1. West Asia
  2. Syria and Lebanon
  3. Israel
  4. African Independence
  5. Egypt: Naseer
  6. Libya: Gaddafi
  7. Algeria: De Gaulle
  8. Gold Coast = GHANA: Nkrumah
  9. Guinea
  10. Kenya: Mau Mau rebellion
  11. Portuguese Colonies
  12. South Africa: apartheid
  13. Nelson Mandela
  14. Namibia
  15. AFRICA Renaming of Places
  16. World@1990

West Asia

Syria and Lebanon

As in other parts of Asia, there was an upsurge for freedom in West Asia also immediately after the Second World War. You have read in the previous chapter about the movement of the people of Syria against the French rule. After the war, the French tried to restore their authority over Syria and Lebanon but, in the face of opposition from the people of these countries and the world opinion, they were forced to withdraw. Both Syria and Lebanon became independent by the end of 1946.

There was an upsurge in all the Arab countries at this time and the 1950s saw their emergence as independent nations. Some countries which had been nominally free asserted their independence. There were also movements to overthrow the outdated political systems which existed in some countries. All these led to conflicts and, in some cases, prolonged wars between the Arab countries and the imperialist powers. The period saw the growing power of Arab nationalism which led to efforts by the Arab people and governments to come together to face and solve common problems. The Arab League was formed comprising all the Arab states.

However, before many of the Arab countries could gain their independence, a development took place in West Asia which was to become a source of tension and lead to many wars in the years to come. This was the creation of the state of Israel.


Mrunal: Israel-Palestine has been discussed in detail in a separate article: click me

Palestine, as has been mentioned before, had become a British mandate in 1919. The British troops again occupied the country in 1945. Palestine was inhabited by Arabs and Jews. A movement called the Zionist movement claimed that Palestine was the homeland of all the Jews, wherever they may be living, and should be restored to them. The persecution which the Jews in Europe had suffered for centuries had culminated in the Nazi Germany’s policy of exterminating them. Millions of Jews were killed in Germany and in those countries of Europe which had been occupied by Germany. The terrible tragedy had won them the sympathy and support of the world.

The British in Palestine had permitted some Jews from outside Palestine to settle there. The Zionists had, meanwhile, been campaigning for a Jewish state there. This had complicated the freedom movement in Palestine the majority of whose inhabitants were Arabs. In 1947 the United Nations passed a resolution according to which Palestine was to be divided into an Arab state and a Jewish state. However, in 1948, the British withdrew their troops from Palestine and soon after the state of Israel was proclaimed. This led to a war between the Arab states and Israel. The Arab states were defeated in the war.

The creation of Israel became a source of tension in West Asia. The Arab states refused to recognize her as a legitimate state, The policies pursued by the government of Israel further added to the bitterness. About 900,000 Arabs were forced to leave their homes and lands in Palestine and were rendered homeless. They found shelter in various refugee camps in Arab states. Most countries of Asia and Africa condemned the Israeli government’s treatment of the Arabs of Palestine and for following racist policies. In 1956, Israel joined Britain and France in invading Egypt. Later there were other wars between Israel and the Arab states as a result of which Israel occupied large parts of the territories of other Arab states.

These territories include the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and the West Bank. More than a million Palestinians live in the occupied territories. In spite of the resolutions of the United Nations, Israel refuse to vacate Arab territories and restore the rights of the Palestinian Arabs, many of whom live as refugees in various Arab states. In 1964, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was formed to fight for the establishment of a Palestinian state. It enjoys the status of a member-state of the Non-Aligned Movement. Recently an agreement was signed between the government of Israel and the PLO. Under this agreement, the PLO recognized the state of Israel and the government of Israel agreed to give the Palestinians autonomy in some areas presently under Israeli occupation.

African Independence

You have seen in the [World History] Colonization of Africa article, that with the exception of Ethiopia and Liberia, almost every part of Africa had been conquered by European imperialist powers by the end of the nineteenth century. After the First World War, the only change that took place there was the transfer of the former German colonies in Africa to the victorious Allied powers. However, the period after the First World War saw, as in Asia, a resurgence of nationalist movements in Africa. After the Second World War, the disintegration of the colonial rule in Africa began. The achievement of independence by North African countries has been mentioned already. The countries of southern Africa began to gain their independence after the mid1950s. Within two decades, almost every country in Africa, with the exception of South Africa and South-West Africa (Namibia), became independent.

The freedom movements in Africa, as in other parts of the world, were the consequence of the growth of nationalism and the increasing resentment against the exploitation and oppression by the colonial countries. The international situation further strengthened these movements. The Second World War had resulted in the general weakening of imperialism. It had also shattered the myth of the invincibility of some major colonial powers in Africa such as France and Belgium which had suffered defeat in Europe during the war. The collapse of colonialism in Asia within a few years after the war also had a tremendous impact on freedom movements in Africa. The question of Africa’s freedom gradually became one of the major issues in the world.

Egypt: Naseer

Recall the [World History] Colonization of Africa article. After the First World War, Egypt had become a British ‘mandate’. However, under the pressure of the nationalist movement, Egypt had been declared independent in 1922, though British troops continued to remain there. After the Second World War, the demand for the withdrawal of British troops gained strength. There were serious clashes between the Egyptians and the British soldiers in which hundreds of Egyptians were killed. The discontent was also directed against the king of Egypt who had been installed by the British. The discontent against the British and the king led to a revolution in 1952 when the Egyptian army under the leadership of Lt.Colonel Gamal Abdal Naseer and General Muhammad Naguib overthrew the monarchy and declared Egypt a republic. The new Egyptian government demanded the withdrawal of British troops and they were withdrawn in June 1956.

The government of Egypt under the leadership of Col Nasser began the economic reconstruction of the country. Egypt refused to be aligned with the United States and the latter stopped the sale of arms to Egypt. Egypt, however, began to receive military and economic aid from the Soviet Union. In 1956, Egypt announced the nationalization to the Suez Canal which had been under the control of Britain and France. Three months later, Israel, Britain and France, according to a plan, invaded Egypt. The aggression committed against Egypt led to worldwide protests. The countries of Asia voiced their vehement condemnation of the invasion. There were massive protest demonstrations against the British government inside Britain also. The Soviet Union warned the aggressor countries that unless they withdrew from Egypt, she would send her forces to crush the aggressors. Almost every country in the world, including the United States, denounced Britain, France and Israel in the United Nations. The universal condemnation of aggression led to the withdrawal of British and French forces from Egypt. The ending of aggression strengthened further the unity of Asian and African countries in general and of Arab countries in particular. It also showed the growing strength of the countries which had won their independence only a few years ago. The Suez War also added to the prestige and influence of the Soviet Union as a friend of the peoples who were trying to assert their independence.

Libya: Gaddafi

In [World History] Colonization of Africa article, we saw that Libya had come under Italian rule in 1911. During the Second World War, some of the most ferocious battles between German and British troops were fought in Libya. At the end of the war, the country was occupied by Britain and France. In 1951, Libya became independent with a monarchical form of government. From 1960 she became one of the largest petroleum producing countries in the world and as a result some sections of Libyan society grew very rich while the majority of the population remained extremely backward. The king did not permit any opposition to his rule.  The United States built one of its strongest air bases on Libyan territory. In 1969, a group of army officers captured power and soon after abolished the monarchy. The new government proclaimed that it would give primacy to the unity and solidarity of the Arab people

Algeria: De Gaulle

The 1950s saw the emergence of a number of independent nations in North Africa. However, the independence was preceded by years of struggle against the imperialist countries which wanted to retain their colonial possessions. As in Indo China, the French returned to Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria. However, in 1956 Tunisia and Morocco won their independence.

The North African country which had to wage the longest and the hardest battle for freedom was Algeria. She had been conquered by France as early as 1830 though it had taken France another four decades to fully establish her rule there. As in Indo China, the struggle against French rule in Algeria had a long history behind it. In 1954 the nationalist organisation of the people of Algeria called the FLN (National Liberation Front) gave a call for an armed struggle against the French rule Armed clashes resulted in thousands of casualties on both sides. By 1958, the Algerian nationalists had organized a large army of their own and proclaimed the formation of a government of the republic of Algeria. The war in Algeria had serious consequences inside France. It created political instability in France. The Communist Party of France along with many other French leaders had been supporting the cause of Algerian independence. However, many sections in the French army were under the influence of the French settlers in Algeria who were opposed to any negotiations with the Algerian leaders over the question of independence. In 1958, General de Gaulle became the President of France. He conceded the right of the Algerian people to self-determination and opened negotiations with the leaders of the FLN.

This policy was opposed by some sections of the French army in Algeria, who revolted against de Gaulle and even made attempts to assassinate him. However, the revolt was suppressed. On 1 July 1962, a referendum was held in Algeria and the people of Algeria voted almost unanimously for independence. On 4 July 1962 Algeria became an independent republic. The independence of Algeria had been won at the cost of over 140,000 Algerian lives.

Gold Coast = GHANA: Nkrumah

The first country in southern Africa to gain independence was Ghana. There was a powerful kingdom of Ghana in West Africa during the eighth to the twelfth centuries. The British had conquered a part of this region to which they gave the name Gold Coast. The most prominent leader of the people of the Gold Coast colony was Kwame Nkrumah, who in 1949 had organized the Convention People’s Party. A strong trade union movement had also emerged in Gold Coast. The Convention People’s Party and the trade unions joined together to demand independence from Britain. However, most of their leaders were arrested and attempts were made to suppress the demand for freedom. After 1950, the British government started introducing certain constitutional reforms.  Under pressure from the People’s Party which had won a resounding victory in elections, the British government agreed to the independence of Gold Coast. The new independent state which came into being on 6 March 1957 called itself Ghana, after the name of the old West African kingdom. The part of Togoland which had been under British control also joined Ghana.


The next country to achieve her independence was the French colony of Guinea in West Africa. In 1958, while embroiled in the war in Algeria, France held a referendum in her colonies which had been grouped together as French West Africa and French Equatorial Africa. The people of Guinea voted for complete independence and Guinea was proclaimed a republic on 2 October 1958.

The achievement of independence by Ghana and Guinea gave additional confidence to the freedom movements in other parts of Africa and accelerated the pace of achievement of independence by other nations. The promotion of the cause of African freedom was a major objective of India’s foreign policy from the time India won her independence. India’s struggle for freedom had also been a source of inspiration to African nationalists.

The year 1960 is generally regarded as the Africa Year. In that year, seventeen countries in Africa gained their independence. These included all the French colonies in French West Africa and Equatorial Africa, Nigeria and Congo (formerly Belgian Congo, now called Zaire).

Between 1961 and 1964, a number of countries in East and Central Africa also became independent. These were Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika, Zanzibar, Nyasaland, Northern Rhodesia, Rwanda and Burundi.

Sierra Leone, Gambia, Lesotho (formerly Basutoland) and Botswana (formerly Bechuanaland) also gained their independence.

Kenya: Mau Mau rebellion

The freedom movement in Kenya was led by Jomo Kenyatta, leader of the Kenya African Union. In 1952, a revolt by peasants had broken out. This is known as the Mau Mau rebellion. It was directed against the seizure of land by the British colonial authorities. To suppress the rebellion, 15,000 Kenyans were killed and about 80,000 sent to concentration camps. Jomo Kenyatta was imprisoned in 1953 on the charge of supporting the Mau Mau rebellion. Having failed to suppress the freedom movement, Britain had to give in and Kenya became independent in 1963.

Many of the newly independent countries of Africa faced serious problems during the years following their independence. The imperialist powers tried their best hi maintain their hold over their former colonies by direct intervention and by creating dissensions. In Congo, for instance, Belgium, with the help of some other countries and the mercenaries from various countries, brought about the secession of the rich province of Katanga. On the appeal of Patrice Lumumba, Prime Minister of Congo, United Nations troops were sent to bring about the withdrawal of foreign troops and mercenaries. However, Patrice Lumumba was assassinated and the country thrown into chaos for a number of years.

Portuguese Colonies

Before the end of the 1960s, almost entire Africa, with the exception of Portuguese colonies of Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde Islands, and South Africa, SouthWest Africa and Rhodesia, had become free. Powerful freedom movements had started in the Portuguese colonies. They had organized their liberation forces and had secured the help of many countries in their struggle for freedom. In April 1974, the Portuguese army, which had been mainly used to suppress the freedom struggles in the colonies, overthrew the 50 year old dictatorship in Portugal with the support of the people. The communists, socialists and other radical elements in the armed forces and the new government of Portugal were opposed to the continuation of the Portuguese rule in Africa. They entered into negotiations with the freedom movements in the Portuguese colonies and by 1975 all the former Portuguese colonies in Africa became independent. Zimbabwe (formerly Southern Rhodesia) became independent in April 1980.

South Africa: apartheid

South Africa — Union of South Africa since 1910 and Republic of South Africa since 1961 —has been an independent country in the sense that she was not ruled from another country. The government of South Africa was, however, among the most oppressive regimes in the world in the twentieth century. It was under the exclusive control of the white minority practicing the worst form of racism. Under the system of apartheid established in South Africa, all people were classified and separated on the basis of race. Each group had to live in a separate area. There were separate schools and universities, separate theatres, separate shopping centres, separate coaches in trains for whites and blacks and others. The teams for sports also were formed on the basis of race. Marriage between persons belonging to different races was a criminal offence. There were restrictions on movement from one, place to another. The best lands in the country were under the control of the whites who had all the economic and Political power. The non-whites had no vote and no say in the governance of the country. The system of apartheid was used to maintain the rule of the white minority over about 80 per cent of the population which comprised black and coloured people as well as people of Indian origin. This system, in the name of separation of the races, denied human rights to the majority of the population.

It may be recalled that Mahatma Gandhi had started the fight against racial discrimination in South Africa long before he became a leader of the freedom movement in India.

Demonstrators protesting against apartheid laws were massacred at Sharpeville in South Africa, 22 March 1960. The main organization of the South African people which led the movement for ending the rule of the white minority and establishing a nonracist democratic South Africa was the African National Congress (ANC). It was set up in 1910. The movement against the obnoxious system of apartheid was intensified in the 1950s. The government depended on the use of terror to maintain its rule. There were incidents of massacres of peaceful protestors. In 1960, the African National Congress was banned and most of its leaders were arrested The ANC then organized its own army to fight .against the racist regime.

South Africa was increasingly isolated from the rest of the world. India had been from the beginning in the forefront in support of the struggle to dismantle the apartheid regime. She was the first country in the world to sever relations with South Africa and to extend her full support to the people of South Africa Many other countries followed the suit. The United Nations also condemned the policies of South Africa. In the 1980s some Western countries which had maintained military and economic relations with South Africa also imposed sanctions against her. By the end of the 1980s, the international isolation of the South African regime was complete.

Nelson Mandela

From the end of the 1980s, the process of ending the system of apartheid began. The ban on the African National Congress was lifted and its leaders released. Among them was Nelson Mandela who had been in prison for 26 years and had became a symbol of the struggle against apartheid Many apartheid laws were abolished and negotiations were started between the ANC and the South African government for framing a new constitution which would give all South Africans the right to vote. Elections in which all South Africans for the first time were given the light to vote, was held in April 1994. After these elections, a new non racist and democratic government came to power in South Africa, Nelson Mandela was elected president of the country.

Thus within the last three decades, most of Africa has become independent and the independence of the remaining parts cannot be deferred for long.


The last country in Africa to become independent was Namibia, formerly South West Africa. It was a German colony before the First World War and was handed over to South-Africa as a ‘mandate’ after the defeat of Germany in that war. South Africa treated South West Africa as her colony and refused to withdraw from there is spite of the resolutions of the United Nations. The freedom movement there was led by the SouthWest Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) which was formed in 1960. It gained momentum when SWAPO started a war with the help of its guerilla forces to liberate the country. It was made a member of the Non Aligned Movement. The Non Aligned Movement, the African governments and the United Nations played an important role in the success of the freedom movement in Namibia. The war in Namibia came to an end in 1989 when South Africa agreed to a plan for the independence of the country. SWAPO won a majority of seats in the elections which were held in November 1989 and on 21 March 1990 Namibia became independent.

AFRICA Renaming Places

Many African countries have changed their names. The colonial powers had given them names which had little to do with their past history and culture. Some countries and cities had been named after colonial adventurers, for example, Rhodesia, Leopoldville, Stanleyville, etc. The African peoples are trying to overcome the damage caused to them during the colonial rule. Renaming their countries and cities after their original names is a part of their effort to reestablish and assert their independence and national identity. The need to unite in the face of common tasks and for achieving common aims led to the emergence of the unity of all African states These aims included the safeguarding of their independence and to help the liberation movements in those countries in Africa which were still fighting for their independence. The most significant step taken in this direction was the formation of the Organdation of African Unity (OAU) in 1963.

map african independence

Click to Enlarge


In spite of the many positive changes that have taken place in recent years, the world in the 1990s is not without tensions and conflicts. While the danger of war involving the use of nuclear weapons has ended, or at least receded, there has been no reduction in the arsenals of weapons of mass destruction. Their very existence is a source of threat to the survival of humankind. Similarly, with the end of the Cold War, whether the world has moved, irreversibly, to a period of detente and, much more importantly, cooperation is still to be seen. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States became the only super power in the world. While the Warsaw Pact has been dissolved, NATO, the military bloc headed by the United States, has continued to exist. There have been misgivings that the present situation would make it possible for the United States, the only super power now, to dictate to others.

The world in the 1990s, with all its problems, is a very different place to live in compared with any preceding age People the world over have a much greater say in shaping their destiny than ever before. For the first time in human history, the creation of One World has become a possibility in which all peoples would cooperate with one another and would contribute their best to enrich their own lives and of the entire humankind.


  1. What were the immediate consequences of the Second World War in Europe?
  2. How was the political map of Europe after the war different from the prewar days?
  3. What is meant by Cold War 7 What were the factors which gave rise to it?
  4. Trace the history of the freedom movements in Asian countries.
  5. What were the main aims of the foreign policy of the United States? What was the reason for the military intervention of the United States in Vietnam? What were its consequences?
  6. What was the impact of the Portuguese revolution of 1974 on the Portuguese colonies in Africa?
  7. What are the countries in Africa in which the struggle for liberation is still going on ?
  8. What is meant by nonalignment? Why did most of the newly independent countries follow this policy?
  9. Trace the history of the freedom movements in Africa
  10. Describe the changes which have taken place in South Africa after 1989
  11. Trace the developments that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union.
  12. Describe the mainchanges which have occurred in Germany and the countries of Southern Europe since 1989
  13. On an outline map of Europe, show the countries which came to have communist governments after the Second World War
  14. Collect information on the African countries which gained their independence after 1960, Show these countries on a map
  15. Try to get a copy of the declaration issued by the summit of the Non-Aligned Movement held at Jakarta in 1992 Display it in the classroom
  16. Prepare a list of countries where summits of the Non-Aligned Movement have b een held as well as a list of participating countries
  17. Collect information about developments which have taken place in South Africa after 1993 and prepare a report
  18. Collect information about the situation in Yugoslavia and the steps taken to implement the agreement between Israel and PLO since 1993.
  19. Discuss the factors which led to the weakening of imperialism after the Second World War
  20. Do you think the Cold War has finally ended?
  21. Some countries of Asia had become members of military alliances. Do you think it helped in strengthening their independence? Why ? Or why not ? Give arguments with examples
  22. Discuss the impact of the emergence of Asian and African countries as independent nations on the world.
  23. What, in your view, led to the collapse of the Soviet Union and of the communist governments there and mother countries of Europe? Do you think this collapse means that ideas of socialism are no longer relevant? Discuss.
  24. Do you think the post-Cold War world is a safer place to live in and there is no danger of any country dominating over other countries?

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