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Independence movements in the 20th Century

Anti-colonial independence movement in places like India, Algeria, Nigeria gain momentum and prove successful in the 20th Century, especially after the end of World War II. The non-alignment movement.

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Video transcript

- As we've seen in other videos, this is a map of the European possessions, especially the Western European possessions in much of the world as we enter into the 20th century before World War I. You see significant possessions by the French not just in Africa but also in Indochina. You see the British also have significant possessions in Africa, but also in Asia. Germany, Belgium, Italy also have imperial possessions. Now as we go through World War I, that changes the map of Europe fairly dramatically and we talk about that in other videos but some of the major outcomes, at least when we're talking about imperialism is that the Austro-Hungarian Empire gets broken up, changing the map of Eastern Europe, the Ottoman Empire gets broken up, with much of the Middle East now under control by the British or French and of course Russian exits World War I having had the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 and is now the Soviet Union. As we get into the period after World War I, we start to see momentum gather in terms of independence movements, in terms of this imperial structure breaking down. In 1922, Egypt becomes independent of the United Kingdom. Iraq, which was part of the Ottoman Empire for centuries was put under British control after World War I and in 1932, it gets its independence. Then we enter into World War II, which is an incredibly traumatic time, not just for Europe but for the world. And as we exit out of World War II, we see further momentum being gained for the various anti-colonial independence movements. Indonesia, which was originally a Dutch colony but during World War II, gets under the control of Japan as part of its imperial possessions, but as we get into August of 1945, the Japanese are bombed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, effectively ending World War II and the Indonesians are able to claim their independence nominally now from the Dutch. Then from 1944 to 1946, further possessions that were originally part of the Ottoman Empire but after World War I became under the control of the French and British, Syria and Jordan, gain their independence. Syria from France and Jordan from United Kingdom. And then in 1947, you have the independence of the Indian subcontinent. This is a particularly noteworthy struggle under the leadership of Mohandas Gandhi, often known as Mahatma Gandhi, mahatma meaning great soul. And it's a peaceful resistance that's able to get independence. Now the subcontinent is partitioned into what will become Pakistan and India. For the most part, areas that were majority Muslim became Pakistan and you can see this region in the west, and this region in the east which would later get its independence in 1971 and become Bangladesh, and then for the most part, regions that had Hindu majorities became India. This wasn't a clean partition because there were some territories, princely states, areas where the majority was not clear that became under contention. Kashmir, even to this day, is a point of contention between India and Pakistan. Much of the Indian subcontinent was very mixed with some areas being 60% Hindu or 40% Muslim or vice versa so that catalyzed one of the largest migrations in human history, the number of people changing borders, sometimes becoming quite sectarian and quite bloody. But even after that, India is still one of the largest Muslim countries. The founder of Pakistan is Muhammad Ali Jinnah and India's first prime minister and both of them were active in the independence movement, is Jawaharlal Nehru, who will become famous for the non-aligned movement, for newly liberated countries to not want to side on either side of the Cold War and he actually coins the term third world which is now associated with developing countries, but when it was coined, it meant, we don't wanna be first world aligned with the western capitalist countries, we don't wanna be second world, aligned with the communist block, we wanna be independent or the third world. As we get into the late '40s and early '50s, we also see an independence movement in French Indochina. These countries will eventually become North Vietnam, South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, and a significant figure here is Ho Chi Minh who will become a very prominent figure as the French Indochina War eventually evolves into the Vietnam War, bringing the United States into it as part of its Cold War containment strategy. The 1950s also see significant independence movements throughout Africa. In 1951, Libya gains independence. From 1956 to 1958, Tunisia, Morocco, Ghana, Guinea, all gain independence. Of particular note is Ghana, originally called Gold Coast. The first president and prime minister is Kwame Nkrumah and he's known as one of the founders of the Organization of African Unity and he wanted to see where a world where as these African countries became independent, they unified, seeing that Africa would have much more power as a unified entity than as a fragmented one. And so he was a major promoter of the idea of pan-Africanism. Now the independence movements only accelerated as we go into the 1960s. 1960 in particular was a year of many independence movements but you can see here, most of Africa was independent as we exit the 1960s. In blue here, listed the French colonies that gained independence in this time period. In this salmon color, the British colonies, and in yellow, the Belgian colonies. There would continue to be change over the next few decades but the world starts to look very similar to the world as we recognize it today. Now I'll leave you with a speech that Jawaharlal Nehru made in Washington DC in 1956, which highlights his desire for nonalignment. "The preservation of peace forms the central aim "of India's policy. "It is in the pursuit of this policy that we have chosen "the path of nonalignment in any military "or like pact of alliance. "Nonalignment does not mean passivity of mind or action, "lack of faith or conviction, it does not mean submission "to what we consider evil. "It is a positive and dynamic approach "to such problems that confront us. "We believe that each country has not only the right "to freedom but also to decide "its own policy and way of life." And this is a big deal because remember, he's giving this speech in Washington DC which would love him to clearly align with the western block, with the capitalist countries led by the United States but after working so hard for their independence, many of these nations, like India, were not eager to lose their autonomy and realign with more powerful countries. To close out this video, I'll leave you with an interesting question or a series of interesting questions. Why do we see a good chunk of the world become independent in the second half of the 20th century? Was it that the imperial countries no longer had the energy or the power or the will to control these colonies? Was it something happened in the psychology of their peoples, they just went through a traumatic war, and they realized that they weren't interested in controlling the destiny of other people? Was it due to the efficacy of some of these independence struggles, like the nonviolence movement led by Gandhi? Or maybe some of the more violent independence struggles like what we saw in Algeria against the French. But needless to say, the world fundamentally changed in this time period. When we were entering into the 20th century, we had an imperial world, especially controlled by the Western European powers. After two traumatic wars, imperialism comes to an end and we see the world as we know it today.