Rhodesia’s white minority government declared unilateral independence from the UK in 1965, gaining covert support from France, Britain’s colonial rival in Africa, as Joanna Warson explains.
If recent revelations surrounding the 'secret archive' of Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) documents have done anything, it is to underline how much is still unknown about the history of the British Empire. With over a million documents alleged to be hidden from the public and historians alike by the British government, it is apparent that the history of Britain's colonial exploits may require substantial revision.
When one moves beyond a UK-centred approach to examine connections between colonial empires, the number of gaps in the existing picture of Britain's imperial past increases still further. Little is known, for example, about the part played by France in the decolonisation of Anglophone Africa and its aftermath. Yet, as a re-examination of the history of Southern Rhodesia's Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) reveals, France played a significant – and frequently overlooked – role in the end of British rule on the African continent.