The sudden demise of arguably the world's greatest empire in the years following World War II was a momentous event in global history. After nearly four centuries of colonial activity, the British relinquished their empire in a little more than 20 years. In this survey, David McIntyre narrates the sequence of decolonization, summarizes the historical controversies surrounding its causes, and considers what was distinctive about the way events unfolded. The author argues that although colonial self-government had a long pedigree going back to the American colonies (and Dominion status had become a peaceful evolutionary route to independence), the upsurge of colonial nationalisms after 1945 meant that policy-makers were overtaken by events. The great speed at which the numerous dependencies in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific were relinquished is analyzed and the Commonwealth since decolonization reconsidered, revealing an association displaying surprising vigour in its post Britannic years.