History against the grain

Décolonisations
Pierre Singaravélou, Karim Miské and Marc Ball
Éditions du Seuil, 2020
[Published in French]

Publisher’s note

Decolonisation began on the first day of colonisation. From the arrival of the first Europeans, the people of Africa and Asia rose up. No one accepts domination lightly. But in order to win one’s freedom back one day, one first had to stay alive. Faced with the Europeans’ machine guns, the struggle of the colonised people took on other forms: from civil disobedience to the Communist Revolution, by way of football and literature. The combat was characterised by infinite patience and a determination without bounds. This long struggle is the subject of this book, which, giving an account of the proliferation of university research, foremost offers a new and engaging narrative. It is an unforgettable saga that reveals the unknown or forgotten heroes and heroines of this painful story: Manikarnika Tambe, the queen of Jhansi who led her troops into battle against the British in India; Mary Nyanjiru, the insurgent from Nairobi; Lamine Senghor, the Senegalese infantryman turned anticolonial militant in Paris. Throughout the pages, we meet more familiar characters too: the Algerian Kateb Yacine, the Indian Gandhi, the Vietnamese Giap and Ho Chi Minh. Thanks to them, a wind of resistance swept across the world and resulted in the independence of nearly all of the colonies in the 1960s. But at what cost? In Indira Gandhi’s atomic India, in the Congo subjected to the dictatorship of Mobutu; or in London shaken by riots amongst young immigrants, this history of decolonisation demonstrates how important it is to tell this story today.

Translated from the French by Juliet Powys