W.R. OCHIENG' & E.S. ATIENO-ODHIAMBO
The undermining and final dissolution of the European colonial empires in Asia and Africa has been one of the most distinctive themes of the twentieth-century world. Like all major human events, the historians have discussed it in stages, their vision clearing and expanding as their emotions have dwindled.
Like their cousins in the other social science disciplines, historians can be inclined to wrap themselves in the isolating greatcoat of their 'country' and their 'period'. Thus, the withdrawal of the imperialists from their former colonies was, to start with, viewed in terms of the triumph of nationalism over imperialism. This view would later be given a fillip by the gallant heroics of the Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN), Movimento Popular de Libertaçao de Angola (MPLA), Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo), Partido Africano da Independencia da Guiné e Cabo Verde (PAIGC), Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) and other liberation armies which drove the Portuguese, French and British out of their colonies.
But time has a way of sobering humanity, including historians. Through prolonged contemplation and comparison of events, or comparison of the way in which different colonial societies coped with colonialism, different questions were asked and different approaches to the study of the collapse of empires were adopted. The questions that were originally asked in the study of decolonization included: What factors and forces were crucial in the decision of the Europeans to disband their empires? At what stage did the decolonization process begin? A lot of time and vitriol were spent in discussing and answering those questions, but it was later realized that the concept of decolonization transcended them, that other equally crucial but complementary questions needed to be asked and answered to make the discussion of decolonization complete. What, for example, did the nationalists wish