Atlantic Charter was not meant to give freedom to Asians and Africans in European colonies.
Posted on June 30th, 2019

Janaka Perera

It is erroneous belief that Sri Lanka and most other European colonies were granted Independence by the Atlantic Charter the US and the UK agreed upon in 1941.

There was no formal document called Atlantic Charter with signatures of Heads of States as a Treaty. It was only a discussion paper. 

The two who discussed it Roosevelt and Churchill never meant to give freedom to people in European colonies suffering for centuries under the jackboot of European rule. The so called Atlantic Charter cannot be located anywhere with signatures. It meant different things to different people.

Winston Churchill rejected the universal applicability of the Atlantic Charter when it came to the self-determination of subject nations such as British India. The Americans however were insistent that the charter was to acknowledge that the war was being fought to ensure self-determination.The British were forced to agree to these aims but in a September 1941 speech, Churchill stated that the Charter was only meant to apply to states under German occupation, and certainly not to the countries who formed part of the British Empire.

Mahathma Gandhi in 1942 wrote to President Roosevelt: “I venture to think that the Allied declaration that the Allies are fighting to make the world safe for the freedom of the individual and for democracy sounds hollow so long as India and for that matter Africa are exploited by Great Britain…” 

While self-determination was Roosevelt’s guiding principle, he was reluctant to place pressure on the British in regard to India and other colonial possessions as they were fighting for their lives in a war in which the United States was not officially a participant.] Gandhi refused to help either the British or the American war effort against Germany and Japan in any way, and Roosevelt chose to back Churchill.

India was already contributing significantly to the war effort, sending over 2.5 million men (the largest volunteer force in the world at the time) to fight for the Allies, mostly in West Asia and North Africa. (See:  )

No body has ever said that freedom was being granted to India and Sri Lanka on the basis of an Atlantic Charter, that does not really exist. 

People in Asia fought the white man and got their freedom. It was never given free.

Examples abound.

India, Indonesia, Myanmar Vietnam illustrate this concept strikingly.

See also

·         Crawford, Neta C. (2002). Argument and Change in World Politics: Ethics, Decolonization, and Humanitarian Intervention. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521002790.)

2 Responses to “Atlantic Charter was not meant to give freedom to Asians and Africans in European colonies.”

  1. samurai Says:

    Here is more evidence that the Atlantic Charter had nothing to do with India’s (and consequently Sri Lanka’s) independence

  2. Dilrook Says:

    Sri Lanka and most other European colonies were granted Independence by the Atlantic Charter agreed by the US and the UK in 1941. It was later approved by some others.



    Adherents of the Atlantic Charter signed the Declaration by United Nations on 1 January 1942, which became the basis for the modern United Nations.

    The eight principal points of the Charter were:

    1. no territorial gains were to be sought by the United States or the United Kingdom;
    2. territorial adjustments must be in accord with the wishes of the peoples concerned;
    3. all people had a right to self-determination;
    4. trade barriers were to be lowered;
    5. there was to be global economic cooperation and advancement of social welfare;
    6. the participants would work for a world free of want and fear;
    7. the participants would work for freedom of the seas;
    8. there was to be disarmament of aggressor nations, and a common disarmament after the war.


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