By D. K. Fieldhouse
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Additional info for Colonialism 1870–1945: An Introduction
By the 1940s the tension between these two traditions was beeoming acute everywhere and during the following two decades the victory ofthe self-governing principle was to lead rapidly to decolonization. But for most of the era of modern colonialism self-government remained a remote, largely theoretical eoneept. The immediate aim ofthe British authorities was simply to ensure control of their subjeet peoples by the best available means; and in the new non-settlernent colonies they , in common with other imperial powers, had two very broad alternative techniques to choose between .
There was, in fact , much common ground. All except the USA had a central colonial ministry (under different names) and allleft the running of colonial matters to professional administrators, both at horne and in the colonies. N owhere, except COLONIALISM 1870 -1945 41 in American possessions, were the inhabitants given a significant share in the process of government. The Netherlands came nearest to doing so by establishing a Volksrad, part nominated, part elected, in Indonesia in 1916; but even this had restricted powers analogous to a French conseil de gouvernement .
It is true that , in the course of meeting this ehallenge, many in the imperial states eame to believe that eolonialism was a rational and permanent eondition and that it benefited both imperial state and dependency. It is even possible that the seeond of these assumptions was correct. But equally it might represent se1f-deeeption. In Chapter 11 of this book an attempt is made to assess the eeonomie eonsequenees of empire. Here it is proposed to review the two most eommon assertions made by the two parties to the imperial relationship: by the imperialists that aIien rule was the only way in whieh these 'backward' eountries eould have been 'modernized' ; by the colonial subjeets that colonialism was not only unneeessary but positively harmful to their general politieal and social deve1opment.