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Old June 17th, 2013, 06:05 PM   #1
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Why did the Netherlands and France fight so fiercely to maintain their Empire?


Why do you guys think the Dutch and French government fought so fiercely in the 1945-1962, while countries such as Britain released its Empire with rather less bloodshed? The Indonesian war of the Independence cost the lives of around 5,000 Dutch soldiers and between 100,000-200,000 Indonesians, the Indochina war cost the lives of about 70,000 Frenchmen and over half a million Vietnamese and again in Algeria where 25,000 French died and over 250,000 Algerians. Why were the Dutch and French governments so much more reluctant to give up their Empires? The Dutch were actually ruled by first a Catholic party and afterwards Social-Democratic and during the Indochin war the French were ruled by conservatives but socialiits as well. So can we really blame it on hardcore conservatism? I do not think so. Economic interests? Were the Dutch and French state so much more impoverished then Britain? Britain as well was greatly damaged and received hugh amounts of Marshal aid. So can it be blamed on the economic situation? Was it perhaps the general opinion in the countries of origin? Were the Dutch and French much more aimed towards keeping their Empire then the British?

Can anyone help me out?
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Old June 17th, 2013, 11:51 PM   #2
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France only really fought over Indochina and Algeria. Most of the rest of the French colonial empire was abolished by the stroke of a pen, literally. So at least for the French case, the question is rather what made Indochina and Algeria so special, France felt it needed to fight for these, when all the rest of the empire was — at least relatively compared to these two — easily relinquished?
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Old June 17th, 2013, 11:57 PM   #3

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Originally Posted by jeroenrottgering View Post
Why do you guys think the Dutch and French government fought so fiercely in the 1945-1962, while countries such as Britain released its Empire with rather less bloodshed? The Indonesian war of the Independence cost the lives of around 5,000 Dutch soldiers and between 100,000-200,000 Indonesians, the Indochina war cost the lives of about 70,000 Frenchmen and over half a million Vietnamese and again in Algeria where 25,000 French died and over 250,000 Algerians. Why were the Dutch and French governments so much more reluctant to give up their Empires? The Dutch were actually ruled by first a Catholic party and afterwards Social-Democratic and during the Indochin war the French were ruled by conservatives but socialiits as well. So can we really blame it on hardcore conservatism? I do not think so. Economic interests? Were the Dutch and French state so much more impoverished then Britain? Britain as well was greatly damaged and received hugh amounts of Marshal aid. So can it be blamed on the economic situation? Was it perhaps the general opinion in the countries of origin? Were the Dutch and French much more aimed towards keeping their Empire then the British?

Can anyone help me out?
I don't exactly know but here is a thought: Resources (and their income) which weren't produced in the homelands? Perhaps such as oil in the Dutch east indies?
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Old June 18th, 2013, 12:32 AM   #4

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Algeria was of high importance for the identity of the French. It was not considered a colony, but an extension of the métropole, providing it with its third coast. It was also densely settled by French colonists.

I have no idea why the French also fought so fiercely for Indochina, or the Netherlands for its colonial possessions. It appears so strange that many European nations after WWII actually did not enjoy real peace and instead were involved in fights of the past.

As so often, the British were the first to draw the correct conclusions, and thus could transform their colonial empire into the Commonwealth.
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Old June 18th, 2013, 12:59 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Larrey View Post
France only really fought over Indochina and Algeria. Most of the rest of the French colonial empire was abolished by the stroke of a pen, literally. So at least for the French case, the question is rather what made Indochina and Algeria so special, France felt it needed to fight for these, when all the rest of the empire was — at least relatively compared to these two — easily relinquished?
I'm not sure British behaviour was so different. Whilst some colonies were granted independence without a fight, others saw several years of warfare. At the same time that France was fighting against the Viet Minh, the British next door were tackling the guerilla war of the Malayan National Liberation Army. And both these conflicts had the same root, I think - they were seen as part of the Cold War struggle against the spread of Communism.

And it wasn't just in Malaya where Britain refused to withdraw peacefully. Britain was forced out of Aden by armed uprising, and fought for almost a decade against the Mau-Mau Uprising in Kenya.

I suppose to understand the different decolonisation processes in different parts of the world means to understand the specifics of the situation in each colony. Indonesia constituted the majority of the Dutch colonial empire, so was of more value to them than individual colonies were to the larger empires of France and Britain. Whilst it's true that Britain allowed the enormous colonial possession of India independence, that wasn't entirely peaceful, and happened only shortly before the Dutch recognition of Indonesian independence. At the start of the Indonesian national uprising, the British colonial army was actually fighting in Indonesia alongside the Dutch to put down the rebellion.
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Old June 18th, 2013, 01:09 AM   #6

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The British noticed that their Empire was actually costing more money than it was bringing in. For a nation of shopkeepers, this was bad business. Places such as Malta actually wanted the British to stay but they left anyway. Conflicts highlighted above by Kaficek were self-defence, less about preserving Empire and more about not loosing face on the world stage or leaving their (former) colonial state in the hands of openly hostile forces. This could well have been the case for the French and Dutch.
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Old June 18th, 2013, 04:12 AM   #7

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I think the Indonesia thing was indeed resources. And the French thing was partly the post-war thing of stopping communism, partly the need to restore/maintain national pride after what can only be described as an undistinguished WWII. Unfortunately it didn't work and they had another go in Algeria which was, as another poster said, effectively part of France as Ceuta and Melilla are still part of Spain.
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Old June 18th, 2013, 04:42 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Kaficek View Post
I'm not sure British behaviour was so different.
Quite. As a general observation, the British decolonisation process wasn't very different from the French — Algeria being the great exception, because that was a very peculiar French situation.
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Old June 18th, 2013, 04:51 AM   #9
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As so often, the British were the first to draw the correct conclusions, and thus could transform their colonial empire into the Commonwealth.
Right... Have you actually taken a gander at the history of the French decolonisation process?
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