Decolonization or decolonisation is the undoing of colonialism, the latter being the process whereby a nation establishes and maintains its domination on overseas territories. The concept particularly applies to the dismantlement, during the second half of the 20th century, of the colonial empires established prior to World War I throughout the world. Scholars focus especially on the movements in the colonies demanding independence, such as Creole nationalism.


The fundamental right to self-determination is identified by the United Nations as core to decolonization, allowing not only independence, but also other ways of decolonization. The United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization has stated that in the process of decolonization there is no alternative to the colonizer but to allow a process of self-determination. Self-determination continues to be claimed, also within independent states, to demand decolonization, as in the case of Indigenous Peoples.
Decolonization may involve either nonviolent revolution or national liberation wars by pro-independence groups. It may be or involve the intervention of foreign powers acting individually or through international bodies such as the United Nations. Although examples of decolonization can be found as early as the writings of Thucydides, there have been several particularly active periods of decolonization in modern times. These include the breakup of the Spanish Empire in the 19th century; of the German, Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, and Russian empires following World War I; of the British, French, Dutch, Portuguese, Belgian, Italian, and Japanese colonial empires following World War II; and of the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War.
Decolonization has been used to refer to the intellectual decolonization from the colonizers' ideas that made the colonized feel inferior. Issues of decolonization persist and are raised contemporarily. In Latin America and South Africa, such issues are increasingly discussed under the term decoloniality.

Methods and stages

As world opinion began to favour independence for colonies following World War I, there was an institutionalized collective effort towards decolonization through the League of Nations. Under Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, a number of mandates were created. The expressed intention was to prepare these countries for self-government, but the mandates are often interpreted as a mere redistribution of control over the former colonies of the defeated powers, mainly the German Empire and the Ottoman Empire. This reassignment work continued through the United Nations, with a similar system of trust territories created to adjust control over both former colonies and mandated territories.
After the end of World War II, the British public had other priorities than the Empire after 1945. With a new welfare state to finance, they had little enthusiasm for military action to hold onto overseas territories against their will.
In referendums, some dependent territories have chosen to retain their dependent status, such as Gibraltar and French Guiana. There are even examples, such as the Falklands War, in which a geopolitical power goes to war to defend the right of a dependent territory to continue to be such. Colonial powers have sometimes promoted decolonization in order to shed the financial, military, and other burdens that tend to grow in those colonies where the colonial governments have become more benign.
The final phase of decolonization may concern handing over responsibility for foreign relations and security, and soliciting de jure recognition for the new sovereignty. But, even following the recognition of statehood, a degree of continuity can be maintained through bilateral treaties between now equal governments involving practicalities such as military training, mutual protection pacts, or even a garrison and/or military bases.

Indigenous decolonization

theory views Western Eurocentric historical accounts and political discourse as an ongoing political construct that attempts to negate indigenous peoples around the world. Indigenous People of the world precede and negate all Eurocentric colonization projects and the resulting historical constructs, popular discourse, conceptualizations, and theory. In this view former Western-European Colonies like "America, Australia, Brazil, etc." historically are deconstructed and conceptualized as ongoing Neo-colonization projects and are not true "decolonization" projects. These Neocolonial entities empirically are merely the continuation of ongoing Historical Western European colonialism. Any former European Colony, not free of Western European influence, such as South Africa, Australia, Mexico, Brazil, etc. fit such a conceptualization. In particular Indigenous colonization describes the ongoing conceptual, theoretical and political processes used to contest and reframe narratives about indigenous community histories and the effects of colonial expansion, genocide, and cultural assimilation, pre-European Colonization. Indigenous people engaged in decolonization work adopt a critical stance towards dominate Western-Eurocentric histories, political discourse, theory and research practices popular in Western mainstream academia and government. Indigenous colonization seeks to reposition knowledge within indigenous cultural practices.

Western History

Beginning with the emergence of the United States in the 1770s, decolonization took place in the context of Atlantic history, against the background of the American and French revolutions. Decolonization became a wider movement in many colonies in the 20th century, and a reality after 1945.
The historian William Hardy McNeill, in his famous 1963 book The Rise of the West, appears to have interpreted the post-1945 decline of European empires as paradoxically being due to Westernization itself, writing that
In the same book, McNeill wrote that "The rise of the West, as intended by the title and meaning of this book, is only accelerated when one or another Asian or African people throws off European administration by making Western techniques, attitudes, and ideas sufficiently their own to permit them to do so".
Great Britain's Thirteen North American colonies were the first colonies to break from their colonial motherland by declaring independence as the United States of America in 1776, and being recognized as an independent nation by France in 1778 and Britain in 1783.

Haitian Revolution

The Haitian Revolution was a slave uprising that began in 1791 in the French colony of Saint-Domingue, on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. In 1804, Haiti secured independence from France as the Empire of Haiti, which later became a republic.

Spanish America

The chaos of the Napoleonic wars in Europe cut the direct links between Spain and its American colonies, allowing for process of decolonization to begin.
With the invasion of Spain by Napoleon in 1806, the American colonies declared autonomy and loyalty to King Ferdinand VII. The contract was broken and the regions of the Spanish Empire had to decide whether to show allegiance to the Junta of Cadiz or have a junta of its own. The economic monopoly of the metropolis was the main reason why many countries decided to become independent from Spain. In 1809, the independence wars of Latin America began with a revolt in La Paz, Bolivia. In 1807 and 1808, the Viceroyalty of the River Plate was invaded by the British. After their 2nd defeat, a Frenchman called Santiague de Liniers was proclaimed a new Viceroy by the local population and later accepted by Spain. In May 1810 in Buenos Aires, a Junta was created, but in Montevideo it was not recognized by the local government who followed the authority of the Junta of Cadiz. The rivalry between the two cities was the main reason for the distrust between them. During the next 15 years, the Spanish and Royalist on one side, and the rebels on the other fought in South America and Mexico. Numerous countries declared their independence. In 1824, the Spanish forces were defeated in the Battle of Ayacucho. The mainland was free, and in 1898, Spain lost Cuba and Puerto Rico in the Spanish–American War. Puerto Rico became an unincorporated territory of the US, but Cuba became independent in 1902.

Ottoman Empire

Cyprus was invaded and taken over by the Ottoman Empire in 1570. It was later relinquished by the Ottomans in 1878. The Cypriots expressed their true disdain for Ottoman rule through revolts and nationalist movements. The Ottomans only suppressed these revolts in the harshest of fashion but that only ended up fuelling the revolts and desire for independence. The Cypriots desired to merge with Greece because they felt a close connection with Greece. They were tired of 3 centuries of Turkic rule and openly expressed their desire for enosis. The Cypriots would embrace Greek culture and traditions. They abandoned Ottoman architecture and showed little respect for Ottoman rule. All these acts of defiance could be attributed to decolonization. When the Cypriots made acts of nationalism, they were participating in a form of decolonization because they were attempting to remove all trace of Turkic and Muslim influence within their society. The Greek War of Independence had major affects on Cyprus and after the Ottomans had left, Cyprus continued to create a Greek culture they wished to be a part of. Cyprus would continue to create this imagined identity of Greek culture. This can also be a form of imagined human geography because Cyprus used this identity to justify its revolts and nationalist movements..
A number of people previously conquered by the Ottoman Empire were able to achieve independence in the 19th century, a process that peaked at the time of the Ottoman defeat in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78.
The Ottoman Empire had failed to raise revenue and a monopoly of effective armed forces. This may have caused the fall of the Ottoman Empire.


In the wake of the 1798 French Invasion of Egypt and its subsequent expulsion in 1801, the commander of an Albanian regiment, Muhammad Ali, was able to gain control of Egypt. Although he was acknowledged by the Sultan in Constantinople in 1805 as his pasha, Muhammad Ali, and eventually his successors, were de facto monarchs of a largely independent state managing its own foreign relations. However, despite this de facto independence, Egypt did remain nominally a vassal state of the Ottoman Empire obliged to pay a hefty annual tribute to the Sultan. Throughout the 'long 19th century', Muhammad Ali would send scores of Azhar scholars to France and other European countries to be educated in the empirical sciences ; however, such scholars would unwittingly participate in their country's intellectual colonization throughout this century and establish the national public educational system on Secular Humanist philosophy and principles and Western culture in general to this day. Upon declaring war on Turkey in November 1914, Britain unilaterally declared the Sultan's rights and title over Egypt abolished and proclaimed its own protectorate over the country.


The Greek War of Independence was fought to liberate Greece from three centuries long Ottoman occupation. Independence was secured by the intervention of the British and French navies and the French and Russian armies, but Greece was limited to an area including perhaps only one-third of ethnic Greeks, that later grew significantly with the Megali Idea project. The war ended many of the privileges of the Phanariot Greeks of Constantinople.


Following a failed Bulgarian revolt in 1876, the subsequent Russo-Turkish war ended with the provisional Treaty of San Stefano established a huge new realm of Bulgaria including most of Macedonia and Thrace. The final 1878 Treaty of Berlin allowed the other Great Powers to limit the size of the new Russian client state and even briefly divided this rump state in two, Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia, but the irredentist claims from the first treaty would direct Bulgarian claims through the first and second Balkan Wars and both World Wars.


Romania fought on the Russian side in the Russo-Turkish War and in the 1878 Treaty of Berlin, Romania was recognized as an independent state by the Great Powers.


Centuries of armed and unarmed struggle ended with the recognition of Serbian independence from the Ottoman Empire at the Congress of Berlin in 1878.


The independence of the Principality of Montenegro from the Ottoman Empire was recognized at the congress of Berlin in 1878. However, the Montenegrin nation has been de facto independent since 1711.
In the period of reign of Petar II Petrović-Njegoš, Montenegro was again colonized by Turkey, but that changed with the coming of Knyaz Danilo I, with a totally successful war against Turkey in the late 1850s ending with a decisive victory of the Montenegrin army under Grand Duke Mirko Petrović-Njegoš, brother of Danilo I, at the Battle of Grahovac. The full independence was given to Montenegro, after almost 170 years of fighting the Turks, Bosniaks, Albanians and the French at the Congress of Berlin.

British Empire

The emergence of indigenous political parties was especially characteristic of the British Empire, which seemed less ruthless in controlling political dissent. Driven by pragmatic demands of budgets and manpower the British made deals with the local politicians. Across the empire, the general protocol was to convene a constitutional conference in London to discuss the transition to greater self-government and then independence, submit a report of the constitutional conference to parliament, if approved submit a bill to Parliament at Westminster to terminate the responsibility of the United Kingdom, and finally, if approved, issuance of an Order of Council fixing the exact date of independence.
After World War I, several former German and Ottoman territories in the Middle East, Africa, and the Pacific were governed by the UK as League of Nations mandates. Some were administered directly by the UK, and others by British dominions – Nauru and the Territory of New Guinea by Australia, South West Africa by the Union of South Africa, and Western Samoa by New Zealand.
Egypt became independent in 1922, although the UK retained security prerogatives, control of the Suez Canal, and effective control of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. The Balfour Declaration of 1926 declared the British Empire dominions as equals, and the 1931 Statute of Westminster established full legislative independence for them. The equal dominions were six– Canada, Newfoundland, Australia, the Irish Free State, New Zealand, and the Union of South Africa; Ireland had been an integral part of the United Kingdom until 1922 and not a colony. However, some of the Dominions were already independent de facto, and even de jure and recognized as such by the international community. Thus, Canada was a founding member of the League of Nations in 1919 and served on the Council from 1927 to 1930. That country also negotiated on its own and signed bilateral and multilateral treaties and conventions from the early 1900s onward. Newfoundland ceded self-rule back to London in 1934. Iraq, a League of Nations mandate, became independent in 1932.
In response to a growing Indian independence movement, the UK made successive reforms to the British Raj, culminating in the Government of India Act. These reforms included creating elected legislative councils in some of the Provinces of British India. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, India's independence movement leader, led a peaceful resistance to British rule. By becoming a symbol of both peace and opposition to British imperialism, many Indians began to view the British as the cause of India's problems leading to a newfound sense of nationalism among its population. With this new wave of Indian nationalism, Gandhi was eventually able to garner the support needed to push back the British and create an independent India in 1947.
Africa was only fully drawn into the colonial system at the end of the 19th century. In the north-east the continued independence of the Empire of Ethiopia remained a beacon of hope to pro-independence activists. However, with the anti-colonial wars of the 1900s barely over, new modernizing forms of African Nationalism began to gain strength in the early 20th-century with the emergence of Pan-Africanism, as advocated by the Jamaican journalist Marcus Garvey whose widely distributed newspapers demanded swift abolition of European imperialism, as well as republicanism in Egypt. Kwame Nkrumah who was inspired by the works of Garvey led Ghana to independence from colonial rule.
Independence for the colonies in Africa began with the independence of Sudan in 1956, and Ghana in 1957. All of the British colonies on mainland Africa became independent by 1966, although Rhodesia's unilateral declaration of independence in 1965 was not recognized by the UK or internationally.
Some of the British colonies in Asia were directly administered by British officials, while others were ruled by local monarchs as protectorates or in subsidiary alliance with the UK.
In 1947, British India was partitioned into the independent dominions of India and Pakistan. Hundreds of princely states, states ruled by monarchs in treaty of subsidiary alliance with Britain, were integrated into India and Pakistan. India and Pakistan fought several wars over the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. French India was integrated into India between 1950 and 1954, and India annexed Portuguese India in 1961, and the Kingdom of Sikkim in 1975.

Violence, civil warfare and partition

Significant violence was involved in several prominent cases of decolonization of the British Empire; partition was a frequent solution. In 1783, the North American colonies were divided between the independent United States, and British North America, which later became Canada.
The Indian Rebellion of 1857 was a revolt of a portion of the Indian Army. It was characterized by massacres of civilians on both sides. It was not a movement for independence, however, and only a small part of India was involved. In the aftermath, the British pulled back from modernizing reforms of Indian society, and the level of organised violence under the British Raj was relatively small. Most of that was initiated by repressive British administrators, as in the Amritsar massacre of 1919, or the police assaults on the Salt March of 1930. Large-scale communicable violence broke out after the British left in 1947, turning India over to the new nations of India and Pakistan.
Cyprus, which came under full British control in 1914 from the Ottoman Empire, was culturally divided between the majority Greek element and the minority Turks. London for decades assumed it needed the island to defend the Suez Canal; but after the Suez crisis of 1956, that became a minor factor, and Greek violence became a more serious issue. Cyprus became an independent country in 1960, but ethnic violence escalated until 1974 when Turkey invaded and partitioned the island. Each side rewrote its own history, blaming the other.
Palestine became a British mandate from the League of Nations, and during the war the British gained support from both sides by making promises both to the Arabs and the Jews. See Balfour Declaration. Decades of ethno—religious violence resulted. The British pulled out, after dividing the Mandate into Israel and Jordan.

French Empire

After World War I, the colonized people were frustrated at France's failure to recognize the effort provided by the French colonies. Although in Paris the Great Mosque of Paris was constructed as recognition of these efforts, the French state had no intention to allow self-rule, let alone grant independence to the colonized people. Thus, nationalism in the colonies became stronger in between the two wars, leading to Abd el-Krim's Rif War in Morocco and to the creation of Messali Hadj's Star of North Africa in Algeria in 1925. However, these movements would gain full potential only after World War II.
After World War I, France administered the former Ottoman territories of Syria and Lebanon, and the former German colonies of Togoland and Cameroon, as League of Nations mandates. Lebanon declared its independence in 1943, and Syria in 1945.
Although France was ultimately a victor of World War II, Nazi Germany's occupation of France and its North African colonies during the war had disrupted colonial rule. On October 27, 1946 France adopted a new constitution creating the Fourth Republic, and substituted the French Union for the colonial empire. However power over the colonies remained concentrated in France, and the power of local assemblies outside France was extremely limited. On the night of March 29, 1947, a nationalist uprising in Madagascar led the French government headed by Paul Ramadier to violent repression: one year of bitter fighting, 11,000–40,000 Malagasy died.
In 1946, the states of French Indochina withdrew from the French Union, leading to the Indochina War. Ho Chi Minh, who had been a co-founder of the French Communist Party in 1920 and had founded the Vietminh in 1941, declared independence from France, and led the armed resistance against France's reoccupation of Indochina. Cambodia and Laos became independent in 1953, and the 1954 Geneva Accords ended France's occupation of Indochina, leaving North Vietnam and South Vietnam independent.
In 1956, Morocco and Tunisia gained their independence from France. In 1960 eight independent countries emerged from French West Africa, and five from French Equatorial Africa. The Algerian War of Independence raged from 1954 to 1962. To this day, the Algerian war – officially called a "public order operation" until the 1990s – remains a trauma for both France and Algeria. Philosopher Paul Ricœur has spoken of the necessity of a "decolonisation of memory", starting with the recognition of the 1961 Paris massacre during the Algerian war, and the decisive role of African and especially North African immigrant manpower in the Trente Glorieuses post–World War II economic growth period. In the 1960s, due to economic needs for post-war reconstruction and rapid economic growth, French employers actively sought to recruit manpower from the colonies, explaining today's multiethnic population.

After 1918

Western European colonial powers

The New Imperialism period of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which included the scramble for Africa and the Opium Wars, marked the zenith of European colonization. It also accelerated the trends that would end colonialism. The extraordinary material demands of the conflict had spread economic change across the world, and the associated social pressures of "war imperialism" created both peasant unrest and a burgeoning middle class.
Economic growth created stakeholders with their own demands, while racial issues meant these people clearly stood apart from the colonial middle-class and had to form their own group. The start of mass nationalism, as a concept and practice, would fatally undermine the ideologies of imperialism.
There were, naturally, other factors, from agrarian change, changes or developments in religion, and the impact of the 1930s Great Depression.
The Great Depression, despite the concentration of its impact on the industrialized world, was also exceptionally damaging in the rural colonies. Agricultural prices fell much harder and faster than those of industrial goods. From around 1925 until World War II, the colonies suffered. The colonial powers concentrated on domestic issues, protectionism and tariffs, disregarding the damage done to international trade flows. The colonies, almost all primary "cash crop" producers, lost the majority of their export income and were forced away from the "open" complementary colonial economies to "closed" systems. While some areas returned to subsistence farming others diversified , and some began to industrialize. These economies would not fit the colonial straitjacket when efforts were made to renew the links. Further, the European-owned and -run plantations proved more vulnerable to extended deflation than native capitalists, reducing the dominance of "white" farmers in colonial economies and making the European governments and investors of the 1930s co-opt indigenous elites – despite the implications for the future. Colonial reform also hastened their end; notably the move from non-interventionist collaborative systems towards directed, disruptive, direct management to drive economic change. The creation of genuine bureaucratic government boosted the formation of indigenous bourgeoisie.

United States

A union of former colonies itself, the United States approached imperialism differently from the other Powers. Much of its energy and rapidly expanding population was directed westward across the North American continent against English and French claims, the Spanish Empire and Mexico. The Native Americans were sent to reservations, often unwillingly. With support from Britain, its Monroe Doctrine reserved the Americas as its sphere of interest, prohibiting other states from recolonizing the newly independent polities of Latin America. However, France, taking advantage of the American government's distraction during the Civil War, intervened militarily in Mexico and set up a French-protected monarchy. Spain took the step to occupy the Dominican Republic and restore colonial rule. The Union victory in the Civil War in 1865 forced both France and Spain to accede to American demands to evacuate those two countries. America's only African colony, Liberia, was formed privately and achieved independence early; Washington unofficially protected it. By 1900 the US advocated an Open Door Policy and opposed the direct division of China.
, the first president of the Commonwealth of the Philippines
in Micronesia administered by the United States from 1947 to 1986
After 1898 direct intervention expanded in Latin America. The United States purchased Alaska from the Russian Empire in 1867 and annexed Hawaii in 1898. It added most of Spain's remaining colonies in 1898–99. Deciding not to annex Cuba outright, the U.S. established it as a client state with obligations including the perpetual lease of Guantánamo Bay to the U.S. Navy. The attempt of the first governor to void the island's constitution and remain in power past the end of his term provoked a rebellion that provoked a reoccupation between 1906 and 1909, but this was again followed by devolution. Similarly, the McKinley administration, despite prosecuting the Philippine–American War against a native republic, set out that the Territory of the Philippine Islands was eventually granted independence. In 1917, the US purchased the Danish West Indies from Denmark and Puerto Ricans became full U.S. citizens that same year. The US government declared Puerto Rico the territory was no longer a colony and stopped transmitting information about it to the United Nations Decolonization Committee. As a result, the UN General Assembly removed Puerto Rico from the U.N. list of non-self-governing territories. Four referenda showed little support for independence, but much interest in statehood such as Hawaii and Alaska received in 1959.
The Monroe Doctrine was expanded by the Roosevelt Corollary in 1904, providing that the United States had a right and obligation to intervene "in flagrant cases of such wrongdoing or impotence" that a nation in the Western Hemisphere became vulnerable to European control. In practice, this meant that the United States was led to act as a collections agent for European creditors by administering customs duties in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and elsewhere. The intrusiveness and bad relations this engendered were somewhat checked by the Clark Memorandum and renounced by President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Good Neighbor Policy."
After 1947, the U.S. poured tens of billions of dollars into the Marshall Plan, and other grants and loans to Europe and Asia to rebuild the world economy. Washington pushed hard to accelerate decolonization and bring an end to the colonial empires of its Western allies, most importantly during the 1956 Suez Crisis, but American military bases were established around the world and direct and indirect interventions continued in Korea, Indochina, Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East to oppose Communist invasions and insurgencies. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the United States has been far less active in the Americas, but invaded Afghanistan and Iraq following the September 11 attacks in 2001, establishing army and air bases in Central Asia.


Before World War I, Japan had gained several substantial colonial possessions in East Asia such as Taiwan and Korea. Japan joined the allies in World War I, and after the war acquired the South Seas Mandate, the former German colony in Micronesia, as a League of Nations Mandate. Pursuing a colonial policy comparable to those of European powers, Japan settled significant populations of ethnic Japanese in its colonies while simultaneously suppressing indigenous ethnic populations by enforcing the learning and use of the Japanese language in schools. Other methods such as public interaction, and attempts to eradicate the use of Korean, Hokkien, and Hakka among the indigenous peoples, were seen to be used. Japan also set up the Imperial Universities in Korea and Taiwan to compel education.
In 1931, Japan seized Manchuria from the Republic of China, setting up a puppet state under Puyi, the last Manchu emperor of China. In 1933 Japan seized the Chinese province of Jehol, and incorporated it into its Manchurian possessions. The Second Sino-Japanese War started in 1937, and Japan occupied much of eastern China, including the Republic's capital at Nanjing. An estimated 20 million Chinese died during the 1931–1945 war with Japan.
In December 1941, the Japanese Empire joined World War II by invading the European and US colonies in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, including French Indochina, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Burma, Malaya, Indonesia, Portuguese Timor, and others. Following its surrender to the Allies in 1945, Japan was deprived of all its colonies. The Soviet Union declared war on Japan in August 1945, and shortly after occupied and annexed the southern Kuril Islands, which Japan still claims.

Central Europe

The Russian, German, and Austro-Hungarian empires collapsed at the end of World War I, and were replaced by republics. Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Czechoslovakia became independent countries. Yugoslavia and Romania expanded into former Austro-Hungarian territory. The Soviet Union succeeded the Russian empire in the remainder if its former territory, and Germany, Austria, and Hungary were reduced in size.
In 1938, Nazi Germany annexed Austria and part of Czechoslovakia, and in 1939, Nazi Germany and the USSR concluded a pact to occupy the countries that lie between them; the USSR occupied Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, and Germany and the USSR split Poland in two. The occupation of Poland started World War II. Germany attacked the USSR in 1941. The USSR allied with the UK and USA, and emerged as one of the victors of the war, occupying most of central and eastern Europe.

After 1945

Planning for decolonization

U.S. and Philippines
In the United States, the two major parties were divided on the acquisition of the Philippines, which became a major campaign issue in 1900. The Republicans, who favored permanent acquisition, won the election, but after a decade or so, Republicans turned their attention to the Caribbean, focusing on building the Panama Canal. President Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat in office from 1913 to 1921, ignored the Philippines, and focused his attention on Mexico and Caribbean nations. By the 1920s, the peaceful efforts by the Filipino leadership to pursue independence proved convincing. When the Democrats returned to power in 1933, they worked with the Filipinos to plan a smooth transition to independence. It was scheduled for 1946 by Tydings–McDuffie Act of 1934. In 1935, the Philippines transitioned out of territorial status, controlled by an appointed governor, to the semi-independent status of the Commonwealth of the Philippines. Its constitutional convention wrote a new constitution, which was approved by Washington and went into effect, with an elected governor Manuel L. Quezon and legislature. Foreign Affairs remained under American control. The Philippines built up a new army, under general Douglas MacArthur, who took leave from his U.S. Army position to take command of the new army reporting to Quezon. The Japanese occupation 1942 to 1945 disrupted but did not delay the transition. It took place on schedule in 1946 as Manuel Roxas took office as president.
Although a small country, Portugal had the oldest and one of the largest colonial empires, due to the Portuguese discoveries. Portugal was an authoritarian state, with no taste for democracy at home or in its colonies. There was a fierce determination to maintain possession at all costs, and aggressively defeat any insurgencies. However, Portugal was helpless when India seized Goa in 1961. In 1961, nationalist forces began organizing in Portugal, and the revolts spread to Angola, Guinea Bissau and Mozambique. Lisbon escalated its effort in the war: for instance, it increased the number of natives in the colonial army and built strategic hamlets. Portugal sent another 300,000 European settlers into Angola and Mozambique until 1974. In 1974, left-wing revolution inside Portugal destroyed the old system and encouraged pro-Soviet elements to attempt to seize control in the colonies. The result was a very long and extremely difficult multi-party Civil War in Angola, and lesser insurrections in Mozambique.
Belgium is a small, rich European country that had an empire forced upon it by international demand in 1908 in response to the malfeasance of its King Leopold in greatly mistreating the Congo. It added Rwanda and Burundi as League of Nations mandates from the former German Empire in 1919. The colonies remained independent during the war, while Belgium itself was occupied by the Germans. There was no serious planning for independence, and exceedingly little training or education provided. The Belgian Congo was especially rich, and many Belgian businessmen lobbied hard to maintain control. Local revolts grew in power and finally, the Belgian king suddenly announced in 1959 that independence was on the agenda – and it was hurriedly arranged in 1960, for country bitterly and deeply divided on social and economic grounds.
The Netherlands
The Netherlands, a small rich country in Western Europe, had spent centuries building up its empire. By 1940 it consisted mostly of the Dutch East Indies . Its massive oil reserves provided about 14 percent of the Dutch national product and supported a large population of ethnic Dutch government officials and businessmen in Jakarta and other major cities. The Netherlands was overrun and almost starved to death by the Nazis during the war, and Japan sank the Dutch fleet in seizing the East Indies. In 1945 the Netherlands could not regain these islands on its own; it did so by depending on British military help and American financial grants. By the time Dutch soldiers returned, an independent government under Sukarno, originally set up by the Japanese, was in power. The Dutch in the East Indies, and at home, were practically unanimous that Dutch power and prestige and wealth depended on an extremely expensive war to regain the islands. Compromises were negotiated, were trusted by neither side. When the Indonesian Republic successfully suppressed a large-scale communist revolt, the United States realized that it needed the nationalist government as an ally in the Cold War. Dutch possession was an obstacle to American Cold War goals, so Washington forced the Dutch to grant full independence. A few years later, Sukarno seized all Dutch properties and expelled all ethnic Dutch—over 300,000—as well as several hundred thousand ethnic Indonesians who supported the Dutch cause. In the aftermath, the Netherlands prospered greatly in the 1950s and 1960s but nevertheless public opinion was bitterly hostile to the United States for betrayal. Washington remained baffled why the Dutch were so inexplicably enamoured of an obviously hopeless cause.

United Nations Trust Territories

When the United Nations was formed in 1945, it established trust territories. These territories included the League of Nations mandate territories which had not achieved independence by 1945, along with the former Italian Somaliland. The Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands was transferred from Japanese to US administration. By 1990 all but one of the trust territories had achieved independence, either as independent states or by merger with another independent state; the Northern Mariana Islands elected to become a commonwealth of the United States.

The emergence of the Third World (1945–present)

The term "Third World" was coined by French demographer Alfred Sauvy in 1952, on the model of the Third Estate, which, according to Abbé Sieyès, represented everything, but was nothing: "...because at the end this ignored, exploited, scorned Third World like the Third Estate, wants to become something too". The emergence of this new political entity, in the frame of the Cold War, was complex and painful. Several tentative attempts were made to organize newly independent states in order to oppose a common front towards both the US's and the USSR's influence on them, with the consequences of the Sino-Soviet split already at works. Thus, the Non-Aligned Movement constituted itself, around the main figures of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, Sukarno, the Indonesian president, Josip Broz Tito the Communist leader of Yugoslavia, and Gamal Abdel Nasser, head of Egypt who successfully opposed the French and British imperial powers during the 1956 Suez crisis. After the 1954 Geneva Conference which put an end to the First Indochina War, the 1955 Bandung Conference gathered Nasser, Nehru, Tito, Sukarno, the leader of Indonesia, and Zhou Enlai, Premier of the People's Republic of China. In 1960, the UN General Assembly voted the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. The next year, the Non-Aligned Movement was officially created in Belgrade, and was followed in 1964 by the creation of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development which tried to promote a New International Economic Order. The NIEO was opposed to the 1944 Bretton Woods system, which had benefited the leading states which had created it, and remained in force until 1971 after the United States' suspension of convertibility from dollars to gold. The main tenets of the NIEO were:
  1. Developing countries must be entitled to regulate and control the activities of multinational corporations operating within their territory.
  2. They must be free to nationalise or expropriate foreign property on conditions favourable to them.
  3. They must be free to set up associations of primary commodities producers similar to the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, created on September 17, 1960 to protest pressure by major oil companies ; all other states must recognise this right and refrain from taking economic, military, or political measures calculated to restrict it.
  4. International trade should be based on the need to ensure stable, equitable, and remunerative prices for raw materials, generalised non-reciprocal and non-discriminatory tariff preferences, as well as transfer of technology to developing countries; and should provide economic and technical assistance without any strings attached.
is a quantitative index of development, alternative to the classic Gross Domestic Product, which some use as a proxy to define the Third World. While the GDP only calculates economic wealth, the HDI includes life expectancy, public health and literacy as fundamental factors of a good quality of life. Countries in North America, the Southern Cone, Europe, East Asia, and Oceania generally have better standards of living than countries in Central Africa, East Africa, parts of the Caribbean, and South Asia.
The UNCTAD however wasn't very effective in implementing this New International Economic Order, and social and economic inequalities between industrialized countries and the Third World kept on growing throughout the 1960s until the 21st century. The 1973 oil crisis which followed the Yom Kippur War was triggered by the OPEC which decided an embargo against the US and Western countries, causing a fourfold increase in the price of oil, which lasted five months, starting on October 17, 1973, and ending on March 18, 1974. OPEC nations then agreed, on January 7, 1975, to raise crude oil prices by 10%. At that time, OPEC nations – including many who had recently nationalized their oil industries – joined the call for a New International Economic Order to be initiated by coalitions of primary producers. Concluding the First OPEC Summit in Algiers they called for stable and just commodity prices, an international food and agriculture program, technology transfer from North to South, and the democratization of the economic system. But industrialized countries quickly began to look for substitutes to OPEC petroleum, with the oil companies investing the majority of their research capital in the US and European countries or others, politically sure countries. The OPEC lost more and more influence on the world prices of oil.
The second oil crisis occurred in the wake of the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Then, the 1982 Latin American debt crisis exploded in Mexico first, then Argentina and Brazil, which proved unable to pay back their debts, jeopardizing the existence of the international economic system.
The 1990s were characterized by the prevalence of the Washington consensus on neoliberal policies, "structural adjustment" and "shock therapies" for the former Communist states.

Decolonization of Africa

The decolonisation of North Africa, and sub- Saharan Africa took place in the mid-to-late 1950s, very suddenly, with little preparation. There was widespread unrest and organised revolts, especially in French Algeria, Portuguese Angola, the Belgian Congo and British Kenya.
In 1945, Africa had four independent countries – Egypt, Ethiopia, Liberia, and South Africa.
After Italy's defeat in World War II, France and the UK occupied the former Italian colonies. Libya became an independent kingdom in 1951. Eritrea was merged with Ethiopia in 1952. Italian Somaliland was governed by the UK, and by Italy after 1954, until its independence in 1960.
By 1977 European colonial rule in mainland Africa had ended. Most of Africa's island countries had also become independent, although Réunion and Mayotte remain part of France. However the black majorities in Rhodesia and South Africa were disenfranchised until 1979 in Rhodesia, which became Zimbabwe-Rhodesia that year and Zimbabwe the next, and until 1994 in South Africa. Namibia, Africa's last UN Trust Territory, became independent of South Africa in 1990.
Most independent African countries exist within prior colonial borders. However Morocco merged French Morocco with Spanish Morocco, and Somalia formed from the merger of British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland. Eritrea merged with Ethiopia in 1952, but became an independent country in 1993.
Most African countries became independent as republics. Morocco, Lesotho, and Swaziland remain monarchies under dynasties that predate colonial rule. Egypt and Libya gained independence as monarchies, but both countries' monarchs were later deposed, and they became republics.
African countries cooperate in various multi-state associations. The African Union includes all 55 African states. There are several regional associations of states, including the East African Community, Southern African Development Community, and Economic Community of West African States, some of which have overlapping membership.
Japan expanded its occupation of Chinese territory during the 1930s, and occupied Southeast Asia during World War II. After the war, the Japanese colonial empire was dissolved, and national independence movements resisted the re-imposition of colonial control by European countries and the United States.
The Republic of China regained control of Japanese-occupied territories in Manchuria and eastern China, as well as Taiwan. Only Hong Kong and Macau remained in outside control.
The Allied powers divided Korea into two occupation zones, which became the states of North Korea and South Korea. The Philippines became independent of the US in 1946.
The Netherlands recognized Indonesia's independence in 1949, after a four-year independence struggle. Indonesia annexed Netherlands New Guinea in 1963, and Portuguese Timor in 1975. In 2002, former Portuguese Timor became independent as East Timor.
The following list shows the colonial powers following the end of hostilities in 1945, and their colonial or administrative possessions. The year of decolonization is given chronologically in parentheses.
Italy had occupied the Dodecanese islands in 1912, but Italian occupation ended after World War II, and the islands were integrated into Greece. British rule ended in Cyprus in 1960, and Malta in 1964, and both islands became independent republics.
Soviet control of its non-Russian member republics weakened rapidly as movements for democratization and self-government gained strength during 1990 and 1991. The Soviet coup d'état attempt in August 1991 began the breakup of the USSR, which formally ended on December 26, 1991. The Republics of the Soviet Union become sovereign states—Armenia, Azerbaijan, Byelorussia, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Historian Robert Daniels says, "A special dimension that the anti-Communist revolutions shared with some of their predecessors was decolonization." Moscow's policy had long been to settle ethnic Russians in the non-Russian republics. After independence, minority rights for Russian-speakers has been an issue; see Russians in the Baltic states.

Decolonization of Oceania

The decolonization of Oceania occurred after World War II when nations in Oceania achieved independence by transitioning from European colonial rule to full independence.
Typical challenges of decolonization include state-building, nation-building, and economic development.


After independence, the new states needed to establish or strengthen the institutions of a sovereign state – governments, laws, a military, schools, administrative systems, and so on. The amount of self-rule granted prior to independence, and assistance from the colonial power and/or international organisations after independence, varied greatly between colonial powers, and between individual colonies.
Except for a few absolute monarchies, most post-colonial states are either republics or constitutional monarchies. These new states had to devise constitutions, electoral systems, and other institutions of representative democracy.


Nation-building is the process of creating a sense of identification with, and loyalty to, the state. Nation-building projects seek to replace loyalty to the old colonial power, and/or tribal or regional loyalties, with loyalty to the new state. Elements of nation-building include creating and promoting symbols of the state like a flag and an anthem, monuments, official histories, national sports teams, codifying one or more indigenous official languages, and replacing colonial place-names with local ones. Nation-building after independence often continues the work began by independence movements during the colonial period.

Settled populations

Decolonization is not an easy matter in colonies where a large population of settlers lives, particularly if they have been there for several generations. This population, in general, was often repatriated, often losing considerable property. For instance, the decolonization of Algeria by France was particularly uneasy due to the large European population, which largely evacuated to France when Algeria became independent. In Zimbabwe, former Rhodesia, president Robert Mugabe has, starting in the 1990s, targeted white African farmers and forcibly seized their property. Other ethnic minorities that are also the product of colonialism may pose problems as well. A large Indian community lived in Uganda – as in most of East Africa – as a result of Britain colonizing both India and East Africa. As many Indians had considerable wealth Idi Amin expelled them for domestic political gain.

Economic development

Newly independent states also had to develop independent economic institutions – a national currency, banks, companies, regulation, tax systems, etc.
Many colonies were serving as resource colonies which produced raw materials and agricultural products, and as a captive market for goods manufactured in the colonizing country. Many decolonized countries created programs to promote industrialization. Some nationalized industries and infrastructure, and some engaged in land reform to redistribute land to individual farmers or create collective farms.
Some decolonized countries maintain strong economic ties with the former colonial power. The CFA franc is a currency shared by 14 countries in West and Central Africa, mostly former French colonies. The CFA franc is guaranteed by the French treasury.
After independence, many countries created regional economic associations to promote trade and economic development among neighbouring countries, including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Economic Community of West African States, and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Effects on the colonizers

argues that the post–World War II decolonization was brought about for economic reasons. In A Journey Through Economic Time, he writes:
"The engine of economic well-being was now within and between the advanced industrial countries. Domestic economic growth – as now measured and much discussed – came to be seen as far more important than the erstwhile colonial trade.... The economic effect in the United States from the granting of independence to the Philippines was unnoticeable, partly due to the Bell Trade Act, which allowed American monopoly in the economy of the Philippines. The departure of India and Pakistan made small economic difference in the United Kingdom. Dutch economists calculated that the economic effect from the loss of the great Dutch empire in Indonesia was compensated for by a couple of years or so of domestic post-war economic growth. The end of the colonial era is celebrated in the history books as a triumph of national aspiration in the former colonies and of benign good sense on the part of the colonial powers. Lurking beneath, as so often happens, was a strong current of economic interest – or in this case, disinterest."

In general, the release of the colonized caused little economic loss to the colonizers. Part of the reason for this was that major costs were eliminated while major benefits were obtained by alternate means. Decolonization allowed the colonizer to disclaim responsibility for the colonized. The colonizer no longer had the burden of obligation, financial or otherwise, to their colony. However, the colonizer continued to be able to obtain cheap goods and labor as well as economic benefits from the former colonies. Financial, political and military pressure could still be used to achieve goals desired by the colonizer. Thus decolonization allowed the goals of colonization to be largely achieved, but without its burdens.

Effects on the former colonies


Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o has written about colonization and decolonization in the film universe. Born in Ethiopia, filmmaker Haile Gerima describes the "colonization of the unconscious" he describes experiencing as a child: kids, we tried to act out the things we had seen in the movies. We used to play cowbows and Indians in the mountains around Gondar...We acted out the roles of these heroes, identifying with the cowboys conquering the Indians. We didn't identify with the Indians at all and we never wanted the Indians to win. Even in Tarzan movies, we would become totally galvanized by the activities of the hero and follow the story from his point of view, completely caught up in the structure of the story. Whenever Africans sneaked up behind Tarzan, we would scream our heads off, trying to warn him that 'they' were coming".

In Asia, kung fu cinema emerged at a time Japan wanted to reach Asian populations in other countries by way of its cultural influence. The surge in popularity of kung fu movies began in the late 1960s through the 1970s. Local populations were depicted as protagonists opposing "imperialists" and their "Chinese collaborators".

Post-colonial organizations

Due to a common history and culture, former colonial powers created institutions which more loosely associated their former colonies. Membership is voluntary, and in some cases can be revoked if a member state loses some objective criteria. The organizations serve cultural, economic, and political purposes between the associated countries, although no such organisation has become politically prominent as an entity in its own right.
Former Colonial PowerOrganisationFounded
United KingdomCommonwealth of Nations1931
FranceFrench Union1946
FranceFrench Community1958
FranceLa Francophonie1970
Spain & PortugalLatin Union1954
Spain & PortugalOrganisation of Ibero-American States1991
PortugalCommunity of Portuguese Language Countries1996
RussiaCommonwealth of Independent States1991
United StatesCommonwealths1934
United StatesFreely Associated States1982
NetherlandsDe Nederlandse Unie1949
NetherlandsDe Nederlandse Taalunie1980

Assassinated anti-colonialist leaders

A non-exhaustive list of assassinated leaders would include:
This list includes formerly non-self-governing territories, such as colonies, protectorates, condominia, and leased territories. Changes in status of autonomy leading up to and after independence are not listed, and some dates of independence may be disputed. For details, see each national history.

18th century to World War I

Interwar period

YearColonizerDecolonized stateEvent
1946United StatesPhilippinesThe treaty of Manila is signed, effectively ending over 380 years of foreign domination in the Philippines. United States military bases continued to be stationed in the islands.
1946United KingdomJordanThe former Emirate of Transjordan became an independent Hashemite kingdom when the United Kingdom relinquishes its League of Nations mandate.
1946FranceSyriaThe former Mandate of Syria became an independent Republic.
1947United KingdomNew ZealandNew Zealand ratifies the Statute of Westminster 1931.
1947United KingdomIndia, PakistanThe British government leaves India, which is partitioned into the secular, but Hindu-majority state of India and the Muslim state of Pakistan.
1948United KingdomMyanmar, Sri LankaBurma, which had separated from British India earlier and did not gain independence in 1947, and Ceylon, which despite being a part of the Indian subcontinent was only briefly a part of British India, became independent.
1948United KingdomIsrael, PalestineThe Jewish-controlled part of Palestine declares independence as the state of Israel; the remainder of Palestine became de facto part of the Arab states of Egypt and Transjordan.
1948United StatesSouth KoreaThe Republic of Korea is established in the southern part of the Korean peninsula.
1948Soviet UnionNorth KoreaThe Democratic People's Republic of Korea is established in the northern part of the peninsula.
1949United KingdomNewfoundland The Dominion of Newfoundland joins Canada.
1951United KingdomEritreaThe Mandate of Eritrea is given by the British to Ethiopia.
1951France, United KingdomLibyaThe British-controlled Tripolitania and the French-controlled Fezzan unifies with the Emirate of Cyrenaica to form the Kingdom of Libya.
1952FranceChandernagore The French enclave of Chandernagore is formally ceded to India.
1953FranceCambodia, LaosThe two non-Vietnamese protectorates of French Indochina, Cambodia and Laos, became independent.
1954FranceVietnamBefore France is able to regain control over French Indochina, Vietnam declares independence in 1945. On May 20, 1949, the French National Assembly approved the reunification of Cochinchina with the rest of Vietnam. The decision took effect on June 14 and the State of Vietnam was officially proclaimed on July 2. From 1949 to 1954, after reunification with Cochinchina, the State of Vietnam had partial autonomy from France as an associated state within the French Union.
France will recognize Vietnam in 1954 following a severe defeat, although between that year and 1975 Vietnam was divided into a communist north and a largely anti-communist south under American influence, before reuniting under North Vietnam rule.
1954FrancePondicherry The Puducherry enclave is incorporated into India.
1956United KingdomSuez Canal In the aftermath of July 23 revolution, the United Kingdom withdraws from the last part of Egypt it controls: the Suez Canal zone.
1956United Kingdom, Egypt Sudan Egypt ends it claims of sovereignty over Sudan, forcing the United Kingdom to do the same. The southern non-Arab half will later became an independent state in 2011.
1956FranceTunisiaTunisia achieve independence.
1956France, SpainMoroccoAfter large-scale protests forces France to return the sultan of Morocco, the French-controlled territories, most of the Spanish-controlled territories and the Tangier International Zone are united into an independent kingdom.
1957United KingdomGhanaThe Gold Coast became independent, initiating the decolonization of sub-Saharan Africa.
1957United KingdomMalaysiaThe Federation of Malaya became independent.
1958FranceGuineaAfter being the only colony to vote against the 1958 French constitution, Guinea is granted independence.
1960United KingdomCyprus Most of Cyprus became independent, though the UK retains sovereign control over Akrotiri and Dhekelia. In 1983, the northern Turkish half of Cyprus declared its independence.
1960United KingdomNigeriaNigeria became independent.
1960Italy, United KingdomSomalia British Somaliland became independent. As the State of Somaliland, the former British Somaliland protectorate merges as scheduled five days later with the Trust Territory of Somaliland to form the Somali Republic.
1960FranceIvory Coast, Benin, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali Federation All remaining colony members of French West Africa became independent, including Côte d'Ivoire, Dahomey, Mauritania, Niger, Upper Volta, French Sudan, and Senegal.
1960FranceChad, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, GabonAll colony members of French Equatorial Africa became independent, including Chad, Ubangi-Shari, the French Congo, and Gabon.
1960FranceCameroon, TogoThe United Nations trust territories of Cameroun and French Togoland became independent.
1960FranceMadagascarMadagascar became independent.
1960BelgiumDemocratic Republic of the CongoThe Belgian Congo became independent.
1961United KingdomTanzaniaThe United Nations trust territory of Tanganyika became independent.
1961United KingdomSierra LeoneSierra Leone became independent.
1961United KingdomKuwaitThe United Kingdom ends its protectorate over the Sheikhdom of Kuwait.
1961United KingdomBritish Cameroons After a referendum, United Nations trust territory of Cameroons is dissolved, with the northern Muslim half deciding to merge with Nigeria and the southern Christian half deciding to merge with Cameroon.
1961United KingdomSouth AfricaThe Union of South Africa declares itself a republic.
1961PortugalGoa, Daman and Diu The former coastal enclave colonies of Goa, Daman and Diu are taken over by India.
1962United KingdomUgandaUganda achieves independence.
1962United KingdomJamaica, Trinidad and TobagoWith the collapse of the West Indies Federation, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago became independent as separate entities.
1962FranceAlgeriaFollowing the end of the Algerian War and the signing of the Évian Accords, both French and Algerian voters approve the independence of Algeria.
1962BelgiumRwanda, BurundiFollowing a period of ethnic violence in Rwanda that led to abolition of its monarchy, Belgium ends its trusteeship over it and Burundi.
1962New ZealandSamoaThe South Sea UN trusteeship over Western Samoa is relinquished.
1963United KingdomKenya, Zanzibar The United Kingdom and the Sultanate of Zanzibar ceded its sovereignty over Kenya. Zanzibar, itself a British Protectorate, would also have its protectorate terminated in the same year. After the Zanzibar Revolution that occurred a year later, Zanzibar merged with Tanganyika, which promptly renamed itself the United Republic of Tanzania.
1963United KingdomSarawak, North Borneo, SingaporeSarawak, North Borneo and Singapore merges with the independent Federation of Malaya, which promptly renamed itself Malaysia. Within two years, however, Singapore would be expelled from Malaysia.
1963United NationsWestern New Guinea Less than a year after Netherlands transferred Netherlands New Guinea to the United Nations, the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority transfers West Papua to Indonesia.
1964United KingdomZambia, MalawiFollowing the dissolution of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland declare independence.
1964United KingdomMaltaThe Mediterranean island of Malta became independent.
1965United KingdomRhodesiaSouthern Rhodesia declares independence as Rhodesia, but is not recognized due to its unwillingness to accommodate to black-majority rule.
1965United KingdomThe GambiaThe Gambia receives independence.
1965United KingdomMaldivesThe British protectorate over the Maldives archipelago in the Indian Ocean ends.
1966United KingdomBarbados, GuyanaIn the British West Indies, Barbados and British Guiana became independent.
1966United KingdomBotswana, LesothoNear South Africa, Bechuanaland and Basutoland became independent.
1967United KingdomSouth Yemen On the Arabian peninsula, the Protectorate of South Arabia and the Federation of South Arabia became independent as a single entity called the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen. In 1990, South Yemen merged with the Yemen Arab Republic, which promptly renamed itself as the Republic of Yemen.
1968United KingdomMauritiusMauritius achieves independence.
1968United KingdomSwazilandThe Kingdom of Swaziland has its protectorate terminated.
1968SpainEquatorial GuineaSpanish Guinea achieves independence.
1968Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom NauruAustralia relinquishes UN trusteeship of Nauru in the South Sea.
1970United KingdomOmanThe United Kingdom ends its protectorate over Muscat and Oman.
1971United KingdomFiji, TongaIn Oceania, Fiji became independent, while the protectorate over the Kingdom of Tonga ends.
1971United KingdomUnited Arab Emirates, Bahrain, QatarAll seven members of the Trucial States became independent upon the termination of their protectorates, with six forming the United Arab Emirates; the seventh, Ras al-Khaimah, would join the UAE a year after. Two other Arab monarchies in the Persian Gulf, Bahrain and Qatar also became independent as their British protectorates are lifted.
1971PakistanBangladeshRise of the Bengali nationalist and self-determination movement in East Pakistan led to the Liberation War and eventually resulted in the emergence of Bangladesh as an independent sovereign in 1971
1973United KingdomThe BahamasThe Bahamas are granted independence.
1973PortugalGuinea-BissauAfter more than a decade of fighting, guerrillas unilaterally declare independence in the Southeastern regions of Portuguese Guinea. It would not be recognized by Portugal until a year later, in the aftermath of Carnation Revolution.
1974United KingdomGrenadaGrenada, a former member of the West Indies Federation became independent.
1975FranceComorosThe Comoros archipelago in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa is granted independence.
1975PortugalAngola, MozambiqueAfter the Carnation Revolution, the two other colonies who have been fighting against colonial rule, Angola and Mozambique achieve independence. East Timor declares independence, but is subsequently occupied and annexed by Indonesia nine days later.
1975PortugalCape Verde, São Tomé and PríncipeAfter the Carnation Revolution, the Western African island groups of Cape Verde and São Tomé and Príncipe achieve independence.
1975PortugalEast TimorAfter the Carnation Revolution, East Timor declares independence, but is subsequently invaded and occupied by Indonesia nine days later.
1975NetherlandsSurinameSurinam achieves independence.
1975AustraliaPapua New GuineaReleased from Australian trusteeship, Papua New Guinea gains independence.
1975IndiaKingdom of SikkimIn 1975, After disarming the palace, a referendum on the monarchy was held, in which the Sikkimese people overwhelmingly voted to abolish the monarchy, and the new parliament of Sikkim, led by Kazi Lhendup Dorjee, proposed a bill for Sikkim to become an Indian state, which was promptly accepted by the Government of India.
1976United KingdomSeychellesThe Seychelles archipelago in the Indian Ocean off the African coast became independent.
1976SpainSahrawi Arab Democratic RepublicThe Spanish colonial rule is de facto terminated over the Western Sahara, when the territory was passed on to and partitioned between Mauritania and Morocco, rendering the declared independence of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic ineffective to the present day.
1977FranceDjiboutiFrench Somaliland, also known as the "French Territory of the Afars and the Issas", gains independence.
1978United KingdomDominica, a former member of the West Indies Federation, became independent.
1978United KingdomSolomon Islands, TuvaluThe Solomon Islands and the Ellice Islands became independent.
1979United StatesPanama Canal The United States promises to return the Panama Canal Zone to the republic of Panama after 1999.
1979United KingdomKiribatiThe Gilbert Islands became independent.
1979United KingdomSaint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint LuciaSaint Vincent and the Grenadines and Saint Lucia, both former members of the West Indies Federation, became independent.
1980United KingdomZimbabweIn the aftermath of the Rhodesian Bush War, Rhodesia, which temporary regained its colonial status, became formally independent under black-majority rule.
1980United Kingdom, FranceVanuatuThe joint Anglo-French colony of the New Hebrides became the independent island Republic of Vanuatu.
1981United KingdomBelize, Antigua and BarbudaIn the British West Indies, British Honduras and Antigua and Barbuda became independent.
1982United KingdomCanadaCanada gains full independence from the British parliament with the Canada Act 1982.
1983United KingdomSaint Kitts and NevisSaint Kitts and Nevis became independent.
1984United KingdomBruneiThe United Kingdom ends its protectorate over the Brunei sultanate.
1986United KingdomAustralia, New ZealandAustralia and New Zealand became fully independent with the Australia Act 1986 and the Constitution Act 1986.
1990South AfricaNamibiaSouth West Africa, the only League of Nation mandate that did not become a United Nation trust territory via independence, became independent from South Africa. South Africa would continue hold on to Walvis Bay and the Penguin Islands until 1994.
1990Soviet UnionLithuaniaDeclared the end of Soviet occupation and restoration of its 1918 independence on March 11.
1990United StatesMarshall Islands, MicronesiaThe UN Security Council gives final approval to end the U.S. Trust Territory of the Pacific, finalizing the independence of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia, having been a colonial possession of the empire of Japan before UN trusteeship.
1991Soviet UnionEstoniaAdopted a resolution on March 30 that its independent status had never been suspended and only subject to an illegal occupation since 1940, and another on August 20 restoring an Estonian republic.
1991Soviet UnionGeorgiaDeclared independence on April 9 after a referendum.
1991Soviet UnionLatviaRestored pre-Soviet-occupation independence on May 4, and full independence on August 21.
1991Soviet UnionBelarus, UkraineFollowing a coup attempt by Russian hardliners against the Soviet government, Ukraine declared independence on August 24, and its people ratified this in a referendum on December 1, gaining international recognition, including by the Russian Republic, the following day. Belarus declared independence August 25. With Russia, both agreed to dissolve the Soviet Union when they signed the Belavezha Accords on December 8.
1991Soviet UnionMoldova, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Armenia, Turkmenistan, Russian Federation, KazakhstanWith Belarus and Ukraine, the remaining Soviet republics signed the Almaty Protocol on December 21, agreeing to dissolve the Soviet Union and create a Commonwealth of Independent States. On December 25, Soviet president Gorbachev resigned and the Soviet Union was effectively dissolved.

Post–Cold War era

Current colonies

The United Nations, under "Chapter XI: Declaration Regarding Non-Self Governing Territories" of the Charter of the United Nations, defines Non-Self Governing Nations as "territories whose people have not yet attained a full measure of self-government"—the contemporary definition of colonialism. After the conclusion of World War II with the surrender of the Axis Powers in 1945, and a couple decades in to the latter half of the 20th-century, over three dozen "states in Asia and Africa achieved autonomy or outright independence" from European administering powers. As of 2020, 17 territories remain under Chapter XI distinction:

United Nations NSGS list

On 10 December 2010, the United Nations published its official decree, announcing the "Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism": in which the United Nations declares its "renewal of the call to States Members of the United Nations to speed up the process of decolonization towards the complete elimination of colonialism". Given the concerted multinational effort to eradicate overtly oppressive governmental regimes, and global reformations establishing the modern sovereign state, few are cognizant of colonialism's persistence twenty years into the 21st-century. It is because of this global ignorance that the UN recasts its effort with the "Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism" to abolish colonial rule and free those restrained under the "yoke of colonialism". Furthermore, on 19 May 2015, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addressed the attendants of the Caribbean Regional Seminar on Decolonization, urging international political leaders to "build on towards fully eradicating colonialism by 2020"; however, five years later, at the turn of the decade, the issue remains.

Primary sources