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John Green: Hi, I'm John Green. This is Crash Course World History and today we're going to talk about decolonization. The empires European states formed in the 19th century proved about as stable and long lasting as Genghis Khan's, leading to so many of the nation's states we know and love today. Yes, I'm looking at you Burundi. (singing) Did you ever know you're my Burundi? You're everything - (music) Stan, don't cut to the intro! I sing like an angel! (music) So, unless you're over 60, and let's face it internet, you're not. You've only ever known a world of nation states, but as we've seen from Egypt to Alexander the Great to China to Rome to the Mongols, who for once, are not the exception here. (stampeding music) To the Ottoman's and the Americans, empire has long been the dominant way we've organized ourselves politically, or at least, the way that other people have organized us. Student John: Mr. Green, Mr. Green! So, to them Star Wars would have been like a completely different movie. Most of them would have been like, "Go Empire! Crush those Rebels!" John Green: Yeah, also they'd be like, "What is this screen that displays crisp moving images of events that are not currently occurring?" Also, not to get off topic, but you never learn what happens after the Rebel victory in Star Wars and as we've learned from the French Revolution to the Arab Spring, revolution is often the easy part. I mean, you think destroying a death star is hard, try negotiating a trade treaty with Gungans. Right, anyway, so the late 20th century was not the first time that empires disintegrated. Rome comes to mind and also the Persian's and, of course, the American Revolution ended one kind of European Imperial experiment, but in all those cases, empires struck back! (laughing) You see what I did there? I mean, Britain lost it's 13 colonies, but later controlled half of Africa and all of India and what makes the recent decolonization so special is that, at least so far, no empires have emerged to replace the ones that failed. And this was largely due to World War II because on some level, the allies were fighting to stop Nazi Imperialism. Hitler wanted to take over central Europe and Africa and probably the middle east and the allied defeat of the Nazi's discredited the whole idea of empire. So, the English, French and Americans couldn't very well say to the colonial troops who'd fought along side them, "Thank you so much for helping us to thwart Germany's Imperialistic ambitions. As a reward, please hand in your rifle and return to your state of subjugation." Plus, most of the big colonial powers, especially France, Britain and Japan had been significantly weakened by World War II, by which, I mean, that large swaths of them looked like this. So, post war decolonization happened all over the place. The British colony that had once been India, became three independent nations. By the way, is this Gandhi or is this Ben Kingsley playing Gandhi? In southeast Asia, French Indo-China became Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam and the Dutch east Indies became Indonesia. But, of course, when we think about decolonization we mostly think about Africa going from this to this. So, we're going to over simplify here because we have to, but decolonization throughout Afro-Eurasia had some similar characteristics. Because it occurred in the context of the Cold War, many of these new nations had to choose between socialist and capitalist influences, which shaped their futures, while many of these new countries eventually adopted some form of democracy the road there was often rocky. Also, decolonization often involved violence. Usually the overthrow of colonial elites. But now let's turn to the most famous non-violent decolonization or supposedly so, anyway. That of India. So the story begins, more or less, in 1885 with the founding of the Indian National Congress. Congress party leaders and other nationalists in India were usually from the elite classes. Initially, they didn't even demand independence from Britain, but they were interested in creating a modern Indian nation rather than a return to some ancient pre-colonial form, possibly because India was and is hugely diverse and really only unified into a single state when under Imperial rule by one group or another, whether the Morians, the Goudas, the Moguls or the British. Okay, let's go to the thought bubble. The best known Indian nationalist, Mohandas K. Gandhi, was a fascinating character. A British educated lawyer, born to a wealthy family. He's known for making his own clothes, his long fasts and his battles to alleviate poverty, improve the rights of women and achieve a unified Indian independence from Britain. In terms of decolonization, he stands out for his use of non-violence and his linking it to a somewhat mythologized view of Indian history. I mean, after all, there's plenty of violence in India's past and in it's heroic epics, but Gandhi managed to hearken back to a past that used non-violence to bring change. Gandhi and his compatriot, Jawaharial Nehru, believed that a single India could continue to be ruled by Indian elites and somehow transcend the tension between the countries Hindu majority and it's sizable Muslim minority. In this, they were less practical than their contemporary, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the leader of the Muslim league, who felt, to quote historian Ainsley Embry, that the unified India of which the congress spoke was an artificial one, created and maintained by British bayonets. Jinnah proved correct and in 1947 when the British left their Indian colony was partitioned into the modern state of India and west and east Pakistan. The later of which became Bangladesh in 1971. Well, it's easy to congratulate both the British and the Indian governments on an orderly and non-violent transfer of power, (thunderstorm sound) the reality of partition was neither orderly nor non-violent. About 12 million people were displaced as Hindu's in Pakistan moved to India and Muslims in India moved to Pakistan. As people left their homes, sometimes unwillingly, there was violence and all told, as many as half a million people were killed. More than died in the bloody Indonesian battle for independence. So, while it's true that the massive protest that forced Britain to end it's colonization of India were non-violent, the emergence of the independent states involved really wasn't. Thanks thought bubble. All this violence devastated Gandhi, whose lengthy and repeated hunger strikes to end violence had mixed results and he was eventually assassinated by a Hindu nationalist who felt that Gandhi was too sympathetic to Muslims. Oh, it's time for the open letter? (harp playing) An open letter to hunger strikers, but first let's see what's in the secret compartment today. A cupcake? Stan, this just seems cruel. These are from Meredith the intern to celebrate Meribration, the holiday she invented to celebrate the anniversary of her single-ness. Dear hunger strikers, You remember earlier when I said that Gandhi hearkened back to a mythologized Indian past? (mumbling) Well, it turns out that hunger striking in India goes back all the way to like the 5th century BCE. Hunger strikes have been used around the world including British and American Suffragettes who hunger struck to get the vote. And in pre-Christian Ireland when you felt wronged by someone it was common practice to sit on their doorstep and hunger strike until your grievance was addressed. And sometimes it even works. I really admire you hunger strikers, but I lack the courage of your convictions. Also, this is an amazing cupcake. (mumbling) Since independence, India has largely been a success story, although we will talk about the complexity of India's emerging global capitalism next week. For now though, let's travel east to Indonesia. A huge nation of over 13,000 islands that has largely been ignored here on Crash Course World History, due to our long-standing bias against islands. Like, we haven't even mentioned Greenland on this show. The Greenland-ers, of course, haven't complained because (whispers) they don't have the internet. So, the Dutch exploited their island colonies with the system of cultuurstelsel, in which all peasants had to set aside one-fifth of their land to grow cash crops for export to the Netherlands. This accounted for 25% of the total Dutch national budget and it explains why they have all kinds of fancy buildings despite technically living underwater. They're like sea monkeys. This system was rather less popular in Indonesia and the Dutch didn't offer much in exchange. They couldn't even defend their colony from the Japanese, who occupied it for most of World War II, during which time the Japanese furthered the cause of Indonesian nationalism by placing native Indonesian's in more prominent positions of power, including Sukarno who became Indonesia's first Prime Minister. After the war, the Dutch with British help tried to hold on to their Indonesian colonies with, so-called police actions, which went on for more than four years before Indonesia finally won it's independence in 1950. Over in the French colonies of Indo-China, so-called because they were neither Indian nor Chinese, things were even more violent. The end of colonization was disastrous in Cambodia where the 17 year reign of Norodom Sihanouk gave way to the rise of the Khmer Rouge, which massacred a stunning 21% of Cambodia's population between 1975 and 1979. In Vietnam, the French fought communist lead nationalist, especially Ho Chi Minh, from almost the moment World War II ended until 1954 when the French were defeated and then the Americans heard that there was a land war available in Asia so they quickly took over from the French and communists did not fully control Vietnam until 1975. Despite still being extensively communist, Vietnam now manufactures all kinds of stuff that we like in America, especially sneakers. More about that next week too, but now to Egypt. You'll remember that Egypt bankrupted itself in the 19th century trying to industrialize and ever since had been ruled by an Egyptian King who took his orders from the British. While technically Egypt had been independent since 1922, it was very dependent independence, but that changed in the 1950's when the king was overthrown by the army. The army commander who led that coup was Gemal Abdul Nasser who proved brilliant at playing the US and the USSR off each other to the benefit of Egypt. Nasser's was a largely secular nationalism and he and his successors saw one of the other anti-imperialistic nationalist forces in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, as a threat. So, once in power, Nasser and the army banned the Muslim Brotherhood, forcing it underground where it would disappear and never become an issue again. Wait? What's that? Really? And finally let's turn to central and southern Africa. One of the most problematic legacies of colonialism was it's geography. Colonial boundaries became redefined as the borders of new nation states, even where those boundaries were arbitrary or, in some cases, pernicious. The best known example was in Rwanda, where two very different tribes the hutu and the tutsi's were combined into one nation, but more generally the colonizers focus on value extraction, really hurt these new nations. European's claimed to bring civilization and economic development to their colonies, but this economic development focused solely on building infrastructure to get resources and export them. Now, whether European powers deliberately sabotaged development in Africa is a hot button topic we're going to stay well away from, but this much is inarguable true, when the Europeans left, African nations did not have the institutions necessary to thrive in the post-war industrial world. They had very few schools, for instance, and even fewer universities. Like when the Congo achieved independence from Belgium in 1960, there were 16 Congolese college graduates in a nation of 14 million people. Also, in many of these new countries the traditional elites had been undermined by imperialism. Most Europeans didn't rule their African possessions directly, but rather through the proxies of local rulers and once Europeans left, those local rulers, the upper classes, were seen as illegitimate collaborators. And this meant that a new group of rulers had to rise up to take their place, often with very little experience in governments. I mean, Zimbabwe's long-serving dictator Robert Mugabe was a high school teacher. Let that be a lesson to you. Your teachers may have dictatorial ambitions. But most strong men have emerged, of course, from the military. Joseph Mobutu sees power in the Congo, which he held from 1965 until his death in 1997. Idi Amin was military dictator of Uganda from 1971 to 1979. Muammar Gaddefi ruled Libya from 1977 until 2011. The list goes on, but I don't want to give you the wrong impression about Africa. Because while the continent does have less freedom and lower levels of development than other regions in the world, many African nations show strong and consistent signs of growth despite the challenges of decolonization. Botswana, for instance, has gone from 70% literacy to 85% in the past 15 years and has seen steady GDP growth over 5%. Benin's economy has grown in each of the past 12 years, which is better than Europe or the US can say. In 2002, Kenya's life expectancy was 47, today it's 63. Ethiopia's per capita GDP has doubled over the past 10 years and Mauritania has seen it's infant mortality rate fall by more than 40%. Now, this progress is spotty and fragile, but it's important to note that these nations have existed on average, about 13 years less than my dad, of course, past experience with the fall of empires hasn't given us much cause for hope, but many citizens of these new nations are seeing real progress. With that said, disaster might lurk around the corner. It's hard to say. I mean, now more than ever, we're trying to tell the story of humans from inside the story of humans. Thanks for watching. I'll see you next week.