africa

The Union of South Africa was originally taken over by the Dutch. The British later took control from them. The two groups fought the Boer War over control of the area. The two white groups eventually mixed together to be called Afrikaners. They controlled the government exclusively and the native blacks were poor and powerless. South Africa was given independence in 1931 by Parliament. While still a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, it ruled itself.

In the 1940’s, the Afrikaner government passed apartheid laws strictly segregating the country between blacks and whites and severely limiting the civil rights of blacks. The laws made practices legal that had gone on since whites settled there.

Blacks were not allowed to vote, own business, or travel freely. Public places were strictly segregated. Blacks were required to carry passbook—like a passport—and had to present them to police on demand. Blacks also lived in deplorable shanty-towns.

The African National Congress rose up as a group fighting against apartheid. It sometimes supported terrorist acts against the white government. A leader named Nelson Mandela rose out of the ANC. Mandela adopted the methods of Gandhi’s civil disobedience. Later, he was involved in terrorist acts,

Tensions rose when police killed 69 people in a crowd protesting apartheid. The protest turned into a riot. This event is known as the Sharpsville Massacre. After the Massacre, the government arrested Mandela and found him guilty of treason. While imprisoned for 27 years, Mandela became the world’s most famous political prisoner—someone who is jailed purely because they upset a government. Mandela became a more powerful leader while in prison.

But the 1980’s Mandela was a household name around the world. Westerns began putting pressure on the South African government to get rid of apartheid. The United Nations put economic sanctions—when countries are punished by other countries when they refuse to trade with them—on South Africa. In 1990, the Afrikaner government gave in. Apartheid was repealed, Mandela was freed and blacks were given the right to vote. In the first election, Mandela was voted president.

Since the end of apartheid, South Africa has faced many problems. There is still an economic divide between the white minority and the black majority. Other economic problems have made life a challenge.

rwanda map


Rwanda was a Belgian colony. The Belgians used the Tutsi tribe to help them run the colony. People of the Hutu tribe—to which the majority of Rwandans belonged—were subjugated by both the Belgians and Tutsis. Bad blood between the two tribes grew. When Tutsis started demanding independence, the Belgians supported Hutu rebels who slaughtered Tutsis.

The Belgians gave Rwanda independence in 1962 and the Hutus controlled the government. But that was only the beginning of Rwanda’s problems. A civil war between Hutus and Tutsis lasted until 1993, when a cease-fire was signed.

But in 1994, Rwanda’s president died in a suspicious plane crash. Many blamed the Tutsis. In retaliation, Hutus began slaughtering Tutsis. The event received world-wide attention, although Western nations and the United Nations did little to try and stop the bloodbath.

UN peace-keeping troops were eventually sent in and the killing stopped. A new government was formed with both Hutu and Tutsi involvement.

The results of decolonization have been mixed. While nations in Asia and Africa became independent, many problems have faced these new nations. Some of the problems were, in fact caused by the time Europeans controlled the area.


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