World War II

Nationalism in Africa & Asia

Brief History

By the 20th century, nationalism was an important force. People began to strive for their own identities as independent nations were forming in parts of Europe and Africa. By the early 20th century, Europeans had colonized most of the African continent. Nationalism in Asia had been passed on through a series of negotiations. Despite the Japanese defeat in the war, independence was negotiated in 1949 and throughout the era, leaders of independence were drawn to communism in Asia.

Rode to African Independence

World War II (1939-1945) had an important effect on Africa. Some important battles were fought in North Africa. Many Africans from French and British colonies were also recruited to fight for the Allies in Europe, Asia, and North Africa. In recruiting African soldiers, the British and French emphasized that soldiers would be helping protect the world against the evils of Fascism and Nazism.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, new mass-based political parties were formed in almost every African colony. Unlike earlier political organizations, these parties were not restricted to the educated elite. They wanted and needed mass support for their cause. The cause went beyond the demand for more opportunity and an end of discrimination. The central demand was for political freedom, for end of colonial rule! The rapid growth of African nationalism took European colonial powers by surprise. The Italians and the British, followed by the French and then by the reluctant Belgians, eventually responded to the demands for independence.Libya (1951) and Egypt (1952) were the first African nations to gain independence. Ghana (Gold Coast) in 1957 was the first country south of the Sahara to become independence. 1960 was the big year for African independence.

Just as in other African colonies, African nationalist movements had formed in each of these countries in the 1940s and 1950s. These political parties sought peaceful, constitutional change. That is, the primary aim of the nationalist parties was to change the constitutions of the settler colonies to recognize the rights of the majority African population.

Straight Talk Africa- Report Card on African Independence
South African National Anthem
Asian Nationalism

Asia's Independence

During World War II Japan, itself a significant imperial power, drove the European powers out of Asia. After the Japanese surrender in 1945, local nationalist movements in the former Asian colonies campaigned for independence rather than a return to European colonial rule. In many cases, as in Indonesia and French Indochina, these nationalists had been guerrillas fighting the Japanese after European surrenders, or were former members of colonial military establishments. These independence movements often appealed to the United States Government for support.

While the United States generally supported the concept of national self-determination, it also had strong ties to its European allies, who had imperial claims on their former colonies. The Cold War only served to complicate the U.S. position, as U.S. support for decolonization was offset by American concern over communist expansion and Soviet strategic ambitions in Europe. Several of the NATO allies asserted that their colonial possessions provided them with economic and military strength that would otherwise be lost to the alliance. Nearly all of the United States' European allies believed that after their recovery from World War II their colonies would finally provide the combination of raw materials and protected markets for finished goods that would cement the colonies to Europe. Whether or not this was the case, the alternative of allowing the colonies to slip away, perhaps into the United States' economic sphere or that of another power, was unappealing to every European government interested in postwar stability. Although the U.S. Government did not force the issue, it encouraged the European imperial powers to negotiate an early withdrawal from their overseas colonies. The United States granted independence to the Philippines in 1946.

Philippine Independence Day Ceremony 1946

Essential Questions

1) How did nationalism in Africa differ from nationalism in Asia?

2) In your opinion, do you think that nationalism in Africa and Asia has made both continents more unified within their countries?