Independence Days Around the World

A popular nineteenth century phrase held that ‘the sun never sets on the British empire’. Two centuries of revolutions and decolonization movements worldwide has put paid to the phrase, leaving the UK one of the only countries in the world without an independence day. Celebrate the 4th of July by taking a minute to learn about the history behind independence days around the world.

The Americas

Revolution against empire : taxes, politics, and the origins of American independence

Revolution Against Empire : Taxes, Politics, and the Origins of American Independence by Justin du Rivage

A bold transatlantic history of American independence revealing that 1776 was about far more than taxation without representation.

Revolution Against Empire sets the story of American independence within a long and fierce clash over the political and economic future of the British Empire. Justin du Rivage traces this decades-long debate, which pitted neighbors and countrymen against one another, from the War of Austrian Succession to the end of the American Revolution.

As people from Boston to Bengal grappled with the growing burdens of imperial rivalry and fantastically expensive warfare, some argued that austerity and new colonial revenue were urgently needed to rescue Britain from unsustainable taxes and debts. Others insisted that Britain ought to treat its colonies as relative equals and promote their prosperity. Drawing from archival research in the United States, Britain, and France, this book shows how disputes over taxation, public debt, and inequality sparked the American Revolution—and reshaped the British Empire.

The Haitian Revolution and the Early United States: Histories, Textualities, Geographies

The Haitian Revolution and the Early United States: Histories, Textualities, Geographies edited by Elizabeth Maddock Dillon and Michael Drexler

When Jean-Jacques Dessalines proclaimed Haitian independence on January 1, 1804, Haiti became the second independent republic, after the United States, in the Americas; the Haitian Revolution was the first successful antislavery and anticolonial revolution in the western hemisphere. The histories of Haiti and the early United States were intimately linked in terms of politics, economics, and geography, but unlike Haiti, the United States would remain a slaveholding republic until 1865. While the Haitian Revolution was a beacon for African Americans and abolitionists in the United States, it was a terrifying specter for proslavery forces there, and its effects were profound. In the wake of Haiti’s liberation, the United States saw reconfigurations of its geography, literature, politics, and racial and economic structures.

The Haitian Revolution and the Early United States explores the relationship between the dramatic events of the Haitian Revolution and the development of the early United States. The first section, “Histories,” addresses understandings of the Haitian Revolution in the developing public sphere of the early United States, from theories of state sovereignty to events in the street; from the economic interests of U.S. merchants to disputes in the chambers of diplomats; and from the flow of rumor and second-hand news of refugees to the informal communication networks of the enslaved. The second section, “Geographies,” explores the seismic shifts in the ways the physical territories of the two nations and the connections between them were imagined, described, inhabited, and policed as a result of the revolution. The final section, “Textualities,” explores the wide-ranging consequences that reading and writing about slavery, rebellion, emancipation, and Haiti in particular had on literary culture in both the United States and Haiti.

With essays from leading and emerging scholars of Haitian and U.S. history, literature, and cultural studies, The Haitian Revolution and the Early United States traces the rich terrain of Haitian-U.S. culture and history in the long nineteenth century.

The Mark of Rebels Indios Fronterizos and Mexican IndependenceThe Mark of Rebels: Indios Fronterizos and Mexican Independence by Barry M. Robinson

Explores social and cultural transformations among the indigenous communities of western Mexico, especially the indios fronterizos (Frontier Indians), preceding and during the struggle for independence

In The Mark of Rebels Barry Robinson offers a new look at Mexican Independence from the perspective of an indigenous population caught in the heart of the struggle. During the conquest and settlement of Mexico’s Western Sierra Madre, Spain’s indigenous allies constructed an indio fronterizo identity for their ethnically diverse descendants. These communities used their special status to maintain a measure of autonomy during the colonial era, but the cultural shifts of the late colonial period radically transformed the relationship between these indios fronterizos and their neighbors.

Marshalling an extensive array of archival material from Mexico, the United States, and Spain, Robinson shows that indio fronterizo participation in the Mexican wars of independence grafted into the larger Hidalgo Revolt through alignment with creole commanders. Still, a considerable gulf existed between the aims of indigenous rebels and the creole leadership. Consequently, the privileges that the indios fronterizos sought to preserve continued to diminish, unable to survive either the late colonial reforms of the Spanish regime or creole conceptions of race and property in the formation of the new nation-state.

This story suggests that Mexico’s transition from colony to nation can only be understood by revisiting the origins of the colonial system and by recognizing the role of Spain’s indigenous allies in both its construction and demolition. The study relates events in the region to broader patterns of identity, loyalty, and subversion throughout the Americas, providing insight into the process of mestizaje that is commonly understood to have shaped Latin America. It also foreshadows the popular conservatism of the nineteenth century and identifies the roots of post-colonial social unrest.

This book provides new context for scholars, historians, ethnographers, anthropologists, and anyone interested in the history of Mexico, colonization, Native Americans, and the Age of Revolutions.

Africa

A Diplomatic Revolution: Algeria's Fight for Independence and the Origins of the Post-Cold War EraA Diplomatic Revolution: Algeria’s Fight for Independence and the Origins of the Post-Cold War Era by Matthew Connelly

Algeria sits at the crossroads of the Atlantic, European, Arab, and African worlds. Yet, unlike the wars in Korea and Vietnam, Algeria’s fight for independence has rarely been viewed as an international conflict. Even forty years later, it is remembered as the scene of a national drama that culminated with Charles de Gaulle’s decision to “grant” Algerians their independence despite assassination attempts, mutinies, and settler insurrection.

Yet, as Matthew Connelly demonstrates, the war the Algerians fought occupied a world stage, one in which the U.S. and the USSR, Israel and Egypt, Great Britain, Germany, and China all played key roles. Recognizing the futility of confronting France in a purely military struggle, the Front de Libération Nationale instead sought to exploit the Cold War competition and regional rivalries, the spread of mass communications and emigrant communities, and the proliferation of international and non-governmental organizations. By harnessing the forces of nascent globalization they divided France internally and isolated it from the world community. And, by winning rights and recognition as Algeria’s legitimate rulers without actually liberating the national territory, they rewrote the rules of international relations.

Based on research spanning three continents and including, for the first time, the rebels’ own archives, this study offers a landmark reevaluation of one of the great anti-colonial struggles as well as a model of the new international history. It will appeal to historians of post-colonial studies, twentieth-century diplomacy, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

A Diplomatic Revolution was winner of the 2003 Stuart L. Bernath Prize of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, and the Akira Iriye International History Book Award, The Foundation for Pacific Quest.

The road to independence: Ghana and the Ivory CoastThe road to independence: Ghana and the Ivory Coast by Immanuel Maurice Wallerstein

“Relying largely on data derived during 1956 and 1957 from interviews with leaders of voluntary associations in Accra and Abidjan, the author has produced a meticulously documented comparative study designed to demonstrate the part played by these associations in the rapid social change that resulted in independence for Ghana and the Ivory Coast. His thesis is that, notwithstanding the different approaches of the French and British governments to their respective territories, the response of the people to the problems posed by a modernizing colonial rule was similar in both countries. There were the demands of the new elite interacting with the influence of the charismatic national leader, the conflict between the intellectuals and the traditional authorities, the growth of a nationalist movement offering a political career to the new middle classes, and the later conflict between the intellectuals and the new generation of politicians.” – Summary excerpted from Leslie Rubin’s review in American Anthropologist, Volume 68, Issue 3, DOI: 10.1525/aa.1966.68.3.02a00610

 

Zimbabwe : the political economy of transformationZimbabwe : the political economy of transformation by Hevina S. Dashwood

Since Zimbabwe’s transition to black-majority rule in 1980, the political changes in that country have been the subject of much study and debate. In this cogent analysis, Hevina Dashwood traces the evolution of Zimbabwe’s development strategy from independence to 1997.

During this period, there was a fundamental shift away from the social-welfarist orientation of the original development strategy, a change that coincided with the introduction of the Structural Adjustment Programme in 1991. Dashwood traces the reconfiguration of the class structure in Zimbabwe, which led to the formation of a state-based bourgeoisie, whose interests are more closely aligned with those of the agrarian and entrepreneurial elites, rather than with the poor. Greater reliance was placed on market considerations and it became clear that the government was moving away from its earlier strong commitment to meeting the welfare needs of the poor. Dashwood argues that it was the class interests of the ruling elite, rather than pressure from the international financial institutions, that explains the failure of the government to devise a coherent, socially sensitive development strategy in conjunction with market-based reforms.

This account of Zimbabwe’s transformation sheds light on recent events in Zimbabwe as well as current debates on economic development throughout Africa.

The Decolonization Of AfricaThe Decolonization Of Africa by David Birmingham

This bold, popularizing synthesis presents a readily accessible introduction to one of the major themes of twentieth-century world history. Between 1922, when self-government was restored to Egypt, and 1994, when nonracial democracy was achieved in South Africa, 54 new nations were established in Africa. Written within the parameters of African history, as opposed to imperial history, this study charts the processes of nationalism, liberation and independence that recast the political map of Africa in these years. Ranging from Algeria in the North, where a French colonial government used armed force to combat Algerian aspirations to home-rule, to the final overthrow of apartheid in the South, this is an authoritative survey that will be welcomed by all students tackling this complex and challenging topic.

 

Asia

Singapore : The Unexpected NationSingapore : The Unexpected Nation by Edwin Lee

This book deals with Singapore’s transition from a British Crown Colony to a state in the Federation of Malaysia, and expulsion from the Federation to become a separate independent nation. For the leaders of Singapore’s PAP Government, Malaysia was a traumatic experience. Yet, but for it, they might never have found the resolve and the secret of building this extraordinary nation, this nation based on Singapore alone that they and an entire generation had once believed an impossibility. This story of nation-building deals with topics on national (army) service, economic development, education in schools and in universities, housing and home ownership. It deals also with issues of ethnicity and national identity in the context of challenges from within and without, in the latter case from globalization and global Islamism.

 

Colonial Legacies : Economic and Social Development in East and Southeast AsiaColonial Legacies : Economic and Social Development in East and Southeast Asia by Anne E. Booth

It is well known that Taiwan and South Korea, both former Japanese colonies, achieved rapid growth and industrialization after 1960. The performance of former European and American colonies (Malaysia, Singapore, Burma, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, and the Philippines) has been less impressive. Some scholars have attributed the difference to better infrastructure and greater access to education in Japan’s colonies. Anne Booth examines and critiques such arguments in this ambitious comparative study of economic development in East and Southeast Asia from the beginning of the twentieth century until the 1960s.

Booth takes an in-depth look at the nature and consequences of colonial policies for a wide range of factors, including the growth of export-oriented agriculture and the development of manufacturing industry. She evaluates the impact of colonial policies on the growth and diversification of the market economy and on the welfare of indigenous populations. Indicators such as educational enrollments, infant mortality rates, and crude death rates are used to compare living standards across East and Southeast Asia in the 1930s. Her analysis of the impact that Japan’s Greater Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere and later invasion and conquest had on the region and the living standards of its people leads to a discussion of the painful and protracted transition to independence following Japan’s defeat. Throughout Booth emphasizes the great variety of economic and social policies pursued by the various colonial governments and the diversity of outcomes.

Lucidly and accessibly written, Colonial Legacies offers a balanced and elegantly nuanced exploration of a complex historical reality. It will be a lasting contribution to scholarship on the modern economic history of East and Southeast Asia and of special interest to those concerned with the dynamics of development and the history of colonial regimes.

Sovereignty after empire : comparing the Middle East and Central AsiaSovereignty after empire : comparing the Middle East and Central Asia edited by Sally N. Cummings

A comparative study of empire in the Middle East and Central Asia. Empire matters for post-imperial outcomes, as is shown in this comparative study. The imperial creation of states in MENA and Central Asia explains several similarities in both regions’ successor states. Differences in imperial heritages also partly account for the greater instability of the MENA states system and their lesser legitimacy. While eventually the imperial relation to an external metropole came to an end, the social patterns and institutional practices forged in these relationships remained; some only as traces, but others that endured in the transformation of empire into something else, a national sovereignty which should be seen as more than ‘neo-colonialism’ but less than ‘total independence’. This challenges the view of an automatic linear progression from empire to sovereignty and indeed, suggests the two conditions can and do co-exist.