TITLE: Decolonization and Disorder
SPEAKER: Dane Kennedy
EVENT DATE: 2008/07/09
RUNNING TIME: 77 minutes
Historian Dane Kennedy examined three waves of European decolonization, from the late 18th century through the late 20th century, and the violence and discord that accompanied the transitions.
Kennedy's presentation "Decolonization and Disorder," was sponsored by the Library's John W. Kluge Center and the National History Center.
According to Kennedy, who is the Elmer Louis Kayser Professor of History and International Affairs at George Washington University, the public holds two major misconceptions concerning European decolonization. The first is that decolonization was, in most instances, a reasonably well-planned and peaceful transition, a willing relinquishment of power by imperial authorities to their colonial subjects.
The second misconception is that decolonization was a uniquely modern event, a post-World War II turning point that marked the end of empires and the culmination of the age of nation-states. "Third World" decolonization, however, which came in the second half of the 20th century, was preceded by an era of "Old World" decolonization in the early 20th century and an era of "New World" decolonization in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
"Each of these moments of decolonization was precipitated by global war and accompanied by considerable violence and a renewed, if modified, form of imperialism. Recent scholarship on the era of decolonization that followed World War II has shifted attention from the plans drawn up at negotiating tables to the chaos and upheaval that occurred on the ground. My talk will examine this shift of focus, stressing the role of ethnic violence and mass migration in the process of decolonization," Kennedy said.
Speaker Biography: Dane Kennedy teaches British and imperial history at George Washington University. He is the author of numerous articles and four books, including: "The Highly Civilized Man: Richard Burton and the Victorian World" (2005); "Britain and Empire, 1880-1945" (2002); and "The Magic Mountains: Hill Stations and the British Raj" (1996). Kennedy received a Guggenheim fellowship for 2003-2004.