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One of the most significant changes of the post-1945 world has been the decline and final dismemberment of European colonial empires in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, the Pacific and the Caribbean. In 1939, roughly a third of the world's entire population lived under colonial rule. At the end of the century, less than one per cent do so. In this study, each major European overseas colony, rather than being subject to chronological or thematic subdivision, receives separate, extensive and consecutive treatment.