How did World War II affect decolonization?

Expert Answers
jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Decolonization, or the disintegration of the European and American empires, began long before World War II. During the early 20th century, ideas about nationalism and freedom reached developing nations, in part because many of their citizens had lived or traveled to Europe. In addition, the Russian Revolution in 1917 unleashed ideas about the freedom of poor and subjugated people through communism, and these ideas also began to have a global reach. At the end of World War I, the League of Nations promoted the idea of eventual independence for European colonies. The developing world responded to these currents of thought.

In addition, developing nations were proving that they could defeat the western powers. For example, Japan's victory in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 proved that an Asian country could defeat an empire that was in part European. During World War II, England promised India that it could eventually be independent so that India would stay loyal to Britain (India became independent in 1948). Many Asian countries were conquered by Japan during World War II, and after the war, these countries, such as the Philippines, wanted freedom rather than to return to American or European rule. Europeans also found administering the colonies very costly, and they did not have money to do so after the expense of fighting World War II. While the Cold War slowed the process of decolonization to some degree, this process had already been put into motion.