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Unit 6: Modern World History

Lesson B: 20th Century Global Politics - Decolonization

Activity 1: Decolonization

Colonies around the world began to demand freedom and independence at the beginning of the 20th century. But, the countries that controlled those colonies were strong, and most movements were not successful. World War II weakened Europe and Japan. Anti-colonial leaders were able to take advantage of this weakening and carry out their fight for independence. Communism aided the end of colonization, as well. Communist countries supported anti-colonial efforts because they wanted to see communism spread.

By 1965, most European colonies had become independent countries. Independence provided new opportunities to the people in these former colonies, but it also brought challenges. New countries had to create new governments, decide who would lead, develop the economy, and determine what rights would be guaranteed to the people. Much of this took place in the context of the Cold War, where superpowers were hoping to influence world events by either spreading or containing communism. New governments had to tread carefully to avoid being caught up in this larger conflict.

Think about what you know about the economic, political, and social effects of colonization and the world after World War II, and answer the following questions.

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Written Activity - Notebook

In your notebook, respond to the following questions:

  • What were the positive effects of decolonization?
  • What challenges would newly independent countries face?
  • Why were newly independent countries usually less successful than their former imperial powers in developing a modern economy and ensuring rights for their people?