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Title page for ETD etd-07122012-071510


Type of Document Dissertation
Author Bishop, William Lowrey
URN etd-07122012-071510
Title Diplomacy in Black and White: America and the Search for Zimbabwean Independence, 1965-1980
Degree PhD
Department History
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Thomas A. Schwartz Committee Chair
Keywords
  • International Relations
  • Decolonization
  • Cold War
  • American history
  • African history
Date of Defense 2012-04-30
Availability unrestricted
Abstract
This dissertation examines how Zimbabwe achieved independence under majority rule in April 1980. Drawing on recently-declassified archival materials from South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, this dissertation highlights the underappreciated role that successive US administrations played in facilitating Zimbabwe’s transition from white minority rule to black majority rule. In particular, this dissertation highlights the connection between the global Cold War and the decolonization process in sub-Saharan Africa, arguing that the Ford and Carter administrations saw facilitating Zimbabwe’s transition to majority rule as a strategy to improve US-African relations at a moment when the Soviet Union and its allies seemed to be gaining ground in Africa.

While this dissertation highlights America’s contribution to the Zimbabwean cause, it also contextualizes the US role by showing that the United States was just one of the actors that helped to facilitate Zimbabwe’s transition to majority rule. Moreover, the US was far from the most important player in this process. As this dissertation demonstrates, it took the combined efforts of the Frontline States, the Organization of African Unity, the Commonwealth, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Patriotic Front to compel Rhodesia’s white minority to hand over the reins of power.

This dissertation also argues that the settlement which paved the way for Zimbabwean independence was a diplomatic success – despite the fact that it enabled Robert Mugabe to come to power. It argues that foreign diplomats could not have foreseen Mugabe’s presidency extending more than three decades, nor could they have predicted the Zimbabwean meltdown of the early 21st century. Moreover, this dissertation maintains that the Zimbabwean settlement is significant because it marked the beginning of the end of white rule in southern Africa.

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