Why did decolonisation happen in Rhodesia during the British Empire?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Rhodesia did not become completely decolonized until 1979, when it became the independent country of Zimbabwe.  This happened largely because black Rhodesians had seen the wave of decolonization going on around Africa and wanted the same thing for themselves.

The case of Rhodesia was somewhat different than most African countries, though.  In Rhodesia, there was a sizable white population which wanted to retain control of the country.  This white government declared independence for itself in 1965.  The British government, however, would not allow this.  It declared that there could be no independence until there was majority rule in the country.

The British did this for a number of reasons.  The two most important were:

  • Changing ideas.  By this time, racism was out of fashion in most of the Western world.
  • The Cold War.  Britain and the other non-communist countries of the world had to look good in the eyes of black and brown people.  This made them want to give independence to their colonies as a way of showing that they were not racist.

Rhodesia was decolonized, then, because black aspirations coincided with the needs of the British and the changing ideas on race in Western society.

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