The Politics of Anticolonial Resistance: Violence, Nonviolence, and the Erosion of the British Empire

Richard McAlexander, University of Pennsylvania

How did the British Empire respond to violent and nonviolent resistance within its colonies? I develop a theory explaining how and why the metropole becomes involved in and grants concessions to its colonies. In contrast to more recent work, I find that violence was more effective at coercing metropolitan concessions to the colonies in the British Empire than nonviolence. This theory is supported with a wide range of data, including yearly measures of anticolonial resistance, every colonial concession made by the British Empire after 1918, daily measures of metropolitan discussions of colonial issues from cabinet archives, and web-scraped casualty data from British death records. My findings show that the effectiveness of resistance is conditional on the political structure that it is embedded in and that non-state actors can impact the structure of the international system.

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 Presented in Session 24. Empire and Its Perils