Although shattered by war, in 1945 Britain and France still controlled the world's two largest colonial empires, with imperial territories stretched over four continents. And they appeared determined to keep them: the roll-call of British and French politicians, soldiers, settlers and writers who promised in word and print at this time to defend their colonial possessions at all costs is a long one. Yet, within twenty years both empires had almost completely disappeared.
The collapse was cataclysmic. Peaceable 'transfers of power' were eclipsed by episodes of territorial partition and mass violence whose bitter aftermath still lingers. Hundreds of millions across four continents were caught up in the biggest reconfiguration of the international system ever seen.
In the meantime, even the most dogged imperialists, who had once stiffly defended imperial rule, ultimately bent to the wind of change. By the early 1950s Winston Churchill had retreated from his wartime pledge to keep Britain's Empire intact. And General de Gaulle, who quit the French presidency in 1946 complaining that France's new post-war democracy would never hang on to the country's imperial prizes, narrowly escaped assassination a generation later - after negotiating the humiliating French withdrawal from Algeria.
Fight or Flight is the first ever comparative account of this dramatic collapse, explaining the end of the British and French colonial empires as an intertwined, even co-dependent process. Decolonization gathered momentum, not as an empire-specific affair, but as a global one, in which the wider march of twentieth-century history played a vital part: industrial concentration and global depression, World War and Cold War, Communism and other anti-colonial ideologies, mass consumerism and the allure of American popular culture. Above all, as Martin Thomas shows, the internationalization of colonial affairs made it impossible to contain colonial problems locally, spelling the end for Europe's two largest colonial empires in less than two decades from the end of the Second World War.
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Number of pages: 560
Weight: 960 g
Dimensions: 241 x 159 x 43 mm
A short review cannot do justice to the richness, the comprehensiveness, and the scholarly depth of Thomas's work, which will surely serve as a leading text in its area for many years. * War in History *
an impressively researched book which manages to marry breadth and nuance, and which ought to be read by scholars of war and imperialism alike. * Army Historical Research *
Martin Thomas tells this story in a book that is based in an impressive range of reading. He works hard to give a balanced account. * Richard Vinen, The Times Literary Supplement *
His book is a refreshing new take on the end of empire. * Mihir Bose, History Today *
Hugely impressive * Literary Review *
This is an ambitious book...Few historians these days have the ability to embark on such a wide-ranging comparative study. * Kwasi Kwarteng, The Times *
Thomas's account is comprehensive and well researched. * Kwasi Kwarteng, The Times *
[An] immensely impressive comparative study. * The Scotsman *
This is a skilfully crafted book which draws on material from British, French, and American archives ... It deserves, and will undoubtedly repay, careful study by anyone interested in the post-war histories of the two protagonists. It is an important book that raises big questions and tries to answer them, and we should be grateful that it does. * David French, Diplomacy & Statecraft *
[Thomas'] book rises above many others by providing a compelling and comprehensive account of European decolonization. There are few other works that match Fight or Flight in both scope and depth in a single-volume. It is this above all else that commends this book to a wide audience. * Benjamin Grob-Fitzgibbon, History *