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Britain, France and the Decolonization of Africa

Britain, France and the Decolonization of Africa: Future Imperfect? OPEN ACCESS

Andrew W.M. Smith
Chris Jeppesen
Copyright Date: 2017
Published by: UCL Press
Pages: 254
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  • Book Info
    Britain, France and the Decolonization of Africa
    Book Description:

    Looking at decolonization in the conditional tense, this volume teases out the complex and uncertain ends of British and French empire in Africa during the period of ‘late colonial shift’ after 1945. Rather than view decolonization as an inevitable process, the contributors together explore the crucial historical moments in which change was negotiated, compromises were made, and debates were staged. Three core themes guide the analysis: development, contingency and entanglement. The chapters consider the ways in which decolonization was governed and moderated by concerns about development and profit. A complementary focus on contingency allows deeper consideration of how colonial powers planned for ‘colonial futures’, and how divergent voices greeted the end of empire. Thinking about entanglements likewise stresses both the connections that existed between the British and French empires in Africa, and those that endured beyond the formal transfer of power.

    eISBN: 978-1-911307-73-0
    Subjects: History
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Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations
  1. Andrew W. M. Smith and Chris Jeppesen

    The imperfect tense describes an indefinite ending: in the past, it is irresolute; in the future, it is conditional. In the aftermath of the Second World War, the vast African empires of Britain and France started to break apart in ways that seemed to defy the political will of the colonizers. By 1966 most of the African continent had gained independence and new nation states raised the standards of liberation.¹ Looking back on the political reconfigurations of this period, it can appear that an unstoppable storm swept across the African continent during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Indeed, leading...

  2. Section 1 Development
    • Michael Collins

      As the title of this volume suggests, scholars of decolonization are increasingly looking at the connected or ‘entangled’ histories of empire and its aftermaths. From this perspective, decolonization was not a discrete process that marked a shift from empire to national independence but a multi-layered, multifaceted phenomenon. While decolonization had particular, specific causes and effects in different African settings, it was also shaped by wider, structural dimensions of empire that may be seen as systemic: the political and economic relationship between imperial ‘core’ and colonial ‘periphery’; the colonial state in terms of its bureaucratic structure; ideologies of governance, ‘development’ and...

    • Charlotte Lydia Riley

      Imperial entanglements drew not only on painful legacies of exploitation but also on laboured traditions of debating development. Towards the end of empire, continued imperial engagement was often predicated on the supposed bounties from colonial development programmes – depending on the audience, for either the metropole or the colonial people; after decolonization, postcolonial engagement was framed by the ongoing legacy of expired colonial schemes. This chapter examines the Labour Party’s approach to overseas aid and development at two key moments in the context of British decolonization, the 1940s and the 1960s. From the 1920s British colonial policy had become increasingly...

    • Marta Musso

      1956 was a pivotal year in the entangled histories of North Africa and Europe. In June the negotiations for the establishment of the European Economic Community started in Brussels at the Château of Val-Duchesse, and they would continue until March the following year. In September the beginning of the outbreak of violence that went down in history as ‘the battle of Algiers’ marked the descent of the Algerian rebellion into open warfare. In October the nationalization of the Suez Canal Company by the most active African ruler, Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser, and the ensuing crisis that lasted until March, showed...

  3. Section 2 Contingency
    • Andrew W. M. Smith

      Books can be objects as well as texts. At times, their material nature can speak of their cultural and political provenance just as much as the ideas contained within them. I found, perhaps, the clearest sense of this chapter tucked in the pages of an old book ordered online from a secondhand shop in Perpignan. It arrived in an envelope festooned with stamps bearing the portrait of Francis I, originally painted by Jean Clouet around 1530. This Renaissance monarch is perhaps remembered best as a ‘great patron of the arts’,¹ yet he was also a significant force in expanding the...

    • Robert Skinner

      What might the activities of anti-apartheid activists in West Yorkshire tell us about the entangled histories of human rights and decolonization? Rights talk in places such as Huddersfield, far from the abuses of the apartheid system, was not the echo of a message transmitted from above, nor some revolutionary mantra taken up from below. Tracing the ways that these entangled histories were enacted by any number of grass-roots activists (in Britain, or, indeed, elsewhere), necessitates examination of how a flexible discourse of human rights took shape during a period of instability. Individual actors below the level of state spoke in...

  4. Section 3 Entanglement
  5. Chris Jeppesen and Andrew W. M. Smith

    The ways in which the future is forecast, when we speak in the conditional, are intimately bound up with our assessment of the present. After the Second World War, when this volume has stressed the notion of a late colonial shift, there was a period of profound change, creating a mass of swirling possibilities in Europe and in Africa. In 1950 Keïta Fodéba described an ‘African dawn’, as the ruptures of wartime and imperial conflict interrupted the rhythms of village life.¹ There was a sense, for some, that natural forces were undermining empire, but also that they could spark its...

  6. Martin Shipway

    As the battle of Borodino draws to its wearied and bloody end, in volume three ofWar and peace, Leo Tolstoy reflects on a day that, while militarily inconclusive, ultimately led to the defeat of Napoleonic France, ‘a country on which, at Borodino, for the very first time, the hand of an opponent stronger in spirit had been laid’. Turning the page, Tolstoy then turns his attention away from his narrative, to the problem of historical time and causation, drawing a parallel with Zeno of Elea’s best-known paradox, ‘whereby a tortoise that has a head start on Achilles will never...

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International
This book is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International.