3rd February 1960. Wind of Change.
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In late 19th century Africa the scramble for Empire by Britain and other European countries, resulted in the extermination of ‘inferior’ races, graphically portrayed in Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’.
Less than a century later Prime-Minister Harold Macmillan addressing the South African Parliament Today in 1960 said: ‘There is a Wind of Change blowing through Africa’.
It was to give a powerful voice to an unstoppable movement which saw the post-war end of the British Empire which was conceived then as more as a millstone than a benefit to a nation now looking more to Europe.
The signs of the decline of Empire had been there since the early days, from the time of American Independence, then the later clamouring for Indian Independence, (to be realized in 1947). In the late 19th century the Boer War exposed our weakness against a guerrilla army.
By 1926 The Imperial Conference announced that Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Newfoundland (the oldest) would become self-governing dominions.
The King’s title even though no longer sovereign of Ireland now became ‘By Grace of God, King of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas, Defender of the Faith and Emperor of India, until 1947 when India and Pakistan became independent. Ceylon followed a year later.
The 1950s saw a widespread demand for independence in Africa, well before Macmillan’s speech. Then came the disaster of Suez in 1956 which again revealed our impotence and attempt to control world events.
We left the Gulf in 1968 and in 1971 the Navy left Singapore ending an influence started by Sir Stamford Raffles who had established a station of the British East India Company in 1819, ceded to Britain in 1824 as part of the Straits Settlement, later Malaya.
In 1997 Hong-Kong was returned to the Chinese after 150 years the same year that the Navy finally pulled out of Bermuda which still remains a (though self-governing), colony.
Britain’s greatest concern in the new millennium is to decide whether or not we remain part of Europe, with a Referendum planned for 2016.