Decolonization and the Cold War (1945-1991)

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Process that began in 1945 and led to the dismantlement of the colonial empires and the independence of their colonies. It affected over half of the world's surface.


  1. World War II: Colonies became aware of their own importance as their colonizers' prestige was reduced.
  2. Nationalist Movements: After the war, nationalistic ideas fueled by liberalism and Marxism spread through colonies.
  3. Emergence of Charismatic Leaders: The elites of many colonized nations had studied in European universities. When they returned, they formed political parties and took the lead in the independence process.
  4. International Support: Support grew from groups of intellectuals, Christians, international movements, and the newly created UN.


  1. 1945-1955: Bandung Conference; affected UK, French, and Dutch colonies in Asia.
  2. 1955-1975: Primarily North African countries, especially sub-Saharan countries.
  3. 1975-nowadays: Remaining colonies.

Ways of Achieving Decolonization

  • Pacts
  • Use of Force
  • Mixed Processes

The Cold War (1945-1991)

A situation of permanent military, ideological, and diplomatic tension between:

Capitalist Bloc (USA)

Included countries of Western Europe and Japan. They sought parliamentary democracy and a capitalist economy. The bloc was strengthened by a military alliance.

Communist Bloc (USSR)

Included countries of Central and Eastern Europe. These countries subordinated freedoms and individual rights to the interests of the state and a planned economy. The bloc was reinforced by a military alliance.


  1. A Time of Great Tension (1947-1956): Marked by the Truman Doctrine (USA), which denounced the creation of communist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe under pressure, and the Zhdanov Doctrine (USSR), which denounced US imperialism in Western Europe.
  2. Peaceful Coexistence (1956-1976): Marked by the desire for dialogue between blocs. This period was favored by the increase in the Soviet Union's nuclear power and the attitude of new leaders.
  3. Resurgence of the Cold War (1977-1988): The USSR, possessing missiles with nuclear warheads, tried to achieve military supremacy. This period also saw foreign interventions.

Capitalist Bloc: 1945-1973

US Hegemony

  • The US adopted a two-party political system (Democratic and Republican parties alternated in power).
  • The most important domestic issues were the struggle of African Americans to achieve equal rights and protests against American intervention in the Vietnam War.
  • The economy grew fast.

Western Europe: Reconstruction and Integration

  • Most European countries had a multi-party system (exceptions: Greece, Portugal, and Spain).
  • The Marshall Plan was implemented.
  • The start of European integration took place (1945-1947).

Capitalist Bloc: 1973-1991

1973 Economic Crisis

During the 1970s, there was an economic crisis in the Western bloc. It was an energy crisis due to the rise in oil prices and an industrial crisis.


  • Inflation
  • Reduction in demand
  • Unemployment
  • Social unrest


  1. Neoliberal economic policies: Privatizing enterprises, cutting public and social spending, lowering wages, etc.
  2. Restructuring traditional industrial sectors: New sectors, new production methods, energy savings, and alternative energy sources were introduced.

Communist Bloc: Break-up of the Soviet Union

In 1982, the Soviet Union was in a deep political and economic crisis. Gorbachev undertook various reforms:

  1. Disarmament talks with the USA
  2. Perestroika and Glasnost: These reforms aimed to restructure the Soviet economy (perestroika) and increase openness and transparency in the government (glasnost). These reforms brought opposition from both radical reformers and hard-liners.

Break-up of the Communist Bloc

  • European people's republics took advantage of the internal problems of the USSR and initiated a reform process known as the "Autumn of Nations" (Poland, Hungary, Romania...).
  • The fall of the Berlin Wall began in 1989, becoming a symbol of the division of Europe.
  • In 1990, German reunification was achieved.

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