Decolonization without the Fall of France

Discussions on alternate history, including events up to 20 years before today. Hosted by Terry Duncan.
Futurist
Member
Posts: 1314
Joined: 24 Dec 2015 00:02
Location: SoCal

Re: Decolonization without the Fall of France

Post by Futurist » 18 Jun 2019 22:26

Sid Guttridge wrote:
17 Jun 2019 10:31
Hi Futurist,

The Muslim League adopted the Lahore Resolution calling for a separate Muslim State on 23 March 1940 - before the fall of France.

So the writing was already on the wall.

Cheers,

Sid.
AFAIK, though, the Muslim League's Lahore Resolution was vague as to whether Pakistan should be a state within India or its own country. It was only later that the Muslim League began explicitly demanding their own country.

Also, AFAIK, the Muslim League might not have had a charismatic leader to take Jinnah's place after his death in 1948. With WWII ending earlier, might Britain be less exhausted and less bankrupt and thus be more delayed in its withdrawal from India?

Sid Guttridge
Member
Posts: 6509
Joined: 12 Jun 2008 11:19

Re: Decolonization without the Fall of France

Post by Sid Guttridge » 19 Jun 2019 09:48

Hi Futurist,

In my opinion, had there been no WWII, the UK might have been more likely to fight to retain India.

However, the UK's army was always small and its military presence in India was extremely light numerically. Since the Indian Mutiny, the Raj had depended on the implied threat of violence as a last resort much more than its actual use.

I would suggest that the fate of the French in Indo-China indicates how any struggle by the British in India would probably have ended. Metropolitan France had a population almost as big as that of its empire and historically a large army. The metropolitan UK had a population about one tenth of its empire and a historically small army.

WWII bankrupted the UK and made it concede accelerated independence to the Congress Party in order to keep India on-side during the war. So neither the means, nor the legitimacy existed to hold up Indian independence for long after WWII.

And with India gone, the principal of independence had been conceded and almost all the rest of the colonial empire followed within 20 years.

Cheers,

Sid.

maltesefalcon
Member
Posts: 1768
Joined: 03 Sep 2003 18:15
Location: Canada

Re: Decolonization without the Fall of France

Post by maltesefalcon » 21 Jun 2019 17:20

Sid Guttridge wrote:
19 Jun 2019 09:48
Hi Futurist,

WWII bankrupted the UK and made it concede accelerated independence to the Congress Party in order to keep India on-side during the war. So neither the means, nor the legitimacy existed to hold up Indian independence for long after WWII.

Cheers,

Sid.
Not disagreeing with your analysis, but you could probably make a convincing argument that WWI did as much or more damage to the UK's economy and world power status.

The post-war depression hurt Britain's ability to modernize and augment their armed forces until it was nearly too late. Had Britain been stronger, Hitler may not have risked war with them in 1939.

As for decolonization, IRL during the first war, the writing was already on the wall towards the inevitable independence of Ireland, for example. Canada and South Africa were already independant (dominions) as well, even prior to WW1.

Sid Guttridge
Member
Posts: 6509
Joined: 12 Jun 2008 11:19

Re: Decolonization without the Fall of France

Post by Sid Guttridge » 22 Jun 2019 11:56

Hi MalteseFalcon,

WWI, with victory and the addition of League of Nation mandated territories to British rule, increased Britain's apparent strength. However, beneath the imperial facade the UK was a relatively declining industrial power compared with the USA, or Germany, or the USSR.

However, it was WWII that revealed the hollowness and tenuousness of the so-called British Empire.

There was nothing inevitable about imminent Irish independence. There were hundreds of times as many Catholic Irishmen serving loyally in the British Army as occupied the Dublin post office in favour of Irish nationalism. What accelerated independence was the chronic mishandling of the Easter Uprising by the British authorities.

All the Dominions had a pathway to independence (even Newfoundland) and more could be added (like India actually and Southern Rhodesia almost). Growing autonomy was explicit in "Dominion" status. This was a result of US independence, where the 13 colonies had had no acknowledged route to greater autonomy. The result was the war which led to the independence of most of them as the USA in 1784.

Cheers,

Sid.

maltesefalcon
Member
Posts: 1768
Joined: 03 Sep 2003 18:15
Location: Canada

Re: Decolonization without the Fall of France

Post by maltesefalcon » 22 Jun 2019 15:06

The point I was trying (and obviously failed) to make was that the Empire was not intact at the beginning of WW2. Not even close. It was unravelling even prior to WW1 evidenced by the number of nations released from colonial status prior to 1914.

As to Ireland, home rule was passed by the UK parliament in 1914, but put on hold due to WW1. Agreed the British botched the handling of the IRA afterward. But I think the fact they re-offered some form of home rule for conscription in spring 1918, indicates they did indeed consider the outcome to be inevitable, and wanted to get at least something in return. (Marrying the offer to conscription both painted this as cynical and doomed to failure.)

Britain's status as a world power in the 15 years following Versailles was only relative. In this I mean they emerged on the winning side at least so treaties went in their favour. Military rivals such as Russia, Germany, Austria Hungary and the Ottomans had been devastated by war and in some cases had their military restricted by treaty. So in the European area at least they were the one-eyed king in the land of blind men.

But they could no longer throw their weight around everywhere. They now lived in the shadow of the US, later Russia and Germany would build up their strength as well.

Very sad that they had to go begging 1939-41 for arms, goods and ships from the New World to rescue Europe from tyranny.

Sid Guttridge
Member
Posts: 6509
Joined: 12 Jun 2008 11:19

Re: Decolonization without the Fall of France

Post by Sid Guttridge » 25 Jun 2019 14:14

Hi Maltesefalcon,

The UK had been in relative decline compared with other major powers since about 1865, when their rates of industrial expansion began to overtake it.

I would suggest that the current nations "released from colonial status prior to 1914" were actually promoted to Dominion status. These were essentially the colonies repopulated by immigrants of largely British stock, who were acknowledge to be equals of metropolitan Britons. A lesser level of loosening of the imperial apron strings was "responsible government", as enjoyed by white-dominated Southern Rhodesia from 1923. If I remember correctly, the racial barrier to "responsible government" was broken when Jamaica got similar status in 1944.

Movement was not just one way. Newfoundland went bankrupt in the early 1930s and had to be ruled for over a decade by a London-appointed Commission of Government, with 50/50 UK/Newfoundland ministerial membership.

I highly recommend the following book: The British Empire as a Superpower, 1919-1939 by Anthony Clayton.

Sid.

Return to “What if”