The end of the European empires undoubtedly stands as the major transformation of the twentieth-century world. Most mo-mentous, perhaps, was that of the British empire, which had combined the largest area of direct rule with the greatest sphere of informal power. Reflecting on the vivid controversies about the nature, causes, pace and extent of British decolonisation, this study analyses the long history of the end of the British empire, from the Treaty of Versailles to the Sino-British Treaty for the handover of Hong Kong. Beyond the high tide of independences, late ends of empire and remaining colonial outposts are crucial to understand the dynamics of British decolonisation, as are the early transformations of the white Commonwealth and the multiple forms of anti-colonial protest across the interwar empire. The history of British decolonisation is one of crossroads and encounters—theoretical, historical and geographical. It is about individual men and women across societies, international relations and transnational networks, structural changes and constraints, negotiations, repression and armed conflicts, and the (re)definition of the nation in the domestic and international spheres. From India to Belize, Vanuatu to Zimbabwe, Malaya to Britain itself, the study of decolonisation demonstrates the achievements, limits and ambiguities of colonial liberation in the twentieth century.
Part I. — The British empire challenged: the roots of decolonisation (1919-1939)
Part II. — Figthing Empire: imperial convulsions from World War to Cold War (1939-1951)
Part III. — A new world map: winning independence, negotiating retreat, managing influence (1951-1964)
Part IV. — World roles and liberation struggles: the end of empire? (1964-1984)
Autour de l'auteur
Mélanie Torrent is senior lecturer at the University Paris Diderot, Sorbonne Paris Cité, where she teaches British and Commonwealth history. She specialises in British foreign policy, post-colonial diplomacies and relations across the ex-imperial blocs. She is the author of Diplomacy and Nation-Building: Franco-British relations and Cameroon at the end of empire (I.B. Tauris, 2012).