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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

1999, Vol. 2 No. 1 .


The Last Colonies
Robert Aldrich & John Connell,

(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998)
335pp. Index. Hb.: 40.00/$59.95; ISBN 0-521-41461-X.



This scholarly and well-researched work surveys the remaining colonies of the former West Europeans nations' maritime empires. Separate chapters survey the constitutional issues, including legal questions, administration and relations with the sovereign power; the pattern of economic transition ranging from tax havens, migration and transfer economies; the quest for independence, desired by some groups in certain territories and occasionally supported at the United Nations, but abhorred by other groups or entire populations in others; strategic issues with particular reference to nuclear strategy and the power projection ambitions of Britain and France; and the major international disputes occasioned by some of the 'last' colonies, most notably Falklands and Gibraltar.

The work is timely. The British Government is about to produce a major policy statement on it's relations with the former-British territories, now to be styled British Overseas Territories. The statement, envisaging a "partnership", will cover self-determination, defence, human rights, economic relationships, citizenship, crime control, financial services and financial control arrangements. France, faced with on-going difficulties in Mayotte and New Caledonia is now experiencing a resurgence of ethnic violence in Martinique where black banana plantation workers and dock labourers are locked in a class conflict with the descendants of the white settlers who own the land and dominate the economy, but have not grasped the need for change.

Of special interest are the strategic chapters, where one is left, in respect of France, a feeling that Paris wants bases to service a navy and a navy to secure the bases, and the several sections analysing the legal arguments in ownership disputes, where a territory is claimed by another nation. The cool and careful analysis of the arguments and issues does not, however, quite convey the obsessional, at times rabid, nature of claims such as those as Argentina over the Falklands.

The work concludes with a look into the future, noting overall declining UN concern (with one or two exceptions) over the territories, and the fact that in the majority the inhabitants wish to maintain their dependent status relationship. They see this as a lever with which to pressure the metropolitan power in their interests in the new and uncertain world of globalisation, where flag independence can mean little in the small territory or state - and is beginning to have the same effect on far larger powers.


Anthony Clayton, De Montfort University



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