Decolonization and Nationalism Triumphant: Crash Course World History #40

Added: 07-31-2018

This video examines the messy process of decolonization around the world, a process that started around WWII and continues today. Despite many setbacks from exploitation and proxy rulership by colonial empires in the neocolonial era, many post-colonial countries are seeing positive growth in the 21st century.

decoloniality communism southeastern Asia independence India World War II (WWII) support rule proxy overthrow neocolonial natural resources military leader exploitation dictatorship colony Africa

Type Reading Time Author Date Source
video 13 minutes CRASH COURSE 10-25-2012
Type Reading Time
video 13 minutes
Author Date
crash course 2018-07-31 00:00:00 UTC
Key Takeaways
  • Colonialism was brutal and exploitative and set back many nations when they were given independence.
  • The decolonization process itself was messy, often involving conflict, inappropriate borders, and proxy rulers. 
  • Only now, 50 years after most African nations gained independence, are we seeing growth in development numbers.


Starting with World War II, defeat of Nazi imperialism discredited the idea of empire. Following the war, people from the allied powers’ colonies who had fought in WWII began rejecting their place as colonies. 

India as example
India demanded independence from Britain following WWII, though the result was a messy, complicated split. Having only been unified under the imperial rule of the British, as many as 12 million people migrated out of India when the country was formally established - with as many as half a million being killed in ensuing conflicts over territory. During this time the emergence of Pakistan and Bangladesh was very violent, despite common understanding that British departure was peaceful. 

Other Empires
There was much violence in the immediate aftermath of other independence movements as well. In Indonesia, the Dutch demanded 1/5th of Indonesian crops be sent to Holland after independence. In 1950’s post-colonial Cambodia, Pol Pot massacred 20% of Cambodians after independence. Egypt was technically independent before WWII but was ruled by a British puppet, who was violently overthrown by Abdel Nasser, the leader of the military. Some colonial boundaries became redefined as new nation states in post-independence, some even arbitrary. Rwanda and Burundi are examples of two very different tribes being combined into contentious nations. 

Undermined by imperialism
Economic development was a guise to create infrastructure solely to get resources and export them for European powers. As a result when Europeans left, colonies did not have the means to support themselves, very few schools and even fewer universities existed (there were under a dozen universities in Congo at the time of independence in 1960.) 

  • Examples of African military leaders: Mobutu, Idi Amin, Gaddafi 
  • Examples of communist dictators in S.E. Asia: Pol Pot in Cambodia, Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, Sukarno in Indonesia.