Decolonization 1950–97

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Map Code: Ax01617

A frequent catalyst for independence movements is the disruption to colonial rule occasioned by protracted conflict. The Napoleonic War was effectively the death-knell for the bulk of Spain’s South American empire; World War I completed Ottoman disintegration. Although France and Britain emerged on the winning side in World War II, they were militarily and economically exhausted. Moreover, the world’s new superpowers, the USA and USSR, were unsupportive of colonial regimes. The quest for independence was nurtured by a growing movement of non-aligned states, and a reaction against the Great Power hegemony in the United Nations. The USA sponsored self–determination (although not necessarily democracy) and the USSR sponsored Communist insurgency. The map rapidly coloured by the ‘Scramble for Africa’ was a rapidly unscrambled: colonial rule in the continental mainland ended in 1977. France and Portugal fought protracted wars before sacrificing Algeria, Indochina, Angola and Mozambique. And in 1991, the USSR experienced its own Ottoman-style disintegration.

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