Ending Empire: Contested Sovereignty and Territorial Partition / Edition 1

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At the dawn of the twentieth century, imperial powers controlled most of the globe. Within a few decades after World War II, many of the great empires had dissolved, and more recently, multinational polities have similarly disbanded. This process of reallocating patterns of authority, from internal hierarchy to inter-state relations, proved far more contentious in some cases than in others. While some governments exited the colonial era without becoming embroiled in lengthy conflicts, others embarked on courses that drained their economies, compelled huge sacrifices, and caused domestic upheaval and revolution. What explains these variations in territorial policy? More specifically, why do some governments have greater latitude to alter existing territorial arrangements whereas others are constrained in their room for maneuver?

In Ending Empire, Hendrik Spruyt argues that the answer lies in the domestic institutional structures of the central governments. Fragmented polities provide more opportunities for hard-liners to veto concessions to nationalist and secessionist demands, thus making violent conflict more likely. Spruyt examines these dynamics in the democratic colonial empires of Britain, France, and the Netherlands. He then turns to the authoritarian Portuguese empire and the break-up of the Soviet Union. Finally, the author submits that this theory, which speaks to the political dynamics of partition, can be applied to other contested territories, including those at the heart of the Arab–Israeli conflict.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This insightful book explores one of the great dramas of the twentieth century: how imperial powers left their colonial territories."—Foreign Affairs, September/October 2005

"Ending Empire is a remarkable achievement. Hendrik Spruyt addresses the collapse of overseas empires and, in one case, a multinational state/continental empire. Spruyt shines in his talent for combining theoretically informed analysis with deep historical research across multiple cases."—David A. Lake, University of California, San Diego

"An elegant and compelling account of the politics of decolonization, Ending Empire is a major contribution to the literature on imperialism and to the study of how domestic institutions shape grand strategy."—Charles A. Kupchan, Georgetown University and Council on Foreign Relations, author of The Vulnerability of Empire and The End of the American Era

"The unwinding of Europe's vast colonial empires is one of the great transitions of the twentieth century. Hendrik Spruyt explains the process with clear, nuanced arguments, backed with historical studies, all designed to show why different imperial powers handled that unwinding so differently. What accounts for the differences, according to Spruyt, are the varied political structures in the metropolitan countries themselves. In some countries—but not in all—groups opposed to decolonization held effective veto power over territorial changes. In developing this 'veto points' approach, Spruyt's Ending Empire provides a powerful analysis of the varied paths that decolonization took. It is a major achievement."—Charles Lipson, University of Chicago

Foreign Affairs
This insightful book explores one of the great dramas of the twentieth century: how imperial powers left their colonial territories. Why were the British able to relinquish control of their empire without getting caught in protracted conflicts, while others — such as the French in Indochina and Algeria — were drawn into long and violent struggles? Spruyt argues that the character of government institutions at the "center" was key. The more fragmented the political system, the greater the opportunities for hard-liners who resisted territorial partition to block policy change. Detailed case histories illuminate the domestic politics of imperial endings. Postwar Britain was an open democracy with a strong executive and extensive military oversight, and so political elites were able to deal with secessionist demands unimpeded by veto groups and entrenched interests. The French Fourth Republic, in contrast, lacked civilian control of the military, and undisciplined political parties provided hard-liners with opportunities to resist changes in the status quo. Spruyt also takes a close look at the unraveling of the Soviet empire — a surprisingly swift and peaceful divestiture of territorial control.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801489723
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 4/15/2005
  • Series: Cornell Studies in Political Economy
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 326
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction : contested territories and empire 1
1 Institutional frameworks and territorial policy 11
2 The changing fortunes of empire 39
3 The hexagon or the empire : France and the Algerian quagmire 88
4 Whitehall tacks to the wind of change 117
5 Ranking with Denmark : the Dutch fear of imperial retreat 146
6 The first maritime empire and the last : Portugal in Africa 176
7 Russia retreats from the union 204
8 The fourth republic in Jerusalem 234
Conclusion : contesting sovereignty in a global system 264
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