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A Short History
Jan C. Jansen & Jürgen Osterhammel
Translated by Jeremiah Riemer

Hardcover | 2017 | $27.95 | £22.95 | ISBN: 9780691165219
272 pp. | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400884889 |
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A Q&A with Jan C. Jansen and Jürgen Osterhammel

A concise and accessible history of decolonization in the twentieth century

The end of colonial rule in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean was one of the most important and dramatic developments of the twentieth century. In the decades after World War II, dozens of new states emerged as actors in global politics. Long-established imperial regimes collapsed, some more or less peacefully, others amid mass violence. This book takes an incisive look at decolonization and its long-term consequences, revealing it to be a coherent yet multidimensional process at the heart of modern history.

Jan Jansen and Jürgen Osterhammel trace the decline of European, American, and Japanese colonial supremacy from World War I to the 1990s. Providing a comparative perspective on the decolonization process, they shed light on its key aspects while taking into account the unique regional and imperial contexts in which it unfolded. Jansen and Osterhammel show how the seeds of decolonization were sown during the interwar period and argue that the geopolitical restructuring of the world was intrinsically connected to a sea change in the global normative order. They examine the economic repercussions of decolonization and its impact on international power structures, its consequences for envisioning world order, and the long shadow it continues to cast over new states and former colonial powers alike.

Concise and authoritative, Decolonization is the essential introduction to this momentous chapter in history, the aftershocks of which are still being felt today.

Jan C. Jansen is a research fellow at the German Historical Institute in Washington, DC. Jürgen Osterhammel is professor of modern and contemporary history at the University of Konstanz. He is a recipient of the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize, Germany's most prestigious academic award. His books include The Transformation of the World: A Global History of the Nineteenth Century (Princeton).


"This clear, concise, and new interpretation will be welcomed by students, scholars, and general readers interested in one of the most defining and consequential developments of the 20th century."--Publishers Weekly

"This is a work not only valuable for its discussion of the topic, but for placing it in a context sorely needed in today’s hydra-headed discussions of the term and the word from which it is derived. . . . Perhaps this book’s greatest virtue is reminding us of what a global phenomenon it was by concentrating on the vast French colonial empire, as well as the Portuguese, German, Japanese and, yes, American realms."--Martin Rubin, Washington Times


"This rigorous yet accessible book is perhaps the finest survey anyone has yet offered in this fast-growing field. Jansen and Osterhammel have seemingly read almost everything important in a vast relevant literature but also go far beyond to provide rich stimulus for much future study and thought."—Stephen Howe, University of Bristol

"Jansen and Osterhammel's Decolonization will quickly establish itself as the most penetrating, thoughtful, balanced, and comprehensive short history of decolonization and its consequences. A major contribution to the existing literature."—John Darwin, University of Oxford

"In this remarkably insightful book, Jansen and Osterhammel place the processes of decolonization within their proper framework of anticolonial resistance, European transformations, and the global Cold War."--O. A. Westad, Harvard University

"For those waiting for a nuanced, comprehensive, yet readable account of decolonization in the twentieth century, Jan Jansen and Jürgen Osterhammel provide it here. In six crisp thematic chapters, the authors succeed brilliantly in explaining this complex historical phenomenon for the specialist and general reader alike. A major achievement."—Christopher Goscha, Université du Québec à Montréal

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Table of Contents:

Preface vii
1 Decolonization as Moment and Process 1
2 Nationalism, Late Colonialism, World Wars 35
3 Paths to Sovereignty 71
4 Economy 119
5 World Politics 139
6 Ideas and Programs 156
7 Legacies and Memories 171
Notes 193
Select Readings 225
Index 237

Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Jürgen Osterhammel:

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