75 Pivotal Public Policies: Indian Independence

The culmination of years of campaigning and resistance by national heroes such as Mahatma Gandhi and Subhash Chandra Bose, Indian independence signalled the post-Second World War acceleration of decolonization by the imperial powers of Western Europe. World maps were redrawn, and local leaders empowered (as well as previously suppressed regional and ethnic conflicts unleashed), as empires retreated.

This was not exactly a new trend, though now it was often more willingly acceded to than some notable earlier examples. Britain’s American colonies had been lost as distantly as 1776, while continental European powers were deprived of Haiti and Spanish and Portuguese Latin America in the following century. After World War One, a number of mandates under Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations expressed the intention to prepare countries for self-government.

The pace of change accelerated dramatically after 1945 as the growing desire for independence met less resistance in empires cash-strapped by the cost of the war and the new welfare states created in its aftermath. Indian independence in 1947 from Britain was followed by Sudan’s in 1956 and Ghana’s in 1957 and all Britain’s colonies on mainland Africa became independent by 1966 (though the unilateral declaration of independence by Rhodesia – now Zimbabwe – was initially not recognised internationally). French, Italian, Belgian, Dutch and Portugese colonies also won their independence.


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