Decolonisation is often depicted as a process of political reform in which power was transferred from representatives of European imperialism to a new class of nationalist politicians. In such accounts conflicts tend to take place at the conference table and are about incremental shifts in the balance of constitutional authority. The Indian Round Table conferences of the 1930s and the Lancaster House conference on Kenya of the early 1960s are pivotal moments in this kind of narrative. But there is a different tradition of writing about 20th century imperialism which is concerned with the relationship between European capital and African, Asian and American labour. Whereas the termination of European political control was marked by the celebrations which accompanied independence, there was often continuity in the sphere of economics. Although strikes and industrial relations reforms may be identified as key events in securing liberation, the old imperial periphery remained dependent on Western capital long after the new national flags were hoisted above government buildings. Relations between business and workers before political independence did not change dramatically in its aftermath and this observation may even destabilise the very notion of decolonisation.
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