Britain's Declining Empire: The Road to Decolonisation, 1918-1968

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An authoritative political history of one of the world's most important empires on the road to decolonisation. Ronald Hyam's 2007 book offers a major reassessment of the end of empire which combines a study of British policymaking with case studies on the experience of decolonization across Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. He describes the dysfunctional policies of an imperial system coping with postwar, interwar and wartime crises from 1918 to 1945 but the main emphasis is on the period after 1945 and the gradual unravelling of empire as a result of international criticism, and the growing imbalance between Britain's capabilities and its global commitments. He analyses the transfers of power from India in 1947 to Swaziland in 1968, the major crises such as Suez and assesses the role of leading figures from Churchill, Attlee and Eden to Macmillan and Wilson. This is essential reading for scholars and students of empire and decolonisation.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Ronald Hyam did it again. Hyam’s Britain’s Imperial Century, 1815-1914, first published more than 30 years ago, remains the single-best historical synthesis of the British Empire at its height. With this new volume, Hyam has produced an engaging and comprehensive study of British decolonization in the 20th century that will provide one of the key starting points in any future discussion of the subject."
-British Scholar

"It is both textbook and much more than that, appealing to students by its engagement with debate and its offer of much needed guidance through a world of 'variety,' 'strangeness,' and 'complexity,' and to professional historians for its range, originality, and stimulus. This is a moment when one might have expected a lull in the expansion of the subject's historiography. Hyam's book will make any such hiatus highly unlikely."
-Andrew Porter, King's College London, American Historical Review

"Elegantly and wittily written, Ronald Hyam's Britian's Declining Empire is a remarkable, comprehensive study of British decolonization that supersedes the existing key texts on the subject..." -Nicholas J. White, Journal of Modern History

"Hyam’s book explores high politics and policymaking across the empire from the apex of expansion at the end of the First World War to the retreat from east of Suez and the end of Harold Wilson's first term as prime minister." -Stephen J. Heathorn, H-Albion

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521866491
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 12/31/2006
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 484
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 1.26 (d)

Meet the Author

Ronald Hyam is Emeritus Reader in British Imperial History at the University of Cambridge, and a Fellow and former president of Magdalene College. He is the author of The Lion and the Springbok: Britain and South Africa since the Boer War (2003).

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Table of Contents

Preface; Introduction; 1. 'The whole world is rocking': British governments and a dysfunctional imperial system, 1918–45; 2. 'British imperialism is dead': the Attlee government and the end of empire, 1945–51; 3. 'Rugged and tangled difficulties': the Churchill and Eden governments and the end of Empire, 1951–6; 4. 'The wind of change is blowing…': the Macmillan and Douglas-Home governments and the end of empire, 1957–64; 5. 'We could no longer afford to honour our pledges': the Wilson government and the end of empire, 1964–8; Epilogue; Select bibliography; Index.

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