Assess the reasons why Britain reduced its Empire between 1939 and 1964.

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Assess the reasons why Britain reduced its Empire between 1939 and 1964

In 1945 the Second World War ended, the next thirty years were to see rapid disintegration of the European empires and the creation of many new independent states. In this essay I will attempt to explain for what reasons Great Britain decolonised, and the effects this decolonisation had for those countries decolonised.

As a result of victory after WWI several former German territories in Africa and Asia were added to the British Empire. The British Empire was among the largest Empires the world had ever seen. It consisted of various territories conquered or colonised by Britain from about 1600. The British Empire was at its largest at the end of WWI, consisting of over 25% of the world’s population and area; including countries such as India, Malaya, Kenya, Ghana, Cyprus, Greece, New Zealand.

World War I brought the British Empire to the peak of its expansion, but in the years that followed came its decline. Britain had growing economic problems and couldn’t afford to continue governing its enormous Empire. There were threats of Civil War in countries such as India; the threat of the spread of Communism from China into Malaya and the increasing problem of racism and prejudice in Britain’s African colonies.

The Empire faded gradually into the Commonwealth from the 1930’s onwards as one by one former British colonies and protectorates gained independence but retained this last link with the Crown. It was incredibly important for Britain to retain its trade links with countries that were/had been part of its Empire. Britain needed to change the face of its Empire, one reason for such a change was due to the view of the U.S – they were opposed to Empires and Britain did not want the Anglo-American relationships to even slightly grow apart.

At the beginning of end of the Second World War Britain had the largest empire, which spanned the whole of the globe. But in the next thirty years this was dramatically reduced in size. The first country to seek independence from Britain at the end of the Second World War was India. India was seen as the “Jewel in the crown” of the British Empire and was of key significance to Britain. Even before WWI it was evident that the Indian desire for freedom would prove increasingly difficult for Britain to contain and control.

Although British officials dominated the key posts in the civil service, barely one per-cent of the civil population was British. There were many disturbances and large unrest throughout India, the British government made some concession to the demand for a greater share by Indians in the local affairs. It was too late by now and this offer was no longer sufficient; the total withdrawal of British rule was now the aim of Nationalists.

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The Indian society was made up of varying and often conflicting races, castes and religions – India had no single nationalist voice. Until some sort of unity could be achieved Indian aspirations would be frustrated, this frustration found outlet in increasing violence. This came to an end and then it was non-violence that now became the chief factor in the advance of Indian Nationalism. The move was called Civil Disobedience and was thought up by an Indian man named Gandhi. Gandhi was the single most important influence in the growth of Indian Nationalism. Gandhi was a devout Hindu although he ...

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