May 10, 2021

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Decolonization in America

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We begin in 1763. Almost the entire American continent is dominatedby the European colonial powers. Spain has a very large territory. In the south, the Portuguese control Brazil. On the Central American islands, mainly France
and Great Britain develop huge sugar cane and coffee plantations by importing slaves from Africa. Finally, the North is largely under the control of Great Britain after its victory in the Seven Years’ War.

The British dominate all their rivals, notably thanks to the powerful Royal Navy.But the war has taken its toll on the country’sfinances, and to replenish its coffers,it imposes new taxes on its colonies.Thirteen of them are opposed to this and tensions
rise, finally provoking the American Revolutionary War.France, Spain and the United Provinces take
advantage of the situation to ally themselves with the independence fighters in order to weaken Great Britain. Finally, the British are defeated and forced
to recognize the independence of the United States of America, which is the first European colony to become independent. From the very first years, the United Statescolonists have been extending their possessions westward to the detriment of the indigenous populations, which provokes numerous internal wars.

In France, after the Seven Years’ War and the American Revolutionary War, the economic situation is catastrophic, which contributes to the outbreak of the French Revolution. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of
the Citizen is proclaimed. It states that “Men are born and remain free and equal in rights”.In the rich colony of Saint-Domingue, these words provoke a slave and freedmen revolt against the great landlords, also called the Planters. Spain and Great Britain join forces to fight the insurgents.

But the insurgents win and occupy the wholeisland. Napoleon Bonaparte, who has seized power in France, understands that it would be difficult to reassert his sovereignty over his distant territories.He sends an army to Saint-Domingue and decideso sell Louisiana which he secretely obtained from Spain three years earlier to the United States.

In Saint-Domingue, the French soldiers, weakened by disease, are defeated. On January 1, 1804, the independence of Haiti
is proclaimed. It is the only republic born from a revolution of slaves and freedmen. In Europe, the United Kingdom inflicts a heavy defeat on the Spanish and French fleets
at the Battle of Trafalgar. The country confirms its domination of the
seas. But Napoleon, who dominates Europe, opts for economic warfare and imposes a continental blockade. The United Kingdom, in the midst of the industrial revolution, absolutely needs to find new markets to sell its goods.

Taking advantage of the decline of Spain, it turns to America, but Spain officially prohibited trade with the British. The United Kingdom attempts two military incursions into the Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata, but is repelled by the Creoles, the descendants
of Spanish settlers born in America.

In Spain, King Charles IV and his son Ferdinand VII are quarrelling over the throne. Napoleon takes advantage of this and places his brother Joseph at the head of the country.
This is not accepted in the Spanish colonies where juntas, which means local governments, favorable to King Ferdinand VII, are organized. Conflicts appear everywhere.

In New Spain, the priest Miguel Hidalgo calls on the people to rise up. Independence movements now appear, secretly supported by the British and motivated by revolutionary Masonic lodges.

In 1814, after the abdication of Napoleon, Ferdinand VII recovers the Spanish throne and quickly sends reinforcements to America to regain control.Paraguay manages to resist, as well as the United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata, which proclaims its independence.

In January 1817, the separatists San Martín and O’Higgins cross the Andes from the east with an army and seize Santiago. O’Higgins is appointed Supreme director and proclaims Chilean independence.

In the north, another independence army led by Simon Bolivar and reinforced by the British Legion leaves Angostura, crosses the Andes, and defeats the Spaniards at the gates of Santa Fe de Bogotá. Bolivar then proclaims the independence of Gran Colombia, of which he becomes president, although he doesn’t yet control the entire territory. In reaction, Ferdinand VII raises a new army, but the latter revolts and refuses to leave Cadiz. Taking advantage of the situation, San Martin lands in Peru, seizes Lima, and proclaims the country’s independence, although the Amazonian territory is still controlled by the royalists.
In New Spain, after 11 years of war, the independents win and proclaim the Mexican Empire. In the south, Quito is liberated by the independence armies. Bolivar and San Martín then meet in Guayaquil. Nobody knows what they say to each other, but San Martin gives up part of his army to Bolivar and then discreetly withdraws. In Brazil, the Portuguese royal family and its court have been installed in Rio de Janeiro since the invasion of Portugal by Napoleon. Despite the liberation of the country in 1811, the royal family decided to stay in Brazil. However, the difficult political situation in Portugal forces King John VI to return to the country in a hurry. But his heir, son Peter, who remained in Brazil, now enters into conflict with the Portuguese government and proclaims the independence of Brazil, of which he becomes Emperor. In Central America, Mexico struggles to consolidate. The south secedes and the United Provinces of Central America is proclaimed. Throughout the continent, instability is great, which worries the United States. President James Monroe then declares to the Europeans that the Un ted States would no longer accept new attempts at colonization on the American continent. In the south, the last royalist pockets are defeated by the army of General Sucre. Bolivia is created, named after Simon Bolivar. The latter now dreams of uniting all the American republics under a great common authority. But internal divisions cause this project to fail. In t e south of the continent, a war breaks out between the United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata and Brazil for the control of the Cisplatine Province. Brazil imposes a commercial blockade on th ports of Buenos Aires and Montevideo, but its armies fail o prevail on land. Unable to neutralize each other and financially
exhausted, both appeal to the United Kingdom for arbitration. The British, during the peace treaty, obtain the creation of Uruguay as a buffer state. The United Kingdom, by becoming the guarantor of stability in the region, protects its commercial interests. At the end of 1829, Venezuela secedes from Gran Colombia. Bolivar, whose health is deteriorating, fails to find a solution and resigns. Gran Colombia breaks up and immediately conflicte arise over the delimitation of the new borders. In Mexico, after the abolition of slavery, the United States colonists, who are in the majority in Texas, rebel. A civil war breaks out and leads to the proclamation of independence of the Republic of Texas, recognized by the United States. In the United Provinces of Central America, unity is also undermined and the five states that make it up declare independence. Finally, in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, which has been occupied since 1822, also obtains its independence. In 1845, the United States, which wants to expand w stward, annexes Texas.

But a border disagreement with Mexico provokes a war.At the same time, the British and the United States agree on sharing the Oregon Country that was joint controlIn 1848, after the victory of the United States, Mexico is forced to recognize the annexation of Texas and gives up a huge territory. In California, the discovery of gold causes a rush that attracts people from all over the world, including Asia. In the far north of the continent, the Russian Empire, in fear of losing Alaska to their rival the British, chooses to sell its territory to the United States.In the same year, the United Kingdom authorizes the union of three provinces in the north to ensure their protection from the United States, which seems to want to expand. They form the Dominion of Canada, which gains more autonomy and will over the next years integrate the neighbouring British colonies. Due to border disputes, Paraguay has been at war for two years with the Triple Alliance of Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay. In 1870, Paraguay is occupied, whereupon a large part of its territory is amputated, leaving a deeply devastated country. Further west, tensions also rise between Chiland Bolivia over a territory rich in mineral deposits.

When Bolivia increases taxes on Chilean companies present in the region, Chile decides to occupy the port of Antofagasta to control exports. War breaks out, involving Peru, which is allied with Bolivia. Chile quickly wins and extends its territory to the north, cutting off Bolivia’s access to the ocean. At the same time, in the south, the Mapuches, who had resisted the Inca and Spanish invasions, are now invaded by Argentina and Chile who want to have access to both oceans. The local populations are violently crushed.

In Cuba, a new independence revolt provokes a war against Spain. The United States, which now wants to implement an international policy, sees an opportunity to extend its influence. They intervene militarily against Spain and win. The independence of Cuba is confirmed and the last Spanish colonies in America and the Pacific come under US control.

In Colombia, a French company begins the construction of a canal that will link the two oceans. This interests the United States because it will considerably shorten the maritime route between its two coasts. The country buys the project, but the Colombian Congress opposes it. Annoyed, the United States sends warships, while separatists proclaim the independence of Panama. In a few days, the United States recognizes the new country. In exchange, it obtains a strip of land in perpetuity for the construction and operation of the Panama Canal. But the Panamanians quickly contest this treaty. During World War I, the European colonies are heavily involved.

This is particularly true of Canada, which
carries out a major war effort on behalf of the United Kingdom. At the end of the war, Canada asks for greater autonomy. In 1926, equality with the United Kingdom is proclaimed, followed by its sovereignty being recognized in 1931, although the country remains linked to the British crown by becoming a member of the Commonwealth. In the south of the continent, conflicts persist over the delimitation of borders.

In 1932, Bolivia and Paraguay go to war over control of the Chaco, a region where oil has just been discovered and which offers access to the Atlantic Ocean via the Paraguay River. Paraguay wins and takes 75% of the territory. Peru and Ecuador also dispute their border. A new war breaks out in 1941 and turns to
the advantage of Peru, which takes over a large part of the territory located in the Amazon. At the end of World War II, the United Kingdom and France are weakened while the first colonies claim their independence. In 1946, several French colonies in America become French departments. The United Kingdom finally grants independence to the colonies that request it, only if the new governments are not communist, as the world is now in the midst of the Cold War. The new states are offered the option of joining the Commonwealth. In 1962, Jamaica and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago are the first to declare independence. Most of the British colonies, as well as Suriname, become independent in turn.

However, some islands remain under British
control. This is the case for the Falklands, called the Malvinas in Argentina, which are a gateway to the Antarctic continent. The islands are claimed by Argentina, which attempts a military invasion in 1982. War breaks out. The United Kingdom repels the offensive and
wins.

Today, France, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands still control some American territories, mainly in the Caribbean. According to the United Nations, some British and U.S. territories are still “non-self-governing”. In Puerto Rico, the inhabitants enjoy U.S. citizenship, but don’t have the right to vote in presidential elections. Panama regains full sovereignty over its canal on December 31st, 1999.

Throughout the continent, disputes persise over the exact delimitation of land borders, while some indigenous communities also clamorto assert their rights. If the subject is still very sensitive for European countries, the Catholic Church has presented – on several occasions since 1992- its official apology for the abuses perpetrated during the evangelization and colonization of America.Today, after many waves of immigration, America
is probably the continent

with the greatest ethnic diversity.

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