On March 4 2019, the Twitter account @qikipedia tweeted:
Independence from Britain is celebrated somewhere in the world, on average, one in every seven days.
No citation was included alongside the tweet, which was also shared to Facebook and Reddit’s r/historymemes.
A commenter on that post examined Wikipedia’s list of National Independence Days for countries and territories that celebrate any sort of national independence day holiday. (A separate list of countries who declared independence from the United Kingdom lists 60 countries, and that list largely overlaps with the first.)
The commenter said:
find in page: “united kingdom” 60 results, minus 2
rhodesia (doesn’t exist anymore; successor states Zambia-1964 and Zimbabwe-1980)
brazil (“United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves”).
But we noticed something in the same data set that was apparently not factored in to that particular analysis calculating an average of 6.29 day frequency. For the first few listings (including Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Barbados, Bahamas, and Belize), an attendant holiday appeared in the cell to the far left — “Name of holiday.” Some specific holidays had pages of their own, and some did not.
For the first ten entries, a national day of independence appeared alongside a positive hit for independence from the United Kingdom and France. The eleventh entry, Cameroon, did not list a specific holiday for independence from the United Kingdom and France (in 1960). Cameroon does have a National Day or a Unity Day:
Unity Day is a holiday in Cameroon celebrated on May 20 as the country’s national day.
On May 20, 1972 in a national referendum, Cameroonians voted for a unitary state as opposed to the existing federal state.
Brazil appeared to return a hit for “United Kingdom” in the count of 60, but the complete sentence was “independence from the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves on September 7, 1822,” not actually Britain.
Moving down the list (which returned 60 total hits for “United Kingdom”), Canada and Cyprus both had official independence days. The next on the list, Dominica, did not. Pages about Dominica note that there is an annual independence day in November. Gambia’s field was also blank, but it appeared to have a public holiday for an independence day each February. Likewise, Ghana’s field was blank but a separate page listed an independence day on March 6. Guyana has an independence day, as do Kenya and Malawi.
Overall, there were 59 results for “United Kingdom” on the list of National Independence Days, but 31 of the 59 had no attendant holiday attached. At least two of those countries (Dominica and Ghana) did have independence days that were unlisted. Tuvalu did not appear to have an official independence day. Uganda has a “NRM Liberation Day,” but it commemorates the fall of a government subsequent to its independence from the United Kingdom. Iraq’s Republic Day is similar in nature.
But of the 59 or so countries on the list, a number had no official independence day listed. Some of the countries with a blank field did celebrate their independence from the United Kingdom on a specific day each year, among them Guyana, Kenya, and Malawi. Others celebrated a “national day” or marked a separate formative event in their country’s history (such as Iraq, Tuvalu, and Uganda).
If you count the number of countries (roughly 60) that have declared independence from the United Kingdom or the United Kingdom and another country, you arrive at an average of 6.29 days (close to the seven in a week) to form the figure in the meme. At the heart of the issue is something of an apples-to-oranges comparison between countries that have become independent of the United Kingdom at some point in their history, and whether they specifically celebrate the occasion with a national holiday. The website Office Holidays says that the number of independence days worldwide tied to the United Kingdom is 48, creating an average of every eight days (7.6).
Since the original tweet did not supply any citation for their claim that “independence from Britain is celebrated somewhere in the world, on average, one in every seven days,” we attempted to determine if this was the case. If the circumstance of having obtained independence from the UK is considered sufficient, the claim was very roughly accurate. If one were to read the claim as literally meaning that a national celebration takes place approximately once a week somewhere in the world, that was not substantiated.
It is possible that 52 or so independence days in countries once part of the United Kingdom existed, but it didn’t appear that the original source verified that claim. Several countries on the list of 60 had no independence day specifically, despite celebrating other national holidays. A separate estimate of independence days marking a split from Great Britain provided a slightly higher number (closer to eight), but in the aggregate, it appeared that at least 48 countries have a specific day to mark their independence from the United Kingdom.