The Great Tide of Our Age: Colonies, Mandates and the Failed Promise of Self-Determination


November 19th, 2019

50 mins 29 secs

Season 1

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About this Episode

Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points promised self-determination to colonies around the globe, raising hopes of independence and freedom for millions. But Wilson and the Allies had no intention of letting occupied peoples throw off imperialism. What would be the long-term consequences of raising the hopes and then dashing the dreams of so many people?

Ho Chi Minh

Nguyễn Ái Quốc, aka Nguyễn Tất Thành, was born in French Indochina and fled to find better opportunities. He was living in Paris in 1919 and working as a busboy at the Ritz. His declaration on the rights of the people of Annam, a land better known today as Vietnam, was ignored by the Western delegates.

The White Man's Burden

Rudyard Kipling wrote his poem "The White Man's Burden." His purpose was to exhort the United States to join the colonial system by taking over and "civilizing" the Philipplines, which had recently come under American control. It is a deeply racist text, as is the cartoon above from Judge magazine, which shows John Bull (aka England) and Uncle Sam carrying "barbarians" over the rocks of oppression, ignorance and superstition toward the gleaming beacon of civilization.

League of Nations Mandates in the Pacific

Mandates in the Pacific were all former German colonies. They included:

  1. The South Pacific Mandate
  2. Territory of New Guinea
  3. Nauru
  4. Western Samoa

League of Nations Mandates in Africa

Mandates in Western Asia and Africa included:

  1. Syria
  2. Lebanon
  3. Palestine
  4. Transjordan
  5. Mesopotamia (Iraq)
  6. British Togoland
  7. French Togoland
  8. British Cameroon
  9. French Cameroon
  10. Ruanda-Urundi
  11. Taganyika
  12. South West Africa

Japanese Delegates to China

The Japanese delegates to the Paris Peace Conference wanted two things from the Allies: a racial equality clause in the League of Nations covenant and Shandong in China.

White Australia

Australia was one of the most vocal opponents to the racial equality clause. The country was dominated by the White Australia movement, which called to limit immigration to the continent to whites only. This is the cover of a popular song about this topic.

May Fourth Protests

When news reached China that the Allies had granted Shandong to Japan, protests erupted across the country. This photo shows a demonstration in Beijing. The May the Fourth movement led directly to the creation of the Chinese Communist Party.

March 1st Protests

Protests also broke out across Korea, then under Japanese rule, in what became known as the March First Movement. The date is still celebrated in Korea as National Liberation Day.

Egyptian Protests

All of these photos of protests begin to look alike, but this one stands out because it shows women. It depicts a demonstration in Cairo in 1919 against British. What really alarmed the British about these demonstrations was that so many people, both Christian and Muslim, male and female, participated.

Gabriele D'Annunzio

Gabriele D'Annunzio was short and balding but incredibly charismatic. After years of fame as a poet, novelist, and playwright, he became a geuine war hero. In 1919, he adopted the cause of the Italian claim on Fiume.

D'Annunzio in Fiume

D'Annunzio's invasion of Fiume more closely resembled a picnic outing, except for all of the weapons. The new leader of city became known as "Il Duce" and surrounded himself with Italian special forces troops.

Mussolini in Rome

Benito Mussolini closely followed D'Annunzio's conquest of Fiume and adoped many of his strategies in his March on Rome in 1922, right down to the black shirts and palm-down salute.

Mussolini and D'Annunzio

D'Annunzio was dismissive of Fascism--he had done it all himself first--but Mussolini made a point of paying D'Annunzio's bills, giving him gifts, and appearing in photographs with the poet. Here they are in 1925, with Mussolini on the left and D'Annunzio, showing his age, on the right.

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