Independent countries are autonomous states that are self-governing and self-determining. Once independence has been achieved, a nation does not rely upon another for help to run its government, nor are important decisions made by an outside body.
Independent countries are particularly important in the context of colonialism and imperialism, which have been around as long as Western civilization, but which developed a particular fervor in the 1500s and after. Once a land had been settled by a ruling country whose motherland was often thousands of miles away, the ruled inhabitants often rose up in revolution after generations of discontent. A successful revolution meant an independent country.
Many countries have been autonomous since their inception, and thus the term "independent" need not ever be applied to their title, even though they are absolutely independent of any other rule. One example would be the United Kingdom. Other countries become independent through revolution, armed and otherwise, such as the United States, Mexico and African nations such as the Congo and Sudan. Yet more nations become independent through political agreements, such as Jamaica.
During their own fight for independence during the Revolutionary War, Americans claimed in the Declaration of Independence that the right for citizens to determine their own representatives was a human right. The people of independent nations have, assuming the nation is a democracy, a direct voice in what their country does. Many believe that nations ruled from afar are given subsidiary treatment, and cannot be effectively governed at such a distance.
- flag. english king's flag or standard image by L. Shat from Fotolia.com