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date: 25 April 2019

Abstract and Keywords

It is now a half-century since most countries on the African continent saw the end of colonial rule. The first sustained scholarly attention to decolonization was authored largely by social scientists in the 1950s, who focused on ruling elites, party politics, constitutional development, and the transfer of power. Their successors, in the 1960s–1970s, brought new interpretive tools to the study of decolonization, including dependency theory, in order to make sense of the contemporary realities of political instability and economic underdevelopment. Since the 1980s, historians have brought the insights of women’s history, labour history, and social history to the table in order to demonstrate that nationalist scripts were often written ‘from below’. More recently, a focus on political imagination and political cultures, as well as the utilization of comparative and transnational approaches, has worked to free decolonization from its moorings as either the triumphal ‘end’ of colonial history or the opening scene in a postcolonial tale of ‘what went wrong’.

Keywords: decolonization, independence, nationalism, nations, national liberation, Second World War, Cold War.

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