Sixty years ago, a whopping 17 former African colonies became independent nations. In commemoration, I’m doing a miniseries on decolonization on this blog. So far, you can read an overview over decolonization and a closer look at decolonization processes within a colony. Today, we’ll deal with decolonization in the international context of the Cold War. All too often, it is assumed that the anticolonial movements and newly independent states were mere pawns in the games of the superpowers. However, they had quite some agency of their own. As you rightly expect, we’ll look at how different board games deal with the complex relationship between the Cold War and decolonization. Continue reading
In 1900, about half the global population lived under foreign suzerainty. A century later, almost all (formal) colonies had vanished. The climax of this breathtaking process of decolonization was in 1960, exactly 60 years ago, when 17 newly independent states joined the United Nations. We’ve looked at decolonization from a bird’s eye view in the first post of this miniseries. Today, we’re going to zoom way in and look at decolonization processes in individual colonies. First, we’ll get an overview of the agents of decolonization. Then, we’ll look at the ideas that influenced the decolonization struggle as well as the fight for longer colonial rule. Finally, we explore the limits of an explanation which only looks to the colony in question. And, as always, we look at board games.
Some years ago, I was just about to finish my undergrad studies in history. I had taken an advanced class on decolonization and was writing my B.A. thesis on the decolonization crisis in Angola. As I was already quite keen on board games back then, I was wondering – was there any board game about decolonization? So, as the 21st century goes, I typed „decolonization board game“ into a search engine. What I found was not exactly an entire board game – just a single card of that title from Twilight Struggle (Ananda Gupta/Jason Matthews, GMT Games), a game of whose existence I had been heretofore only vaguely aware. Twilight Struggle fascinated me. I’d never seen a game which went so deep and meaningful into history. Also, it was about the Cold War, my main research interest. And so an idea ripened within me. Two years later, I began working on my M.A. thesis on the Cold War in board games.