• The American Revolution
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  • and their notions of self-determination

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At its most basic, the principle of self-determination can be defined as a community's right to choose its political destiny. This can include choices regarding the exercise of sovereignty and independent external relations (external self-determination) or it can refer to the selection of forms of government (internal self-determination). The fundamental concept of self-determination-the right to choose-has its roots in the American and French revolutions in the eighteenth century with their emphasis on justice, liberty, and freedom from authoritarian rule. It found its most prominent expressions following World Wars I and II. In the aftermath of the First World War, self-determination was perceived to be Woodrow Wilson's guiding principle for redrawing European and world maps to establish a new, just order. Following World War II, self-determination was enshrined in the United Nations Charter, initiating its transformation into a legal right under international law. In practice, this notion provided the justification and impetus for de-colonization and is often conflated with independence. More recently, the term is associated with struggles by groups within a state for greater autonomy or independence-primarily ethno-nationalist claims or counter-reactions to oppression or authoritarianism.

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Saratoga had been the turning point of the war. The revolutionary confidence and determination that suffered from the Howe’s successful occupation in Philadelphia had been renewed. More importantly, the victory had encouraged France to make an open alliance with the Americans. It happened after two years of semi-secret support. For the British, the war had now become much more complicated.


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The war of American independence could be described as a civil war within the Thirteen Colonies that escalated to a major war between European powers. It has also been argued that after the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, it was a war between two different nations, America and Great Britain, as the Revolutionaries legitimately controlled the governments of all thirteen colonies. Whether or not people have the right to self determine territorial independence by democratic means remains a contentious issue.

See also, Sharif Bassiouni, "The Palestinian Rights of Self-Determination and National Independence, Association of Arab-American University Graduates, information paper No.

Self-Determination | Encyclopedia Princetoniensis

Though its roots lie in the ideals of the American and French Revolutions, self-determination as a political concept was initially articulated as a tool for maintaining order and spreading democratic ideals in the early twentieth century. Prior to the Bolshevik revolution, Joseph Stalin and Vladimir Lenin espoused self-determination as an anti-imperialist measure necessary for world peace.[1] Woodrow Wilson conceived of self-determination as a basis for offering the peoples of the Austro-Hungarian empire more rights and for rebuilding order on new, more democratic principles after World War I. Following on the tenets of his Fourteen Points speech, Wilson insisted upon self-determination for peoples ruled by the Germans and the Habsburgs. These demands were incorporated into the Versailles peace process, though still under the rubric of the existing colonial order to satisfy great power interests. Through Wilson's inducement to break apart multinational empires and replace them with nation-states at the center of a more peaceful and democratic global order, the essence of this vision of self-determination emphasized the link between peoples (nations) and independent states. Two decades later, Adolf Hitler infused self-determination with a negative connotation by using the concept to justify the consolidation of German-speaking territories to gain "Volksraum." In contemporary usage, the principle of national independence associated with Wilsonian self-determination has morphed into a battle cry for separatist groups around the globe.