In this book David McIntyre, Professor of History at the University of Canterbury, gives a detailed account of a most important episode of British and global history, that is the fall of the British Empire. The decolonization process that took place mainly after the Second World War was sudden and relatively rapid compared with the four centuries of British colonial dominance. Yet Britain's withdrawal from its former colonies and the acquisition of independence by those colonies were achieved gradually and according to a specific national and international context. How does this book account for the fall of the world's greatest empire? What are McIntyre's arguments to explain the complex process of British decolonization and what is his point of view about that episode of British history?
[...] But the author emphasizes much more the importance of the situation of the British economy and that is a most convincing argument to explain the fall of the Empire. He indeed notices that there is a puzzling coincidence between Britain's worst financial crises and the major landmarks of decolonization. Moreover after the Second World War, Britain had run up debts to the Empire and had to borrow from the United States and Canada. At the time the government's main priorities were short- term reconstruction and welfare measures, and this had a cost. [...]
[...] Then McIntyre suggests that the major landmarks of British decolonization came in the two decades between Attlee's decision to give independence to India in 1947 and Wilson's resolution to withdraw from east-of-Suez in 1968. The first event is indeed essential, for India was the most important British colony and the centre of the British Empire. According to the author, this significantly contributed to the fall of the Empire and he gives an explanation for this stating that the way India reached independence was considered as a model by some other colonies (Burma, for example, demanded the same). [...]
[...] In his third part, McIntyre examines how the British Empire fell and notices that the decolonization process consisted of three stages: the colony was first a Crown colony, then a representative and responsible government was elected and the colony acquired the status of Dominion which finally led to sovereignty. In his first subpart, McIntyre describes the procedure of transfer of power which is the last stage of decolonization. Again he underlines Britain's wish to proceed peacefully and in an orderly fashion. [...]
[...] In the second part of his book, McIntyre answers the question did the British Empire fall”. To answer properly, the author thinks that it is important to take into account the general background of the period when decolonization took place to become aware of Britain's situation. Therefore, in order to tackle the question more efficiently, McIntyre considers it according to three levels: domestic, global and international. McIntyre thus demonstrates what the state of mind of political leaders was at the time and what their priorities were, how the international situation was and what place Britain had on the international scene. [...]
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