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A History of World Societies, Sixth Edition
McKay/Hill/Buckler/Ebrey
Web Exercises
Chapter 34: Asia and Africa in the Contemporary World

Among the most significant series of events in the post-World War II world have been the vast political changes created by independence movements throughout the globe, particularly in Africa and Asia. This process can be broken down into three stages. Stage one, from the late 1940s through the late 1950s, saw the independence of South Asia, Southeast Asia, the League of Nation mandate territories in Southwest Asia, and a few countries of Africa. Stage two involved the independence of most of Africa, portions of Oceania, and the Caribbean during the 1960s. The struggle for power between Africans and the descendants of European settlers in the white settler colonies of South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Namibia between 1980 and 1994 constitutes the most recent stage. The following Internet activities will analyze each stage and explore the promises and problems associated with the recent independence of most states in Africa and Asia.

Helpful Hints:
  • You may want to begin by printing this page. As you explore different sites, use the printout to refer back to the instructions and questions detailed in each activity.
  • On many web sites you can increase the size of the images by clicking on them. Whenever possible, use the larger images to examine fine details in photographs.
Activity One:
  • The most well-known instance, to Westerners, of national liberation during the twentieth century is the case of India and its independence leader, Mahatma Gandhi. For further insight, see India Timeline. According to this timeline, what were some of the problems associated with independence in India? For example, did religious diversity create tensions? Did any regional rivalries emerge?
  • Despite these problems, the independence of India was a catalyst for liberation movements everywhere. By the time of Indian independence, there were already many nascent nationalist movements in other regions of the world that were dominated by Western powers. Ghana was the first nation of Sub-Saharan Africa to gain independence in 1957. Many nations of Southwest Asia also gained independence in this period, such as Syria. Southeast Asia nations such as Vietnam also gained independence. By and large, this period was characterized by peaceful transitions from colonial governance to indigenous administration. Yet there were significant exceptions, like Vietnam, as Cold War tensions came to tear some regions apart. For further information on this process, see Kwame Nkrumah, Syria, and Vietnam. While examining these sources, consider the following questions. How did India's independence act as a catalyst for other independence movements? What was the relationship between World War II and independence in Africa and Asia? Why was Ghana the first independent nation of black Africa?
Activity Two:
  • The second stage of independence involved most of Africa and portions of Oceania and the Caribbean. This stage was from roughly 1960 until the late 1970s. Most of French- and British-speaking Africa became independent at this time. A few British Caribbean territories, such as Jamaica, Trinidad, Tobago, and Barbados, also gained independence. Many Oceanic colonies, often forgotten in world history, also became independent during this time such as in the case of Fiji. Among the bloodiest of independence wars were those that took place in the Portuguese colonies of Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, and Angola. To analyze this second stage, go to Cote d'Ivorie, Nigeria, and Angola and answer the following questions. Why were some transfers of power in Africa peaceful whereas others were prolonged violent conflicts? What were the various paths of independence? For example, which ones were violent and which were peaceful?
Activity Three:
  • Stage three, from 1980 to 1994, involved the white settler colonies of Africa, namely, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and South Africa. The story of South Africa is well-known, but the battle for equality, enfranchisement, and self-determination was a hard-fought and bloody affair in all three nations. Go to Zimbabwe History, The Contradictions of Apartheid, Limited Reforms, and Dismantling Apartheid. Why did it take Africans so long to gain majority rule in South Africa and Zimbabwe? What role did the international community play in this development? What role did Africans themselves play?
Activity Four:
  • Nationalist movements were not without their problems. The ethnic and religious differences of many new nations tore them apart. The common enemy of colonialism had provided these new nations with unification for the sake of expediency, but after independence the people of these nations often turned against each other. Well covered in McKay, A History of World Societies (Sixth Edition), are the cases of Palestinian-Israeli conflict in Palestine/Israel and Muslim-Hindu conflict in South Asia.
  • There were certainly many other cases as well. The series of civil wars between the Muslim north and Christian south in the Sudan have left the nation, and region, destabilized since the country's independence. Violence between Muslims and Christians has also grown in the last decade in many West African states, notably Nigeria. Fiji has had to contend with tensions between the native Fijian population and that of its South Asian population. Because of the poor economic condition of these states, resources remain scarce and competition will likely remain fierce until poverty and resource allocation are competently addressed. For one example, go to Sudan: a political and military history. In what ways have religious difference and conflict interfered with nation-building in Sudan? What has been the relationship of the military and politics there?
Activity Five:
  • After completing Activities One through Four, analyze the legacy of independence in Africa and Asia. What were the goals of the independence movements? To what extent have they been achieved? What problems have plagued the governments in these new nations as they have attempted to create strong and viable nations in the postcolonial world? Summarize your answers in a three- to four-page essay. Use specific references.


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