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The pith helmet, an icon of colonialism in tropical lands. This one was used by the Kingdom of Madagascar, inspired by those used by the Second French colonial empire. Musee-de-lArmee-IMG 0976.jpg
The pith helmet, an icon of colonialism in tropical lands. This one was used by the Kingdom of Madagascar, inspired by those used by the Second French colonial empire.

Colonialism is a practice or policy of control by one people or power over other people or areas, [1] [2] [3] often by establishing colonies [4] and generally with the aim of economic dominance. [5] In the process of colonisation, colonisers may impose their religion, language, economics, and other cultural practices. The foreign administrators rule the territory in pursuit of their interests, seeking to benefit from the colonised region's people and resources. [6] It is associated with but distinct from imperialism. [1]


Though colonialism has existed since ancient times, the concept is most strongly associated with the European colonial period starting with the 15th century when some European states established colonising empires.

At first, European colonising countries followed policies of mercantilism, aiming to strengthen the home-country economy, so agreements usually restricted the colony to trading only with the metropole (mother country). By the mid-19th century, the British Empire gave up mercantilism and trade restrictions and adopted the principle of free trade, with few restrictions or tariffs.

Christian missionaries were active in practically all of the European-controlled colonies because the metropoles were Christian.

Historian Philip Hoffman calculated that by 1800, before the Industrial Revolution, Europeans already controlled at least 35% of the globe, and by 1914, they had gained control of 84% of the globe. [7] In the aftermath of World War II colonial powers retreated between 1945 and 1975; over which time nearly all colonies gained independence, entering into changed colonial, so-called postcolonial and neocolonialist relations.

Postcolonialism and neocolonialism have continued or shifted relations and ideologies of colonialism, justifying its continuation with concepts such as development and new frontiers, as in exploring outer space for colonization.


1541: Spanish Conquistadors founding Santiago de Chile Fundacion de Santiago.jpg
1541: Spanish Conquistadors founding Santiago de Chile

Collins English Dictionary defines colonialism as "the practice by which a powerful country directly controls less powerful countries and uses their resources to increase its own power and wealth". [2] Webster's Encyclopedic Dictionary defines colonialism as "the system or policy of a nation seeking to extend or retain its authority over other people or territories". [3] The Merriam-Webster Dictionary offers four definitions, including "something characteristic of a colony" and "control by one power over a dependent area or people". [8] Etymologically, the word "colony" comes from the Latin colōnia —"a place for agriculture".

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy uses the term "to describe the process of European settlement and political control over the rest of the world, including the Americas, Australia, and parts of Africa and Asia". It discusses the distinction between colonialism, imperialism and conquest and states that "[t]he difficulty of defining colonialism stems from the fact that the term is often used as a synonym for imperialism. Both colonialism and imperialism were forms of conquest that were expected to benefit Europe economically and strategically," and continues "given the difficulty of consistently distinguishing between the two terms, this entry will use colonialism broadly to refer to the project of European political domination from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries that ended with the national liberation movements of the 1960s". [1]

In his preface to Jürgen Osterhammel's Colonialism: A Theoretical Overview, Roger Tignor says "For Osterhammel, the essence of colonialism is the existence of colonies, which are by definition governed differently from other territories such as protectorates or informal spheres of influence." [4] In the book, Osterhammel asks, "How can 'colonialism' be defined independently from 'colony?'" [9] He settles on a three-sentence definition:

Colonialism is a relationship between an indigenous (or forcibly imported) majority and a minority of foreign invaders. The fundamental decisions affecting the lives of the colonised people are made and implemented by the colonial rulers in pursuit of interests that are often defined in a distant metropolis. Rejecting cultural compromises with the colonised population, the colonisers are convinced of their own superiority and their ordained mandate to rule. [10]


Dutch family in Java, 1927 COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM Rijsttafel TMnr 60053682.jpg
Dutch family in Java, 1927

The Times once quipped that there were three types of colonial empire: "The English, which consists in making colonies with colonists; the German, which collects colonists without colonies; the French, which sets up colonies without colonists." [11] Modern studies of colonialism have often distinguished between various overlapping categories of colonialism, broadly classified into four types: settler colonialism, exploitation colonialism, surrogate colonialism, and internal colonialism. Some historians have identified other forms of colonialism, including national and trade forms. [12]

Socio-cultural evolution

As colonialism often played out in pre-populated areas, sociocultural evolution included the formation of various ethnically hybrid populations. Colonialism gave rise to culturally and ethnically mixed populations such as the mestizos of the Americas, as well as racially divided populations such as those found in French Algeria or in Southern Rhodesia. In fact, everywhere where colonial powers established a consistent and continued presence, hybrid communities existed.

Notable examples in Asia include the Anglo-Burmese, Anglo-Indian, Burgher, Eurasian Singaporean, Filipino mestizo, Kristang and Macanese peoples. In the Dutch East Indies (later Indonesia) the vast majority of "Dutch" settlers were in fact Eurasians known as Indo-Europeans, formally belonging to the European legal class in the colony (see also Indos in pre-colonial history and Indos in colonial history). [23] [24]


"Why do the Christian nations, which were so weak in the past compared with Muslim nations begin to dominate so many lands in modern times and even defeat the once victorious Ottoman armies?"..."Because they have laws and rules invented by reason."

Ibrahim Muteferrika, Rational basis for the Politics of Nations (1731) [25]


Activity that could be called colonialism has a long history, starting at least as early as the Ancient Egyptians. Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans founded colonies in antiquity. Phoenicia had an enterprising maritime trading-culture that spread across the Mediterranean from 1550 BC to 300 BC; later the Persian empire and various Greek city-states continued on this line of setting up colonies. The Romans would soon follow, setting up coloniae throughout the Mediterranean, in Northern Africa, and in Western Asia. Beginning in the 7th century, Arabs colonized a substantial portion of the Middle East, Northern Africa, and parts of Asia and Europe. From the 9th century Vikings (Norsemen) established colonies in Britain, Ireland, Iceland, Greenland, North America, present-day Russia and Ukraine, France (Normandy) and Sicily. In the 9th century a new wave of Mediterranean colonisation began, with competitors such as the Venetians, Genovese and Amalfians infiltrating the wealthy previously Byzantine or Eastern Roman islands and lands. European Crusaders set up colonial regimes in Outremer (in the Levant, 1097–1291) and in the Baltic littoral (12th century onwards). Venice began to dominate Dalmatia and reached its greatest nominal colonial extent at the conclusion of the Fourth Crusade in 1204, with the declaration of the acquisition of three octaves of the Byzantine Empire. [26]


Iberian Union of Spain and Portugal between 1580 and 1640 Philip II's realms in 1598.png
Iberian Union of Spain and Portugal between 1580 and 1640

More than a century before the Jamestown, Virginia settlement led by captain Christopher Newport, [27] modern colonialism started with the Portuguese Prince Henry the Navigator (1394–1460), initiating the Age of Exploration and establishing African trading posts (1445 onwards). Spain (initially the Crown of Castile) and soon after Portugal encountered the Americas (1492 onwards) through sea travel and built trading posts or conquered large extents of land. For some people,[ which? ] it is this building of colonies across oceans that differentiates colonialism from other types of expansionism. Madrid and Lisbon divided the areas of these "new" lands between the Spanish Empire and the Portuguese Empire [28] in 1494; other would-be colonial powers paid little heed to the theoretical demarcation.

The 17th century saw the birth of the French colonial empire and the Dutch Empire, as well as the English overseas possessions, which later became the British Empire. It also saw the establishment of a Danish colonial empire and some Swedish overseas colonies. [29]

A first wave of independence movements started with the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), initiating a new phase for the British Empire. [30] The Spanish Empire largely collapsed in the Americas with the Latin American wars of independence (c. 1808 onwards). Empire-builders established several new colonies after this time, including in the German colonial empire and the Belgian colonial empire. In the late-19th century, many European powers became involved in the Scramble for Africa. [31]

The Russian Empire, Ottoman Empire and Austrian Empire existed at the same time as the above empires but did not expand over oceans. Rather, these empires expanded through the more traditional route of the conquest of neighbouring territories. There was, though, some Russian colonisation of the Americas across the Bering Strait. From the 1860s, the Empire of Japan modelled itself on European colonial empires and expanded its territories in the Pacific and on the Asian mainland. Argentina and the Empire of Brazil fought for hegemony in South America.[ clarification needed ] The United States of America gained overseas territories after the 1898 Spanish–American War – hence the coining of the term "American Empire". [32]

Map of the British Empire (as of 1910) Arthur Mees Flags of A Free Empire 1910 Cornell CUL PJM 1167 01.jpg
Map of the British Empire (as of 1910)

20th century

Colonial Governor of the Seychelles inspecting police guard of honour in 1972 Seychelles Governor inspection 1972.jpg
Colonial Governor of the Seychelles inspecting police guard of honour in 1972

The world's colonial population at the outbreak of the First World War (1914) – a high point for colonialism – totalled about 560 million people, of whom 70% lived in British possessions, 10% in French possessions, 9% in Dutch possessions, 4% in Japanese possessions, 2% in German possessions, 2% in American possessions, 3% in Portuguese possessions, 1% in Belgian possessions and 0.5% in Italian possessions. The domestic domains of the colonial powers had a total population of about 370 million people. [33] Outside Europe, few areas had remained without coming under formal colonial tutorship – and even Siam, China, Nepal, Japan, Afghanistan, Persia and Abyssinia had felt varying degrees of Western colonial-style influence – concessions, unequal treaties, extraterritoriality and the like.

Asking whether colonies paid, economic historian Grover Clark (1891–1938) argues an emphatic "No!" He reports that in every case the support cost, especially the military system necessary to support and defend colonies, outran the total trade they produced. Apart from the British Empire, they did not provide favoured destinations for the immigration of surplus metropole populations. [34] The question of whether colonies paid is a complicated one when recognizing the multiplicity of interests involved. In some cases colonial powers paid a lot in military costs while private investors pocketed the benefits. In other cases the colonial powers managed to move the burden of administrative costs to the colonies themselves by imposing taxes. [35]

After the First World War of 1914–1918, the victorious allies divided up the German colonial empire and much of the Ottoman Empire between themselves as League of Nations mandates, grouping these territories into three classes according to how quickly it was deemed that they could prepare for independence. The empires of Russia and Austria collapsed in 1917–1918. [36] Nazi Germany set up short-lived colonial systems ( Reichskommissariate , Generalgouvernement) in Eastern Europe in the early 1940s.

After World War II (1939–1945) decolonisation progressed rapidly, due to a number of reasons. First, the Japanese victories in the Pacific War of 1941–1945 had showed Indians and other subject peoples that the colonial powers were not invincible. Second, World War II had significantly weakened all the overseas colonial powers economically. [37] [ need quotation to verify ]

The word "neocolonialism" originated from Jean-Paul Sartre in 1956, [38] to refer to a variety of contexts since the decolonisation that took place after World War II. Generally it does not refer to a type of direct colonisation – rather to colonialism or colonial-style exploitation by other means. Specifically, neocolonialism may refer to the theory that former or existing economic relationships, such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the Central American Free Trade Agreement, or the operations of companies (such as Royal Dutch Shell in Nigeria and Brunei) fostered by former colonial powers were or are used to maintain control of former colonies and dependencies after the colonial independence movements of the post–World War II period.[ citation needed ]

The term "neocolonialism" became popular in ex-colonies in the late-20th century. [39]

List of colonies


Harbour Street, Kingston, Jamaica, c. 1820 Hakewill, A Picturesque Tour of the Island of Jamaica, Plate 04.jpg
Harbour Street, Kingston, Jamaica, c. 1820
The Battle of Isandlwana during the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. After an initial defeat the British were able to conquer Zululand. Isandhlwana.jpg
The Battle of Isandlwana during the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. After an initial defeat the British were able to conquer Zululand.
1966 flag of the Anglo-French Condominium of the New Hebrides Flag of New Hebrides.svg
1966 flag of the Anglo-French Condominium of the New Hebrides



Governor General William Howard Taft addressing the audience at the Philippine Assembly in the Manila Grand Opera House Taft Addressing First Philippine Assembly 1907.jpg
Governor General William Howard Taft addressing the audience at the Philippine Assembly in the Manila Grand Opera House


The Russian settlement of St. Paul's Harbour (present-day Kodiak, Alaska), Russian America, 1814 Russian Sloop-of-War Neva.jpg
The Russian settlement of St. Paul's Harbour (present-day Kodiak, Alaska), Russian America, 1814


Kamerun (by R. Hellgrewe, 1908) Victoria (Cameroon).jpg
Kamerun (by R. Hellgrewe, 1908)


Postcard of the Italian invasion of Libya during the Italo-Turkish War Libia-1911-Tripoli-conquista-bandiera-verde-del-profeta (cropped).jpg
Postcard of the Italian invasion of Libya during the Italo-Turkish War



Portuguese women in Goa, India, 16th century 1600gora.jpg
Portuguese women in Goa, India, 16th century


An 18th-century casta painting from New Spain shows a Spanish man and his indigenous wife. Mestizo.jpg
An 18th-century casta painting from New Spain shows a Spanish man and his indigenous wife.
The Battle of Tetouan, 1860, by Maria Fortuny 093 La batalla de Tetuan, de Maria Fortuny (detall).jpg
The Battle of Tétouan, 1860, by Marià Fortuny
Spanish General Arsenio Martinez Campos in Havana, Colonial Cuba, 1878 Entrada triunfal de Arsenio Martinez Campos en La Habana, 1878.jpg
Spanish General Arsenio Martínez Campos in Havana, Colonial Cuba, 1878

Austrian and Austro-Hungarian

Muslim Bosniak resistance during the battle of Sarajevo in 1878 against the Austro-Hungarian occupation Sarajevo 1878..jpg
Muslim Bosniak resistance during the battle of Sarajevo in 1878 against the Austro-Hungarian occupation


Map of the European Union in the world, with Overseas Countries and Territories and Outermost Regions. (N.B. The United Kingdom left the Union in 2020.) EU OCT and OMR map en.png
Map of the European Union in the world, with Overseas Countries and Territories and Outermost Regions. (N.B. The United Kingdom left the Union in 2020.)






New Zealand

Governor Lord Ranfurly reading the annexation proclamation to Queen Makea on 7 October 1900. Cook Islands Annexation Ceremony.jpg
Governor Lord Ranfurly reading the annexation proclamation to Queen Makea on 7 October 1900.



Camp of the Qing Military in Dzungar in 1756. Pacification of the Dzungars.jpg
Camp of the Qing Military in Dzungar in 1756.


Omani Empire

Following the expulsion of the Portuguese colonizers, Sultanate of Oman was the preeminent power in the western Indian Ocean during the 17th century. Empire of Oman.svg
Following the expulsion of the Portuguese colonizers, Sultanate of Oman was the preeminent power in the western Indian Ocean during the 17th century.





Argentine C-130 and control tower, Marambio Airport Base Marambio y el Hercules.jpg
Argentine C-130 and control tower, Marambio Airport
The Conquest of the Desert extended Argentine power into Patagonia. Mapa ARGENTINA 1881.png
The Conquest of the Desert extended Argentine power into Patagonia.

Paraguayan colonies






Siamese Army in Laos in 1893. Siamese Army in Laos 1893.jpg
Siamese Army in Laos in 1893.

Ancient Egyptian

Khedivate Egyptian


A 1904 cartoon by Bob Satterfield about the brutality committed by Western nations: the personifications of England, the United States, and Germany carrying spears topped by the severed heads of Tibet, the Philippines, and Southwest Africa respectively. The caption describes this as "The advance guard of civilization". Satterfield cartoon about brutalities committed by Western nations.jpg
A 1904 cartoon by Bob Satterfield about the brutality committed by Western nations: the personifications of England, the United States, and Germany carrying spears topped by the severed heads of Tibet, the Philippines, and Southwest Africa respectively. The caption describes this as "The advance guard of civilization".
The Dutch Public Health Service provides medical care for the natives of the Dutch East Indies, May 1946

The impacts of colonisation are immense and pervasive. [48] Various effects, both immediate and protracted, include the spread of virulent diseases, unequal social relations, detribalization, exploitation, enslavement, medical advances, the creation of new institutions, abolitionism, [49] improved infrastructure, [50] and technological progress. [51] Colonial practices also spur the spread of colonist languages, literature and cultural institutions, while endangering or obliterating those of native peoples. The native cultures of the colonised peoples can also have a powerful influence on the imperial country. [52]

Economy, trade and commerce

Economic expansion, sometimes described as the colonial surplus, has accompanied imperial expansion since ancient times.[ citation needed ] Greek trade networks spread throughout the Mediterranean region while Roman trade expanded with the primary goal of directing tribute from the colonised areas towards the Roman metropole. According to Strabo, by the time of emperor Augustus, up to 120 Roman ships would set sail every year from Myos Hormos in Roman Egypt to India. [53] With the development of trade routes under the Ottoman Empire,

Gujari Hindus, Syrian Muslims, Jews, Armenians, Christians from south and central Europe operated trading routes that supplied Persian and Arab horses to the armies of all three empires, Mocha coffee to Delhi and Belgrade, Persian silk to India and Istanbul. [54]

Portuguese trade routes (blue) and the rival Manila-Acapulco galleons trade routes (white) established in 1568 16th century Portuguese Spanish trade routes.png
Portuguese trade routes (blue) and the rival Manila-Acapulco galleons trade routes (white) established in 1568

Aztec civilisation developed into an extensive empire that, much like the Roman Empire, had the goal of exacting tribute from the conquered colonial areas. For the Aztecs, a significant tribute was the acquisition of sacrificial victims for their religious rituals. [55]

On the other hand, European colonial empires sometimes attempted to channel, restrict and impede trade involving their colonies, funneling activity through the metropole and taxing accordingly.

Despite the general trend of economic expansion, the economic performance of former European colonies varies significantly. In "Institutions as a Fundamental Cause of Long-run Growth", economists Daron Acemoglu, Simon Johnson and James A. Robinson compare the economic influences of the European colonists on different colonies and study what could explain the huge discrepancies in previous European colonies, for example, between West African colonies like Sierra Leone and Hong Kong and Singapore. [56]

According to the paper, economic institutions are the determinant of the colonial success because they determine their financial performance and order for the distribution of resources. At the same time, these institutions are also consequences of political institutions – especially how de facto and de jure political power is allocated. To explain the different colonial cases, we thus need to look first into the political institutions that shaped the economic institutions. [56]

Dutch East India Company was the first-ever multinational corporation, financed by shares that established the first modern stock exchange. A Castro, Lorenzo - A Dutch East-Indiaman off Hoorn - Google Art Project.jpg
Dutch East India Company was the first-ever multinational corporation, financed by shares that established the first modern stock exchange.

For example, one interesting observation is "the Reversal of Fortune" – the less developed civilisations in 1500, like North America, Australia, and New Zealand, are now much richer than those countries who used to be in the prosperous civilisations in 1500 before the colonists came, like the Mughals in India and the Incas in the Americas. One explanation offered by the paper focuses on the political institutions of the various colonies: it was less likely for European colonists to introduce economic institutions where they could benefit quickly from the extraction of resources in the area. Therefore, given a more developed civilisation and denser population, European colonists would rather keep the existing economic systems than introduce an entirely new system; while in places with little to extract, European colonists would rather establish new economic institutions to protect their interests. Political institutions thus gave rise to different types of economic systems, which determined the colonial economic performance. [56]

European colonisation and development also changed gendered systems of power already in place around the world. In many pre-colonialist areas, women maintained power, prestige, or authority through reproductive or agricultural control. For example, in certain parts of sub-Saharan Africa[ where? ] women maintained farmland in which they had usage rights. While men would make political and communal decisions for a community, the women would control the village's food supply or their individual family's land. This allowed women to achieve power and autonomy, even in patrilineal and patriarchal societies. [57]

Through the rise of European colonialism came a large push for development and industrialisation of most economic systems. When working to improve productivity, Europeans focused mostly on male workers. Foreign aid arrived in the form of loans, land, credit, and tools to speed up development, but were only allocated to men. In a more European fashion, women were expected to serve on a more domestic level. The result was a technologic, economic, and class-based gender gap that widened over time. [58]

Within a colony, the presence of extractive colonial institutions in a given area has been found have effects on the modern day economic development, institutions and infrastructure of these areas. [59] [60]

Slavery and indentured servitude

European nations entered their imperial projects with the goal of enriching the European metropoles. Exploitation of non-Europeans and of other Europeans to support imperial goals was acceptable to the colonisers. Two outgrowths of this imperial agenda were the extension of slavery and indentured servitude. In the 17th century, nearly two-thirds of English settlers came to North America as indentured servants. [61]

European slave traders brought large numbers of African slaves to the Americas by sail. Spain and Portugal had brought African slaves to work in African colonies such as Cape Verde and São Tomé and Príncipe, and then in Latin America, by the 16th century. The British, French and Dutch joined in the slave trade in subsequent centuries. The European colonial system took approximately 11 million Africans to the Caribbean and to North and South America as slaves. [62]

Slave traders in Goree, Senegal, 18th century Marchands d'esclaves de Goree-Jacques Grasset de Saint-Sauveur mg 8526.jpg
Slave traders in Gorée, Senegal, 18th century
European empireColonial destinationNumber of slaves imported between 1450 and 1870 [62]
Portuguese EmpireBrazil3,646,800
British EmpireBritish Caribbean1,665,000
French EmpireFrench Caribbean1,600,200
Spanish EmpireLatin America1,552,100
Dutch EmpireDutch Caribbean500,000
British EmpireBritish North America399,000

Abolitionists in Europe and Americas protested the inhumane treatment of African slaves, which led to the elimination of the slave trade (and later, of most forms of slavery) by the late 19th century. One (disputed) school of thought points to the role of abolitionism in the American Revolution: while the British colonial metropole started to move towards outlawing slavery, slave-owning elites in the Thirteen Colonies saw this as one of the reasons to fight for their post-colonial independence and for the right to develop and continue a largely slave-based economy. [63]

British colonising activity in New Zealand from the early 19th century played a part in ending slave-taking and slave-keeping among the indigenous Māori. [64] [65] On the other hand, British colonial administration in Southern Africa, when it officially abolished slavery in the 1830s, caused rifts in society which arguably perpetuated slavery in the Boer Republics and fed into the philosophy of apartheid . [66]

The labour shortages that resulted from abolition inspired European colonisers in Queensland, British Guaiana and Fiji (for example) to develop new sources of labour, re-adopting a system of indentured servitude. Indentured servants consented to a contract with the European colonisers. Under their contract, the servant would work for an employer for a term of at least a year, while the employer agreed to pay for the servant's voyage to the colony, possibly pay for the return to the country of origin, and pay the employee a wage as well. The employees became "indentured" to the employer because they owed a debt back to the employer for their travel expense to the colony, which they were expected to pay through their wages. In practice, indentured servants were exploited through terrible working conditions and burdensome debts imposed by the employers, with whom the servants had no means of negotiating the debt once they arrived in the colony.

India and China were the largest source of indentured servants during the colonial era. Indentured servants from India travelled to British colonies in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean, and also to French and Portuguese colonies, while Chinese servants travelled to British and Dutch colonies. Between 1830 and 1930, around 30 million indentured servants migrated from India, and 24 million returned to India. China sent more indentured servants to European colonies, and around the same proportion returned to China. [67]

Following the Scramble for Africa, an early but secondary focus for most colonial regimes was the suppression of slavery and the slave trade. By the end of the colonial period they were mostly successful in this aim, though slavery persists in Africa and in the world at large with much the same practices of de facto servility despite legislative prohibition. [49]

Military innovation

The First Anglo-Ashanti War, 1823-31 Aschanti Gefecht 11 july 1824 300dpi.jpg
The First Anglo-Ashanti War, 1823–31

Conquering forces have throughout history applied innovation in order to gain an advantage over the armies of the people they aim to conquer. Greeks developed the phalanx system, which enabled their military units to present themselves to their enemies as a wall, with foot soldiers using shields to cover one another during their advance on the battlefield. Under Philip II of Macedon, they were able to organise thousands of soldiers into a formidable battle force, bringing together carefully trained infantry and cavalry regiments. [68] Alexander the Great exploited this military foundation further during his conquests.

The Spanish Empire held a major advantage over Mesoamerican warriors through the use of weapons made of stronger metal, predominantly iron, which was able to shatter the blades of axes used by the Aztec civilisation and others. The use of gunpowder weapons cemented the European military advantage over the peoples they sought to subjugate in the Americas and elsewhere.

End of empire

Gandhi with Lord Pethwick-Lawrence, British Secretary of State for India, after a meeting on 18 April 1946 Lord Pethic-Lawrence and Gandhi.jpg
Gandhi with Lord Pethwick-Lawrence, British Secretary of State for India, after a meeting on 18 April 1946

The populations of some colonial territories, such as Canada, enjoyed relative peace and prosperity as part of a European power, at least among the majority. Minority populations such as First Nations peoples and French-Canadians experienced marginalisation and resented colonial practices. Francophone residents of Quebec, for example, were vocal in opposing conscription into the armed services to fight on behalf of Britain during World War I, resulting in the Conscription crisis of 1917. Other European colonies had much more pronounced conflict between European settlers and the local population. Rebellions broke out in the later decades of the imperial era, such as India's Sepoy Rebellion of 1857.

The territorial boundaries imposed by European colonisers, notably in central Africa and South Asia, defied the existing boundaries of native populations that had previously interacted little with one another. European colonisers disregarded native political and cultural animosities, imposing peace upon people under their military control. Native populations were often relocated at the will of the colonial administrators.

The Partition of British India in August 1947 led to the Independence of India and the creation of Pakistan. These events also caused much bloodshed at the time of the migration of immigrants from the two countries. Muslims from India and Hindus and Sikhs from Pakistan migrated to the respective countries they sought independence for.

Post-independence population movement

The annual Notting Hill Carnival in London is a celebration led by the Trinidadian and Tobagonian British community. Notting Hill Carnival 2002 large.jpg
The annual Notting Hill Carnival in London is a celebration led by the Trinidadian and Tobagonian British community.

In a reversal of the migration patterns experienced during the modern colonial era, post-independence era migration followed a route back towards the imperial country. In some cases, this was a movement of settlers of European origin returning to the land of their birth, or to an ancestral birthplace. 900,000 French colonists (known as the Pied-Noirs ) resettled in France following Algeria's independence in 1962. A significant number of these migrants were also of Algerian descent. 800,000 people of Portuguese origin migrated to Portugal after the independence of former colonies in Africa between 1974 and 1979; 300,000 settlers of Dutch origin migrated to the Netherlands from the Dutch West Indies after Dutch military control of the colony ended. [69]

After WWII 300,000 Dutchmen from the Dutch East Indies, of which the majority were people of Eurasian descent called Indo Europeans, repatriated to the Netherlands. A significant number later migrated to the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. [70] [71]

Global travel and migration in general developed at an increasingly brisk pace throughout the era of European colonial expansion. Citizens of the former colonies of European countries may have a privileged status in some respects with regard to immigration rights when settling in the former European imperial nation. For example, rights to dual citizenship may be generous, [72] or larger immigrant quotas may be extended to former colonies.[ citation needed ]

In some cases, the former European imperial nations continue to foster close political and economic ties with former colonies. The Commonwealth of Nations is an organisation that promotes cooperation between and among Britain and its former colonies, the Commonwealth members. A similar organisation exists for former colonies of France, the Francophonie; the Community of Portuguese Language Countries plays a similar role for former Portuguese colonies, and the Dutch Language Union is the equivalent for former colonies of the Netherlands.[ citation needed ]

Migration from former colonies has proven to be problematic for European countries, where the majority population may express hostility to ethnic minorities who have immigrated from former colonies. Cultural and religious conflict have often erupted in France in recent decades, between immigrants from the Maghreb countries of north Africa and the majority population of France. Nonetheless, immigration has changed the ethnic composition of France; by the 1980s, 25% of the total population of "inner Paris" and 14% of the metropolitan region were of foreign origin, mainly Algerian. [73]

On colonisers

Since 1945, immigration to the United Kingdom under British nationality law has been significant, in particular from the former British Empire. The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi and the Prime Minister of United Kingdom (UK), Mr. David Cameron interacting with the school children, at Wembley Stadium, in London on November 13, 2015.jpg
Since 1945, immigration to the United Kingdom under British nationality law has been significant, in particular from the former British Empire.

In his 1955 essay, Discourse on Colonialism (French: Discours sur le colonialisme), French poet Aimé Césaire evaluates the effects of racist, sexist, and capitalist attitudes and motivations on the civilisations that attempted to colonise other civilisations. In explaining his position, he says, "I admit that it is a good thing to place different civilisations in contact with each other that it is an excellent thing to blend different worlds; that whatever its own particular genius may be, a civilisation that withdraws into itself atrophies; that for civilisations, exchange is oxygen." [75]

To illustrate his point, he explains that colonisation relies on racist and xenophobic frameworks that dehumanise the targets of colonisation and justify their extreme and brutal mistreatment. Every time an immoral act perpetrated by colonisers onto the colonised is justified by racist, sexist, otherwise xenophobic, or capitalist motivations to subjugate a group of people, the colonising civilisation "acquires another dead weight, a universal regression takes place, a gangrene sets in, a centre of infection begins to spread." [75] Césaire argues the result of this process is that "a poison [is] instilled into the veins of Europe and, slowly but surely, the continent proceeds toward savagery." [76]

Introduced diseases

Aztecs dying of smallpox, ("The Florentine Codex" 1540-85) Florentinoviruela.JPG
Aztecs dying of smallpox, ("The Florentine Codex" 1540–85)

Encounters between explorers and populations in the rest of the world often introduced new diseases, which sometimes caused local epidemics of extraordinary virulence. [77] For example, smallpox, measles, malaria, yellow fever, and others were unknown in pre-Columbian America. [78]

Half the native population of Hispaniola in 1518 was killed by smallpox. Smallpox also ravaged Mexico in the 1520s, killing 150,000 in Tenochtitlan alone, including the emperor, and Peru in the 1530s, aiding the European conquerors. Measles killed a further two million Mexican natives in the 17th century. In 1618–1619, smallpox wiped out 90% of the Massachusetts Bay Native Americans. [79] Smallpox epidemics in 1780–1782 and 1837–1838 brought devastation and drastic depopulation among the Plains Indians. [80] Some believe[ who? ] that the death of up to 95% of the Native American population of the New World was caused by Old World diseases. [81] Over the centuries, the Europeans had developed high degrees of immunity to these diseases, while the indigenous peoples had no time to build such immunity. [82]

Smallpox decimated the native population of Australia, killing around 50% of indigenous Australians in the early years of British colonisation. [83] It also killed many New Zealand Māori. [84] As late as 1848–49, as many as 40,000 out of 150,000 Hawaiians are estimated to have died of measles, whooping cough and influenza. Introduced diseases, notably smallpox, nearly wiped out the native population of Easter Island. [85] In 1875, measles killed over 40,000 Fijians, approximately one-third of the population. [86] The Ainu population decreased drastically in the 19th century, due in large part to infectious diseases brought by Japanese settlers pouring into Hokkaido. [87]

Conversely, researchers have hypothesised that a precursor to syphilis may have been carried from the New World to Europe after Columbus's voyages. The findings suggested Europeans could have carried the nonvenereal tropical bacteria home, where the organisms may have mutated into a more deadly form in the different conditions of Europe. [88] The disease was more frequently fatal than it is today; syphilis was a major killer in Europe during the Renaissance. [89] The first cholera pandemic began in Bengal, then spread across India by 1820. Ten thousand British troops and countless Indians died during this pandemic. [90] Between 1736 and 1834 only some 10% of East India Company's officers survived to take the final voyage home. [91] Waldemar Haffkine, who mainly worked in India, who developed and used vaccines against cholera and bubonic plague in the 1890s, is considered the first microbiologist.

According to a 2021 study by Jörg Baten and Laura Maravall on the anthropometric influence of colonialism on Africans, the average height of Africans decreased by 1.1 centimetres upon colonization and later recovered and increased overall during colonial rule. The authors attributed the decrease to diseases, such as malaria and sleeping sickness, forced labor during the early decades of colonial rule, conflicts, land grabbing, and widespread cattle deaths from the rinderpest viral disease. [92]

Countering disease

As early as 1803, the Spanish Crown organised a mission (the Balmis expedition) to transport the smallpox vaccine to the Spanish colonies, and establish mass vaccination programs there. [93] By 1832, the federal government of the United States established a smallpox vaccination program for Native Americans. [94] Under the direction of Mountstuart Elphinstone a program was launched to propagate smallpox vaccination in India. [95] From the beginning of the 20th century onwards, the elimination or control of disease in tropical countries became a driving force for all colonial powers. [96] The sleeping sickness epidemic in Africa was arrested due to mobile teams systematically screening millions of people at risk. [97] In the 20th century, the world saw the biggest increase in its population in human history due to lessening of the mortality rate in many countries due to medical advances. [98] The world population has grown from 1.6 billion in 1900 to over seven billion today.[ citation needed ]


Colonial botany refers to the body of works concerning the study, cultivation, marketing and naming of the new plants that were acquired or traded during the age of European colonialism. Notable examples of these plants included sugar, nutmeg, tobacco, cloves, cinnamon, Peruvian bark, peppers and tea. This work was a large part of securing financing for colonial ambitions, supporting European expansion and ensuring the profitability of such endeavors. Vasco de Gama and Christopher Columbus were seeking to establish routes to trade spices, dyes and silk from the Moluccas, India and China by sea that would be independent of the established routes controlled by Venetian and Middle Eastern merchants. Naturalists like Hendrik van Rheede, Georg Eberhard Rumphius, and Jacobus Bontius compiled data about eastern plants on behalf of the Europeans. Though Sweden did not possess an extensive colonial network, botanical research based on Carl Linnaeus identified and developed techniques to grow cinnamon, tea and rice locally as an alternative to costly imports. [99]


British Togoland in 1953 The National Archives UK - CO 1069-99-01.jpg
British Togoland in 1953

Settlers acted as the link between indigenous populations and the imperial hegemony, thus bridging the geographical, ideological and commercial gap between the colonisers and colonised. While the extent in which geography as an academic study is implicated in colonialism is contentious, geographical tools such as cartography, shipbuilding, navigation, mining and agricultural productivity were instrumental in European colonial expansion. Colonisers' awareness of the Earth's surface and abundance of practical skills provided colonisers with a knowledge that, in turn, created power. [100]

Anne Godlewska and Neil Smith argue that "empire was 'quintessentially a geographical project'".[ clarification needed ] [101] Historical geographical theories such as environmental determinism legitimised colonialism by positing the view that some parts of the world were underdeveloped, which created notions of skewed evolution. [100] Geographers such as Ellen Churchill Semple and Ellsworth Huntington put forward the notion that northern climates bred vigour and intelligence as opposed to those indigenous to tropical climates (See The Tropics) viz a viz a combination of environmental determinism and Social Darwinism in their approach. [102]

Political geographers also maintain that colonial behaviour was reinforced by the physical mapping of the world, therefore creating a visual separation between "them" and "us". Geographers are primarily focused on the spaces of colonialism and imperialism; more specifically, the material and symbolic appropriation of space enabling colonialism. [103] :5

Comparison of Africa in the years 1880 and 1913 Scramble-for-Africa-1880-1913-v2.png
Comparison of Africa in the years 1880 and 1913

Maps played an extensive role in colonialism, as Bassett would put it "by providing geographical information in a convenient and standardised format, cartographers helped open West Africa to European conquest, commerce, and colonisation". [104] Because the relationship between colonialism and geography was not scientifically objective, cartography was often manipulated during the colonial era. Social norms and values had an effect on the constructing of maps. During colonialism map-makers used rhetoric in their formation of boundaries and in their art. The rhetoric favoured the view of the conquering Europeans; this is evident in the fact that any map created by a non-European was instantly regarded as inaccurate. Furthermore, European cartographers were required to follow a set of rules which led to ethnocentrism; portraying one's own ethnicity in the centre of the map. As J.B. Harley put it, "The steps in making a map – selection, omission, simplification, classification, the creation of hierarchies, and 'symbolisation' – are all inherently rhetorical." [105]

A common practice by the European cartographers of the time was to map unexplored areas as "blank spaces". This influenced the colonial powers as it sparked competition amongst them to explore and colonise these regions. Imperialists aggressively and passionately looked forward to filling these spaces for the glory of their respective countries. [106] The Dictionary of Human Geography notes that cartography was used to empty 'undiscovered' lands of their Indigenous meaning and bring them into spatial existence via the imposition of "Western place-names and borders, [therefore] priming 'virgin' (putatively empty land, 'wilderness') for colonisation (thus sexualising colonial landscapes as domains of male penetration), reconfiguring alien space as absolute, quantifiable and separable (as property)." [107]

David Livingstone stresses "that geography has meant different things at different times and in different places" and that we should keep an open mind in regards to the relationship between geography and colonialism instead of identifying boundaries. [101] Geography as a discipline was not and is not an objective science, Painter and Jeffrey argue, rather it is based on assumptions about the physical world. [100] Comparison of exogeographical representations of ostensibly tropical environments in science fiction art support this conjecture, finding the notion of the tropics to be an artificial collection of ideas and beliefs that are independent of geography. [108]


Governor-General Felix Eboue welcomes Charles de Gaulle to Chad Felix Eboue and Charles DeGaulle.jpg
Governor-General Félix Éboué welcomes Charles de Gaulle to Chad

A colony is a part of an empire and so colonialism is closely related to imperialism. Robert J. C. Young suggests that imperialism is the concept while colonialism is the practice. Colonialism is based on an imperial outlook, thereby creating a consequential relationship. Through an empire, colonialism is established and capitalism is expanded, on the other hand a capitalist economy naturally enforces an empire.


Marxism views colonialism as a form of capitalism, enforcing exploitation and social change. Marx thought that working within the global capitalist system, colonialism is closely associated with uneven development. It is an "instrument of wholesale destruction, dependency and systematic exploitation producing distorted economies, socio-psychological disorientation, massive poverty and neocolonial dependency". [109] Colonies are constructed into modes of production. The search for raw materials and the current search for new investment opportunities is a result[ according to whom? ] of inter-capitalist rivalry for capital accumulation [ citation needed ]. Lenin regarded colonialism as the root cause of imperialism, as imperialism was distinguished by monopoly capitalism via colonialism and as Lyal S. Sunga explains: "Vladimir Lenin advocated forcefully the principle of self-determination of peoples in his "Theses on the Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination" as an integral plank in the programme of socialist internationalism" and he quotes Lenin who contended that "The right of nations to self-determination implies exclusively the right to independence in the political sense, the right to free political separation from the oppressor nation. Specifically, this demand for political democracy implies complete freedom to agitate for secession and for a referendum on secession by the seceding nation." [110] Non Russian marxists within the RSFSR and later the USSR, like Sultan Galiev and Vasyl Shakhrai, meanwhile, between 1918 and 1923 and then after 1929, considered the Soviet Regime a renewed version of the Russian imperialism and colonialism.

In his critique of colonialism in Africa, the Guyanese historian and political activist Walter Rodney states:

"The decisiveness of the short period of colonialism and its negative consequences for Africa spring mainly from the fact that Africa lost power. Power is the ultimate determinant in human society, being basic to the relations within any group and between groups. It implies the ability to defend one's interests and if necessary to impose one's will by any means available ... When one society finds itself forced to relinquish power entirely to another society that in itself is a form of underdevelopment  ... During the centuries of pre-colonial trade, some control over social political and economic life was retained in Africa, in spite of the disadvantageous commerce with Europeans. That little control over internal matters disappeared under colonialism. Colonialism went much further than trade. It meant a tendency towards direct appropriation by Europeans of the social institutions within Africa. Africans ceased to set indigenous cultural goals and standards, and lost full command of training young members of the society. Those were undoubtedly major steps backwards ... Colonialism was not merely a system of exploitation, but one whose essential purpose was to repatriate the profits to the so-called 'mother country'. From an African view-point, that amounted to consistent expatriation of surplus produced by African labour out of African resources. It meant the development of Europe as part of the same dialectical process in which Africa was underdeveloped. Colonial Africa fell within that part of the international capitalist economy from which surplus was drawn to feed the metropolitan sector. As seen earlier, exploitation of land and labour is essential for human social advance, but only on the assumption that the product is made available within the area where the exploitation takes place." [111] [112]

According to Lenin, the new imperialism emphasised the transition of capitalism from free trade to a stage of monopoly capitalism to finance capital. He states it is, "connected with the intensification of the struggle for the partition of the world". As free trade thrives on exports of commodities[ according to whom? ], monopoly capitalism thrived on the export of capital amassed by profits from banks and industry. This, to Lenin, was the highest stage of capitalism. He goes on to state that this form of capitalism was doomed for war between the capitalists and the exploited nations with the former inevitably losing. War is stated to be the consequence of imperialism. As a continuation of this thought G.N. Uzoigwe states, "But it is now clear from more serious investigations of African history in this period that imperialism was essentially economic in its fundamental impulses." [113]

Liberalism and capitalism

Classical liberals were generally in abstract opposition to colonialism and imperialism, including Adam Smith, Frédéric Bastiat, Richard Cobden, John Bright, Henry Richard, Herbert Spencer, H.R. Fox Bourne, Edward Morel, Josephine Butler, W.J. Fox and William Ewart Gladstone. [114] Their philosophies found the colonial enterprise, particularly mercantilism, in opposition to the principles of free trade and liberal policies. [115] Adam Smith wrote in The Wealth of Nations that Britain should grant independence to all of its colonies and also argued that it would be economically beneficial for British people in the average, although the merchants having mercantilist privileges would lose out. [114] [116]

Race and gender

During the colonial era, the global process of colonisation served to spread and synthesize the social and political belief systems of the "mother-countries" which often included a belief in a certain natural racial superiority of the race of the mother-country. Colonialism also acted to reinforce these same racial belief systems within the "mother-countries" themselves. Usually also included within the colonial belief systems was a certain belief in the inherent superiority of male over female. This particular belief was often pre-existing amongst the pre-colonial societies, prior to their colonisation. [117] [118] [119]

Popular political practices of the time reinforced colonial rule by legitimising European (and/ or Japanese) male authority, and also legitimising female and non-mother-country race inferiority through studies of craniology, comparative anatomy, and phrenology. [118] [119] [120] Biologists, naturalists, anthropologists, and ethnologists of the 19th century were focused on the study of colonised indigenous women, as in the case of Georges Cuvier's study of Sarah Baartman. [119] Such cases embraced a natural superiority and inferiority relationship between the races based on the observations of naturalists' from the mother-countries. European studies along these lines gave rise to the perception that African women's anatomy, and especially genitalia, resembled those of mandrills, baboons, and monkeys, thus differentiating colonised Africans from what were viewed as the features of the evolutionarily superior, and thus rightfully authoritarian, European woman. [119]

In addition to what would now be viewed as pseudo-scientific studies of race, which tended to reinforce a belief in an inherent mother-country racial superiority, a new supposedly "science-based" ideology concerning gender roles also then emerged as an adjunct to the general body of beliefs of inherent superiority of the colonial era. [118] Female inferiority across all cultures was emerging as an idea supposedly supported by craniology that led scientists to argue that the typical brain size of the female human was, on the average, slightly smaller than that of the male, thus inferring that therefore female humans must be less developed and less evolutionarily advanced than males. [118] This finding of relative cranial size difference was later simply attributed to the general typical size difference of the human male body versus that of the typical human female body. [121]

Within the former European colonies, non-Europeans and women sometimes faced invasive studies by the colonial powers in the interest of the then prevailing pro-colonial scientific ideology of the day. [119] Such seemingly flawed studies of race and gender coincided with the era of colonialism and the initial introduction of foreign cultures, appearances, and gender roles into the now gradually widening world-views of the scholars of the mother-countries.[ citation needed ]


"The East offering its riches to Britannia", painted by Spiridione Roma for the boardroom of the British East India Company The East offering its riches to Britannia - Roma Spiridone, 1778 - BL Foster 245.jpg
"The East offering its riches to Britannia", painted by Spiridione Roma for the boardroom of the British East India Company

Othering is the process of creating a separate entity to persons or groups who are labelled as different or non-normal due to the repetition of characteristics. [122] Othering is the creation of those who discriminate, to distinguish, label, categorise those who do not fit in the societal norm. Several scholars in recent decades developed the notion of the "other" as an epistemological concept in social theory. [122] For example, postcolonial scholars, believed that colonising powers explained an "other" who were there to dominate, civilise, and extract resources through colonisation of land. [122]

Political geographers explain how colonial/imperial powers "othered" places they wanted to dominate to legalise their exploitation of the land. [122] During and after the rise of colonialism the Western powers perceived the East as the "other", being different and separate from their societal norm. This viewpoint and separation of culture had divided the Eastern and Western culture creating a dominant/subordinate dynamic, both being the "other" towards themselves. [122]


Queen Victoria Street in the former British colony of Hong Kong HK Queen Victoria Street The Central Market.jpg
Queen Victoria Street in the former British colony of Hong Kong

Post-colonialism (or post-colonial theory) can refer to a set of theories in philosophy and literature that grapple with the legacy of colonial rule. In this sense, one can regard post-colonial literature as a branch of postmodern literature concerned with the political and cultural independence of peoples formerly subjugated in colonial empires.

Many practitioners take Edward Saïd's book Orientalism (1978) as the theory's founding work (although French theorists such as Aimé Césaire (1913–2008) and Frantz Fanon (1925–1961) made similar claims decades before Saïd). Saïd analyzed the works of Balzac, Baudelaire and Lautréamont, arguing that they helped to shape a societal fantasy of European racial superiority.

Writers of post-colonial fiction interact with the traditional colonial discourse, but modify or subvert it; for instance by retelling a familiar story from the perspective of an oppressed minor character in the story. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak's Can the Subaltern Speak? (1998) gave its name to Subaltern Studies.

In A Critique of Postcolonial Reason (1999), Spivak argued that major works of European metaphysics (such as those of Kant and Hegel) not only tend to exclude the subaltern from their discussions, but actively prevent non-Europeans from occupying positions as fully human subjects. Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit (1807), famous for its explicit ethnocentrism, considers Western civilisation as the most accomplished of all, while Kant also had some traces of racialism in his work.


The field of colonistics studies colonialism from such viewpoints as those of economics, sociology and psychology. [123]

British public opinion about the British Empire

The 2014 YouGov survey found that British people are mostly proud of colonialism and the British Empire: [124]

A new YouGov survey finds that most think the British Empire is more something to be proud of (59%) than to be ashamed of (19%). 23% don't know. Young people are least likely to feel pride over shame when it comes to the Empire, though about half (48%) of 18–24 year old's do. In comparison, about two-thirds (65%) of over 60's feel mostly proud. ... A third of British people (34%) also say they would like it if Britain still had an empire. Under half (45%) say they would not like the Empire to exist today. 20% don't know. [125]


"Areas of European settlement". Censuses, articles quoted in description..) European Ancestry Large.svg
"Areas of European settlement". Censuses, articles quoted in description..)

Nations and regions outside Europe with significant populations of European ancestry [126]

Boer family in South Africa, 1886 Boerfamily1886.jpg
Boer family in South Africa, 1886
Russian settlers in Central Asia, present-day Kazakhstan, 1911 Prokudin-Gorskii Russians in Central Asia.jpg
Russian settlers in Central Asia, present-day Kazakhstan, 1911

Numbers of European settlers in the colonies (1500–1914)

Irish leaving Ireland, many in response to the Great Famine in the 1840s Emigrants Leave Ireland by Henry Doyle 1868.jpg
Irish leaving Ireland, many in response to the Great Famine in the 1840s

By 1914, Europeans had migrated to the colonies in the millions. Some intended to remain in the colonies as temporary settlers, mainly as military personnel or on business. Others went to the colonies as immigrants. British people were by far the most numerous population to migrate to the colonies: 2.5 million settled in Canada; 1.5 million in Australia; 750,000 in New Zealand; 450,000 in the Union of South Africa; and 200,000 in India. French citizens also migrated in large numbers, mainly to the colonies in the north African Maghreb region: 1.3 million settled in Algeria; 200,000 in Morocco; 100,000 in Tunisia; while only 20,000 migrated to French Indochina. Dutch and German colonies saw relatively scarce European migration, since Dutch and German colonial expansion focused on commercial goals rather than settlement. Portugal sent 150,000 settlers to Angola, 80,000 to Mozambique, and 20,000 to Goa. During the Spanish Empire, approximately 550,000 Spanish settlers migrated to Latin America. [180]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">British Empire</span> States and dominions ruled by the United Kingdom

The British Empire was composed of the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates, and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. It began with the overseas possessions and trading posts established by England between the late 16th and early 18th centuries. At its height it was the largest empire in history and, for over a century, was the foremost global power. By 1913, the British Empire held sway over 412 million people, 23 per cent of the world population at the time, and by 1920, it covered 35.5 million km2 (13.7 million sq mi), 24 per cent of the Earth's total land area. As a result, its constitutional, legal, linguistic, and cultural legacy is widespread. At the peak of its power, it was described as "the empire on which the sun never sets", as the Sun was always shining on at least one of its territories.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Colony</span> Territory governed by another country

In modern parlance, a colony is a territory subject to a form of foreign rule. Though dominated by the foreign colonizers, colonies remain separate from the administration of the original country of the colonizers, the metropolitan state. This administrative colonial separation makes colonies neither incorporated territories, nor client states. Some colonies have been organized either as dependent territories that are not sufficiently self-governed, or as self-governed colonies controlled by colonial settlers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Imperialism</span> Policy or ideology of extending a nations rule over foreign nations

Imperialism is the state policy, practice, or advocacy of extending power and dominion, especially by direct territorial acquisition or by gaining political and economic control of other areas, often through employing hard power, but also soft power. While related to the concepts of colonialism and empire, imperialism is a distinct concept that can apply to other forms of expansion and many forms of government.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of the Caribbean</span> Historical development of the Caribbean

The history of the Caribbean reveals the significant role the region played in the colonial struggles of the European powers since the 15th century. In 1492, Christopher Columbus landed in the Caribbean and claimed the region for Spain. The following year, the first Spanish settlements were established in the Caribbean. Although the Spanish conquests of the Aztec empire and the Inca empire in the early sixteenth century made Mexico and Peru more desirable places for Spanish exploration and settlement, the Caribbean remained strategically important.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">European colonization of the Americas</span> European colonization

During the Age of Discovery, a large scale European colonization of the Americas took place between about 1492 and 1800. Although the Norse had explored and colonized areas of the North Atlantic, colonizing Greenland and creating a short term settlement near the northern tip of Newfoundland circa 1000 CE, the later and more well-known wave by the European powers is what formally constitutes as beginning of colonization, involving the continents of North America and South America. During this time, several empires from Europe—primarily Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Russia, the Netherlands and Sweden—began to explore and claim the land, natural resources and human capital of the Americas, resulting in the displacement, disestablishment, enslavement, and in many cases, genocide of the indigenous peoples, and the establishment of several settler colonial states. Some formerly European settler colonies—including New Mexico, Alaska, the Prairies or northern Great Plains, and the "Northwest Territories" in North America; the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, the Yucatán Peninsula, and the Darién Gap in Central America; and the northwest Amazon, the central Andes, and the Guianas in South America—remain relatively rural, sparsely populated and Indigenous into the 21st century. Russia began colonizing the Pacific Northwest in the mid-18th century, seeking pelts for the fur trade. Many of the social structures—including religions, political boundaries, and linguae francae—which predominate the Western Hemisphere in the 21st century are the descendants of the structures which were established during this period.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">New Imperialism</span> Colonial expansion in late 19th and early 20th centuries

In historical contexts, New Imperialism characterizes a period of colonial expansion by European powers, the United States, and Japan during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The period featured an unprecedented pursuit of overseas territorial acquisitions. At the time, states focused on building their empires with new technological advances and developments, expanding their territory through conquest, and exploiting the resources of the subjugated countries. During the era of New Imperialism, the Western powers individually conquered almost all of Africa and parts of Asia. The new wave of imperialism reflected ongoing rivalries among the great powers, the economic desire for new resources and markets, and a "civilizing mission" ethos. Many of the colonies established during this era gained independence during the era of decolonization that followed World War II.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">French colonial empire</span> Colonies of the French Kingdom and French Republic (1534–1980)

The French colonial empire comprised the overseas colonies, protectorates and mandate territories that came under French rule from the 16th century onward. A distinction is generally made between the "First French Colonial Empire", that existed until 1814, by which time most of it had been lost or sold, and the "Second French Colonial Empire", which began with the conquest of Algiers in 1830. At its apex between the two world wars, the second French colonial empire was the second-largest colonial empire in the world behind the British Empire.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Scramble for Africa</span> Invasion, occupation, colonization, and annexation of Africa by European colonial powers

The Scramble for Africa, also called the Partition of Africa, or Conquest of Africa, was the invasion, annexation, division, and colonization of most of Africa by seven Western European powers during a short period known as New Imperialism. The 10 percent of Africa that was under formal European control in 1870 increased to almost 90 percent by 1914, with only Ethiopia (Abyssinia) and Liberia remaining independent, although Ethiopia would later be invaded and occupied by Italy for five years, from 1936 to 1941.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Berlin Conference</span> International conference that regulated European colonisation and trade in Africa

The Berlin Conference of 1884–1885, also known as the Congo Conference or West Africa Conference, regulated European colonisation and trade in Africa during the New Imperialism period and coincided with Germany's sudden emergence as an imperial power. The conference was organized by Otto von Bismarck, the first chancellor of Germany. Its outcome, the General Act of the Berlin Conference, can be seen as the formalisation of the Scramble for Africa, but some scholars of history warn against an overemphasis of its role in the colonial partitioning of Africa and draw attention to bilateral agreements concluded before and after the conference. The conference contributed to ushering in a period of heightened colonial activity by European powers, which eliminated or overrode most existing forms of African autonomy and self-governance. Of the fourteen countries being represented, six of them – Austria-Hungary, Russia, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden–Norway, and the United States – came home without any formal possessions in Africa.

Decolonization or decolonisation is the undoing of colonialism, the latter being the process whereby imperial nations establish and dominate foreign territories, often overseas. Some scholars of decolonization focus especially on independence movements in the colonies and the collapse of global colonial empires. Other scholars extend the meaning to include economic, cultural and psychological aspects of the colonial experience.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">German colonial empire</span> Colonial empire governed by Germany between 1884 and 1918

The German colonial empire constituted the overseas colonies, dependencies and territories of the German Empire. Unified in the early 1870s, the chancellor of this time period was Otto von Bismarck. Short-lived attempts at colonization by individual German states had occurred in preceding centuries, but Bismarck resisted pressure to construct a colonial empire until the Scramble for Africa in 1884. Claiming much of the left-over uncolonized areas of Africa, Germany built the third-largest colonial empire at the time, after the British and French. The German Colonial Empire encompassed parts of several African countries, including parts of present-day Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Namibia, Cameroon, Gabon, Congo, Central African Republic, Chad, Nigeria, Togo, Ghana, as well as northeastern New Guinea, Samoa and numerous Micronesian islands. Including mainland Germany, the empire had a total land area of 3,503,352 square kilometers and population of 80,125,993 people.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Slavery in the British and French Caribbean</span> Slavery in British and French possessions in the Caribbean

Slavery in the British and French Caribbean refers to slavery in the parts of the Caribbean dominated by France or the British Empire.

The civilizing mission or civilising mission is a political rationale for military intervention and for colonization purporting to facilitate the modernization and the Westernization of indigenous peoples, especially in the period from the 15th to the 20th centuries. As a principle of European culture, the term was most prominently used in justifying French colonialism in the late-15th to mid-20th centuries. The civilizing mission was the cultural justification for the colonial exploitation of French Algeria, French West Africa, French Indochina, Portuguese Angola and Portuguese Guinea, Portuguese Mozambique and Portuguese Timor, among other colonies. The civilizing mission also was a popular justification for the British, German, and American colonialism. In the Russian Empire, it was also associated with the Russian conquest of Central Asia and the Russification of that region. The western European colonial powers claimed that, as Christian nations, they were duty-bound to disseminate Western civilization to what Europeans perceived as the heathen and primitive cultures of the Eastern world.

French Africa includes all the historic holdings of France on the African continent.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Analysis of Western European colonialism and colonization</span>

European colonialism and colonization was the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over other societies and territories, founding a colony, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically. For example, colonial policies, such as the type of rule implemented, the nature of investments, and identity of the colonizers, are cited as impacting postcolonial states. Examination of the state-building process, economic development, and cultural norms and mores shows the direct and indirect consequences of colonialism on the postcolonial states.

This is a non-exhaustive chronology of colonialism-related events, which may reflect political events, cultural events, and important global events that have influenced colonization and decolonization. See also Timeline of imperialism.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">First wave of European colonization</span> Aspect of history

The first European colonization wave began with Castilian and Portuguese conquests and explorations, and primarily involved the European colonization of the Americas, though it also included the establishment of European colonies in India and in Maritime Southeast Asia. During this period, European interests in Africa primarily focused on the establishment of trading posts there, particularly for the African slave trade. The wave ended with British annexation of Kingdom of Kandy in 1815 and founding of colony of Singapore in 1819.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of colonialism</span> Aspect of history

The historical phenomenon of colonization is one that stretches around the globe and across time. Ancient and medieval colonialism was practiced by the Phoenicians, the Greeks, the Turks, and the Arabs.

The history of external colonisation of Africa can be dated back from ancient, medieval, or modern history, depending on how the term colonisation is defined.

Settler colonialism is a structure that perpetuates the elimination of indigenous people and cultures to replace them with a settler society. Some, but not all, scholars argue that settler colonialism is inherently genocidal. It may be enacted by a variety of means ranging from violent depopulation of the previous inhabitants to less deadly means such as assimilation or recognition of indigenous identity within a colonial framework.


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Further reading

Primary sources