To War Two The Key Turning Point Essay Example
To War Two The Key Turning Point Essay Example

To War Two The Key Turning Point Essay Example

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  • Pages: 6 (1454 words)
  • Published: September 10, 2017
  • Type: Case Study
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The significant impact of World War Two on Britain's relationship with its Empire cannot be denied. Although the war exposed Britain's weaknesses as a world power and triggered India's decolonisation, events of equal or greater significance had already initiated the process before and after the war. However, one crucial outcome of World War Two was the establishment of the 'World Powers'.

Prior to the commencement of World War Two, Britain was acknowledged globally as a dominant force. Its vast army and navy, coupled with access to resources from its colonies helped project an image of formidable strength that safeguarded its empire. The Navy, in particular, was a source of pride for the country. It was maintained to be as large as the combined second and third largest navies globally, making Britain appear unbeatable to any other nation unwilling to engage her in battle. However


, after the outbreak of World War Two, British fortunes changed significantly.

The British were unable to defeat Germany by themselves, particularly following France's defeat. They had to depend on assistance from two new superpowers - the USA and USSR. The USSR offered significant manpower, thereby compelling Germany to fight on two fronts and easing the pressure on the British troops battling on the Western front. The USA also provided troops, but their primary contribution was financial aid.

During the war, they provided Britain with financial assistance, resulting in Britain owing them a significant amount of debt. Consequently, Britain was no longer sovereign and capable of protecting itself or its territories, thus depending on the newly emerged dominant nations. Despite this circumstance, Britain did not wholly lose its influence, retaining a considerable portion of its

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empire and having a position as one of the 'big three' countries alongside the USA and USSR, albeit in a subordinate role. This alteration in global politics led to Britain's obligation to decolonize.

Both the USSR and the USA opposed the British Empire for different reasons. The former rejected it based on ideological differences, as they believed that imperialist policies were against their Communist views. Meanwhile, the latter objected to it on account of anti-imperialism, due to the desire for independence shown by those under British rule, like India and the Dominions. They believed it was unjust to deprive such people of their freedom. Additionally, both powers had economic concerns regarding the Empire, as it restricted their capacity for unrestricted global trade.

The USA had significant influence on Britain, and it became clear that if Britain wanted to maintain their support and financial aid, decolonisation was necessary. However, the USA did not support complete abolishment of the Empire because the Cold War had begun, and it was crucial to prevent the USSR from gaining extra territory. Thus, a compromise was made where decolonisation was expected, but only when there was no risk of former colonies falling under the control of the USSR. The Second World War also triggered nationalism among people in colonies, who contributed to the war effort and sought independence and 'freedom.' The British Empire shrank during and after World War Two, especially in the Far East.

Although Nationalism was not as prevalent in Africa as it was in some colonies, there were still areas where it remained strong. Britain did not exhibit any intention to decolonize in Africa. Despite this, with the advent of better

education, there was some dissatisfaction and aspirations for independence. The war led to economic progress in British Africa. In an effort to enhance economic efficiency, Britain implemented a 'new imperialism' policy in its colonies. Even though African communities were promised significant investments, minimal action was taken, thereby increasing frustration.

Despite wartime shortages and inflation causing dissatisfaction, Africa was steadily progressing towards independence thanks to an improved education system that empowered individuals to advocate for their freedom. The Second World War had little impact on decolonisation in the British Empire's African territories as Britain seemed determined to maintain control. However, post-WW2 India's successful struggle for sovereignty was a major development within the British Empire, despite initially declining to fight for independence while still under colonial rule.

In an attempt to pacify the Indians, the British offered dominion status, but it did not suffice. The Indians clarified that they would aid Britain in the war only if granted independence. The value of India as a colony had diminished significantly due to widespread protests and non-cooperation. While India was once crucial to Britain's economy, it had now lost its significance.

India's financial position transformed from debtor to creditor of Britain as a result of the war, accelerating its industrialisation. Thus, it became evident that maintaining control over India 'at any cost' was no longer a workable solution. Consequently, steps were taken after the war to grant India independence, which ultimately happened in 1948. The First World War also played a role in Indian decolonisation. Initially, India pledged support to Britain by providing both money and men for the war effort. However, this support was short-lived and Indian nationalism began to grow

during the war, eventually reaching its peak by the time independence was granted.

The Indian National Congress and Muslim League advocated for independence from British rule, with figures like Gandhi promoting non-violent protests. The Amritsar Massacre in 1919, where British soldiers fired on a peaceful crowd protesting British rule, further fueled this movement. In response, the Khilafat movement called for non-cooperation, which was later ended by Gandhi in 1922 due to increasing violence. However, by then the Congress had become a powerful mass movement and the British realized they needed to move towards Indian self-governance. Another factor contributing to British unpopularity in India was their use of the Indian army.

After the war, Indian soldiers were stationed worldwide, resulting in significant army expenditures. To ease this financial burden, it was decided that India would only cover direct defense expenses while Britain would bear the cost of using troops for imperial purposes. This led to a rapid increase in Britain's debt to India and resulted in a decline in India's military and economic importance for Britain. In 1930, a report recommended granting dominion status to India, prompting a constitutional conference. However, due to the imprisonment of key Indian figures at the time, no successful outcomes emerged from the meeting.

The Government of India Act was passed in 1935 to appease Indians, granting provincial self-governance while maintaining the viceroy's control over foreign policy. In the 1937 elections, INC won a majority in seven out of eleven provinces, indicating growing support for congress and declining popularity for British rule. Even before World War II, Indian nationalism was strong as evidenced by the Viceroy declaring war on behalf of India without consulting

Indian leaders in 1939. This suggests that India may have achieved independence even without WWII, making WWI more significant than WWII for India. Additionally, Britain's relationship with its dominions was also impacted by WWI.

The dominions, who were once satisfied with Britain managing the Empire, began to demand more say in important decisions such as going to war. This was because they realized the impact it could have on their countries after supporting Britain during World War I. To address this, Britain increased the role of the dominions in the war effort via the Imperial War Cabinet. In 1931, the Statute of Westminster granted equality to the dominions as countries under British Commonwealth while maintaining loyalty to the crown. Although their relationship transformed, all dominion members contributed towards aiding Britain again during World War II in 1939.

The role of public opinion in Britain's decolonisation was crucial. Support for the Empire decreased after World War Two, but doubts about the necessity of the Empire had already risen much earlier. The Boer War illustrated that not all under British rule were content with it, leading to a moral debate about the unpopular Empire. The costly and troublesome resources used in the war compounded these concerns. Public opposition to the Empire grew even stronger during both world wars, impacting Britain's relationship with its colonies. Ultimately, the Second World War proved to be a turning point in this relationship.

Despite the pivotal role that the Second World War played in shaping the world, many of its consequences had roots in earlier events such as the Boer War and First World War. The latter had spurred on Indian nationalism which later contributed

to decolonisation. Although not as visibly dramatic as in the Second World War, this conflict had exposed Britain's weaknesses and raised doubts about the durability of its Empire. Thus, while World War Two was a crucial factor in prompting changes to the British Empire, I believe that many of these factors had been brewing for a long time.

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