Decolonization refers to the disintegration of large empires, usually meaning the European ones that took shape starting in the 16th century, and the formal independence of former colonies. Just as colonialism began unevenly over the surface of the Earth, so too did its end. World-systems theorists argue that the opportunities for states on the global periphery to exert themselves against colonial powers are best when the core is in crisis. Thus, the Napoleonic wars of the early 19th century afforded Latin America the opportunity to break away relatively early. Similarly, World Wars I and II proved to be the pivotal moments when Western control over much of Africa and Asia was finally broken.

The shift toward decolonization during the post–World War II era was complex. Often ...

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