“Independence Day” Around The World

Source: Wikipedia

Living in Malaysia, I notice that Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and India celebrate Independence Day in August. This got me thinking about Independence Day across the world. Downloaded a table from a Wikipedia wiki on Independence Day, did some counting  and discovered some interesting things to share.

According to Wikipedia, 160 countries have been ruled by a foreign country and have attained independence from this foreign country.  This count is from the 1500’s onwards, the era of colonialism. This is not an exact number since it only counts what we currently call “countries”. It does not count  kingdoms that were ruled by other kingdoms, for instance.

Source: Wikipedia
The Colonizers and the Colonized – Source: Wikipedia

As most people can guess, Britain is the overwhelming colonial leader, ruling 53 of the 160 colonized countries.  In second place is France with 24 countries colonized followed by Spain with 17. The Russian Empire combined with the more recent USSR ruled 15 countries. The surprising discovery for me was that New Zealand had 2 colonies,  Samoa and Nauru. And tiny, Haiti, itself a colonized country, colonized the Dominican Republic.

When we come to independence movements, the most popular month to gain independence is …. you are right… August!  24 countries celebrate independence day in August. The second most popular month is tied between July & September at 23 countries each.  The least popular month is June with just 7 countries gaining independence.

Gaining independence has an uneven distribution over the years.

The first country to become independent was the United States in 1776. The second was Haiti in 1804, freeing themselves from French rule. The third was Ecuador in 1809. The United States’ freedom movement seems to have influenced several South American countries which went on to become independent from 1800 to 1850. Then during World War I and II, the world was too busy with war to worry about becoming independent. In the 1940s and 1950s the number of countries becoming independent increased. Finally, the decade of the 1960’s, had the most number of countries becoming independent.

France is the reason the 1960s and August are good for independence seeking countries. In a single month, August 1960, 7 countries ruled by France became independent. The decades in which different countries gained independence is shown in the table below

Decade Number of Countries
1800s(Century) 27(All South American)
1910s 18
1920s 2
1930s 3
1940s 16
1950s 9
1960s 42
1970s 22
1980s 7
1990s 19

(the number of countries in the table above exceeds 160 since some countries obtained independence twice, from one country only to be ruled by another one before finally becoming independent) .

Most Asian countries were colonized during the era of colonialism. This is why Japan, China, Thailand, Afghanistan, Nepal & Bhutan feel justifiably proud of being among the few Asian countries which were never colonized. Japan stands out in Asia because it was not colonized, but it went on to become a colonizer, colonizing Korea.

India gained independence just after the painful Partition that created Pakistan. The Indian freedom movement inspired several countries in Asia to seek their independence. India also played a major role in the Bangladesh independence movement, with the Indian Army conducting joint operations with the army of the Bangladesh freedom movement (Mukti Bahini). This of course, made India a sworn enemy of the Pakistani Army. But in a curious twist, even Bangladesh dislikes India now (ingrates!).

Happy Independence Day to every one of those 160 countries !


  1. Why so much around August? Is it because there are summer holidays and the returning troops planned so that their kids start a new academic year from beginning of term?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.