Decolonization of the Americas

The decolonization of the Americas occurred over several centuries as most of the countries in the Americas gained their independence from European rule. The American Revolution was the first in the Americas, and the British defeat in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) was a victory against a great power, aided by France and Spain, Britain's enemies. The French Revolution in Europe followed, and collectively these events had profound effects on the British, Spanish, Portuguese, and French colonies in the Americas. A revolutionary wave followed, resulting in the creation of a number of independent countries in Latin America. The Haitian Revolution lasted from 1791 to 1804 and resulted in the independence of the French slave colony. The Peninsular War with France, which resulted from the Napoleonic occupation of Spain, caused Spanish Creoles in Spanish America to question their allegiance to Spain, stoking independence movements that culminated in various Spanish American wars of independence (1808–33), which were primarily fought between opposing groups of colonists and only secondarily against Spanish forces. At the same time, the Portuguese monarchy fled to Brazil during the French invasion of Portugal. After the royal court returned to Lisbon, the prince regent, Pedro, remained in Brazil and in 1822 successfully declared himself emperor of a newly independent Brazilian Empire.

Spain would lose all three of its remaining Caribbean colonies by the end of the 1800s. Santo Domingo declared independence in 1821 as the Republic of Spanish Haiti. After unification and then split from the former French colony of Haiti, the President of the Dominican Republic signed an agreement that revert the country to a Spanish colony in 1861. This triggered the Dominican Restoration War, which resulted in the Dominican Republic's second independence from Spain in 1865. Cuba fought for independence from Spain in the Ten Years' War (1868–78) and Little War (1879-80) and finally the Cuban War of Independence (1895–98). American intervention in 1898 became the Spanish–American War and resulted in the United States gaining Puerto Rico, Guam (which are still U.S. territories), and the Philippine Islands in the Pacific Ocean. Under military occupation, Cuba became a U.S. protectorate until its independence in 1902.

Peaceful independence by voluntary withdrawal of colonial powers then became the norm in the second half of the 20th century. However, there are still many British and Dutch colonies in North America (mostly Caribbean islands), and France has fully integrated most of its former colonies in the Americas (French Guiana, Guadeloupe, and Martinique) as fully constituent departments.


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