The course explores the broader political, economic, and cultural developments underlying the age of empire between roughly 1880 and 1960. In this period, European colonial politics were motivated by a concern not to loose out against other Great Powers in a scramble for limited non-colonized territories. Another goal among the proponents of imperial expansion was to annex and penetrate new markets for European goods and capital on the one hand, and the extraction of raw materials on the other. The result was an increasingly global division of labor between manufacturing, exporting European powers at the core and raw-material providers at the colonial periphery – the classic case of colonial economies. We will look at the intensification of the scramble for colonies since the 1880s and then follow the path of European empires up to their dissolution after World War II. Eventually, the glaring contradictions between more liberal and even democratic forms of rule at home in Europe and the ongoing suspension of liberties abroad formed a fertile breeding ground for anti-colonial nationalism in the interwar years that spelled the onset of a protracted process of often violent decolonization. The course ends by asking what decolonization meant for European societies 'at home' in Britain, France, and elsewhere, and for international relations and organizations like the UN.
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