Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Decolonization

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 24th July, 2017

DecolonizationThe road to independence for former European and Japanese colonies was one of the most striking features of the second half of the 20th Century, yet the process of decolonization has received scant academic analysis. A lacuna in the market has thus been filled by Jan C. Jansen and Jürgen Osterhammel’s Decolonization: A Short History (Princeton University Press, £22.95). The two German authors provide a beautifully crafted account of historical developments and social changes, while also identifying the seeds of decolonization in events and personalities between the two world wars. Colonialism had outlived its function, even from the subjective and exploitative point of view of the colonial powers, but it was the passionate defence of the rights of colonised peoples by both political and intellectual leaders in Africa and Asia that helped tip the balance in favour of greater justice and and the acceptance of self-determination as a fundamental human right. Of course, the resultant new nations did not all progress smoothly once they had their independence, but a degree of dignity and self-worth had been reclaimed for their peoples. Jansen and Osterhammel’s great strength is to provide not only a credible and useful analytical framework for considering decolonization critically but also to do so within a fluent historical narrative. This means that their book, elegantly translated by Jeremiah Riemer, will be of great interest to both scholars and the interested general reader alike.

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