At the close of the Second World War, the peoples of Western Europe—who were
hard put to govern or even feed themselves—continued to rule much of the non-
European world. This unseemly paradox, whose implications were not lost on in-
digenous elites in the European colonies, had perverse consequences. To many in
Britain, France or the Netherlands, their countries' colonies and imperial holdings
in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Americas were balm for the suffering and
humiliations of the war in Europe; they had demonstrated their material value in
that war as vital national resources.
[T]he end of colonialism has traditionally been explained primarily in terms of
the economic emasculation of the colonial powers by the Second World War. At
least one further reason may be suggested—a change in collective consciousness
that took shape as a result of the ideological struggles of mid-century After the
war against Hitler's racism, the inherent right of white men to rule the rest of the
world was decreasingly defensible to European consciences. All the empires re-
sisted decolonization, though some did so with greater energy than others.
—Bernard Wasserstein, Barbarism and Civilization
[T]he Empire had stood alone against the truly evil imperialism of Hitler. Even if it
did not last for the thousand years that Churchill hopefully suggested that it might,
this was indeed, the British Empire's “finest hour.” Yet what made it so fine, so au-
thentically noble, was that the Empire's victory could only have been Pyrrhic. In the
end, the British sacrificed her Empire to stop the Germans, Japanese and Italians
from keeping theirs. Did not that sacrifice alone expunge all the Empire's other sins?
—Niall Ferguson, Empire
Much of this story of contact and of the exchange of ideas between British social-
ists and colonial radicals, as well as among the latter, is almost impossible to re-
cover. … [It is] outside the boundaries of formal politics—in private meetings,
personal friendships, brief encounters of various sorts, leaving no written
records.… [Oral histories] cannot hope to reconstruct the pattern as a whole.
—Stephen Howe, Anti-Colonialism
IN MAY OF 1940, when Winston Churchill rose to defend his assumption of political and military power in the face of Munich's treacherous sacrifices, he