- Date: 1611
- 1 : not dependent: as a (1) : not subject to control by others : self-governing (2) : not affiliated with a larger controlling unit <an independent bookstore>
- b (1) : not requiring or relying on something else : not contingent <an independent conclusion> (2) : not looking to others for one's opinions or for guidance in conduct (3) : not bound by or committed to a political party
- c (1) : not requiring or relying on others (as for care or livelihood) <independent of her parents> (2) : being enough to free one from the necessity of working for a living <a person of independent means>
- d : showing a desire for freedom <an independent manner>
- e (1) : not determined by or capable of being deduced or derived from or expressed in terms of members (as axioms or equations) of the set under consideration; especially : having linear independence <an independent set of vectors> (2) : having the property that the joint probability (as of events or samples) or the joint probability density function (as of random variables) equals the product of the probabilities or probability density functions of separate occurrence
The term independence is used in contrast to subjugation, which refers to a region as a "territory" —subject to the political and military control of an external government. The word is sometimes used in a weaker sense to contrast with hegemony, the indirect control of one nation by another, more powerful nation.
Independence can be the initial status of an emerging nation (often filling a political void), but is often an emancipation from some dominating power. It can be argued that independence is a negative definition: the state of not being controlled by another power through colonialism, expansionism or imperialism. Independence may be obtained by decolonization, or by separation or dissolution.
Although the last three can often coincide with it, they are not to be confused with revolution, which typically refers to the violent overthrow of a ruling authority. This sometimes only aims to redistribute power—with or without an element of emancipation, such as in democratization—within a state, which as such may remain unaltered. The Russian October Revolution, for example, was not intended to seek national independence; the United States Revolutionary War, however, was.
Autonomy (in slight contrast) refers to a kind of independence which has been granted by an overseeing authority that itself still retains ultimate authority over that territory (see Devolution). A protectorate refers to an autonomous region that depends upon a larger government for its protection as an autonomous region. The dates of established independence (or, to a lesser degree, the commencement of revolution), are typically celebrated as a national holiday known as an independence day.
Sometimes, a state wishing to achieve independence from a dominating power will issue a declaration of independence, the earliest surviving example being Scotland's Declaration of Arbroath, and the most recent example being Abkhazia's Act of State Independence. Another example is the U.S. Declaration of Independence issued in 1776.
Causes for a country or province wishing to seek independence are many. Disillusionment rising from the establishment is a cause widely used in separatist movements, but it is usually severe economic difficulties that trigger these groups into action. The means can extend from peaceful demonstrations, like in the case of the Indian independence movement, to a violent civil war.