Christopher Goscha
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Colonial monarchy and decolonisation in the French Empire
Bao Dai, Norodom Sihanouk and Mohammed V
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In 1945, when the French scrambled to rebuild their empire shaken by the Second World War, only the Vietnamese emperor Bao Dai appeared to challenge colonial rule in Indochina. Sihanouk and Mohammed V appeared to be the docile ones in Cambodia and Morocco. All of that changed within a decade as Bao Dai threw in his lot with the French, while Sihanouk and Mohammed V led independence crusades against their colonial kingmakers. This chapter uses a comparative framework to explain why two colonially crowned monarchs in the French empire – Norodom Sihanouk in Cambodia and Mohammed V in Morocco – survived decolonisation to become the fathers of independent nations while Bao Dai in Vietnam did not. Four main factors help explain these two different outcomes: the nature of French colonial monarchy in each protectorate; the specific local, national and international circumstances; the individual personalities of each sovereign; and the strategies they employed.

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