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Chart of non-self-governing territories (as of June 2012
). Non-Self-Governing.png
Chart of non-self-governing territories (as of June 2012).
Puerto Rico, sometimes called the world's oldest colony. STS034-76-88.jpg
Puerto Rico, sometimes called the world's oldest colony.

A colony is a territory under the immediate complete political control and occupied by settlers of a state, distinct from the home territory of the sovereign. For colonies in antiquity, city-states would often found their own colonies. Some colonies were historically countries, while others were territories without definite statehood from their inception.


The metropolitan state is the state that rules the colony. In Ancient Greece, the city that founded a colony was known as the metropolis. "Mother country" is a reference to the metropolitan state from the point of view of citizens who live in its colony. There is a United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.

Unlike a puppet state or satellite state, a colony has no independent international representation, and its top-level administration is under direct control of the metropolitan state.

The term informal colony is used by some historians to refer to a country under the de facto control of another state, although this term is often contentious.


The word "colony" comes from the Latin word colōnia. This in turn derives from the word colōnus , which means colonist but also implies a farmer. Cologne is an example of a settlement preserving this etymology. Other, less obvious settlements that began as Roman colonia include cities from Belgrade to York. A tell-tale sign of a settlement once being a Roman colony is a city centre with a grid pattern. [2] The terminology is taken from architectural analogy, where a column pillar is beneath the (often stylized) head capital, which is also a biological analog of the body as subservient beneath the controlling head (with 'capital' coming from the Latin word caput, meaning 'head'). So colonies are not independently self-controlled, but rather are controlled from a separate entity that serves the capital function..

Roman colonies first appeared when the Romans conquered neighbouring Italic peoples. These were small farming settlements that appeared when the Romans had subdued an enemy in war. A colony could take many forms, as a trade outpost or a military base in enemy territory. Its original definition as a settlement created by people migrating from a central region to an outlying one became the modern definition.

Ancient examples

Modern historical examples

Current colonies

Map of the European Union in the world (prior to Britain's departure), with Overseas Countries and Territories and Outermost Regions. EU OCT and OMR map en.png
Map of the European Union in the world (prior to Britain's departure), with Overseas Countries and Territories and Outermost Regions.

The Special Committee on Decolonization maintains the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, which identifies areas the United Nations (though not without controversy) believes are colonies. Given that dependent territories have varying degrees of autonomy and political power in the affairs of the controlling state, there is disagreement over the classification of "colony".

See also

Related Research Articles

British Empire States and dominions ruled by the United Kingdom

The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates, and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. It originated 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% of the world population at the time, and by 1920, it covered 35,500,000 km2 (13,700,000 sq mi), 24% of the Earth's total land area. As a result, its political, legal, linguistic, and cultural legacy is widespread. At the peak of its power, the phrase "the empire on which the sun never sets" was often used to describe the British Empire, because its expanse around the globe meant that the sun was always shining on at least one of its territories.

Colonialism Creation and maintenance of colonies by people from another territory

Colonialism is the policy of a country seeking to extend or retain its authority over other people or territories, generally with the aim of economic dominance. In the process of colonisation, colonisers may impose their religion, economics, and other cultural practices on indigenous peoples. The foreign administrators rule the territory in pursuit of their interests, seeking to benefit from the colonised region's people and resources.

Imperialism Policy or ideology of extending a nations rule over foreign nations

Imperialism is a policy or ideology of extending a country's rule over foreign nations, often by military force or by gaining political and economic control of other areas. Imperialism has been common throughout recorded history, the earliest examples dating from the mid-third millennium BC. In recent times, it has often been considered morally reprehensible and prohibited by international law. As a result, propagandists operating internationally may use the term to denounce an opponent's foreign policy.

Western imperialism in Asia

Western imperialism in Asia involves the influence of people from Western Europe and associated states in Asian territories and waters. Much of this process stemmed from the 15th-century search for trade routes to China that led directly to the Age of Discovery, and the introduction of early modern warfare into what Europeans first called the East Indies and later the Far East. By the early 16th century, the Age of Sail greatly expanded Western European influence and development of the spice trade under colonialism. European-style colonial empires and imperialism operated in Asia throughout six centuries of colonialism, formally ending with the independence of the Portuguese Empire's last colony East Timor in 2002. The empires introduced Western concepts of nation and the multinational state. This article attempts to outline the consequent development of the Western concept of the nation state.

Colonization is a process by which a central system of power dominates the surrounding land and its components. Colonization refers strictly to migration, for example, to settler colonies in America or Australia, trading posts, and plantations, while colonialism to the existing indigenous peoples of styled "new territories". Colonization was linked to the spread of tens of millions from Western European states all over the world. In many settled colonies, Western European settlers eventually formed a large majority of the population after killing or driving away indigenous peoples. Examples include the Americas, Australia and New Zealand. These colonies were occasionally called 'neo-Europes'. In other places, Western European settlers formed minority groups, which often used more advanced weaponry to dominate the people initially living in their places of settlement.

British colonization of the Americas American Colonies of England and then Great Britain and the United Kingdom

The British colonization of the Americas describes the history of the establishment of control, settlement, and decolonization of the continents of the Americas by the Kingdom of England, the Kingdom of Scotland, and, after the union of those two countries in 1707, the Kingdom of Great Britain. Colonization efforts began in the 16th century with efforts by the Kingdom of England to establish colonies in North America, but the first permanent British colony was established in Jamestown in 1607. Over the next several centuries more colonies were established in North America, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. Though most British colonies in the Americas eventually gained independence, some colonies have opted to remain under Britain's jurisdiction as British Overseas Territories.

Decolonization or decolonisation is the undoing of colonialism, the latter being the process whereby a nation establishes and maintains its domination on overseas territories. The concept particularly applies to the dismantlement, during the second half of the 20th century, of the colonial empires established prior to World War I throughout the world. Scholars focus especially on the movements in the colonies demanding independence, such as Creole nationalism.

Colonies in antiquity Aspect of history

Colonies in antiquity were post-Iron Age city-states founded from a mother-city, not from a territory-at-large. Bonds between a colony and its metropolis remained often close, and took specific forms during the period of classical antiquity. Generally, colonies founded by the ancient Phoenicians, Carthage, Rome, Alexander the Great and his successors remained tied to their metropolis, but Greek colonies of the Archaic and Classical eras were sovereign and self-governing from their inception. While Greek colonies were often founded to solve social unrest in the mother-city, by expelling a part of the population, Hellenistic, Roman, Carthaginian, and Han Chinese colonies were used for expansion and empire-building.

Crown colony, dependent territory or royal colony were dependent territories under the administration of United Kingdom overseas territories that were controlled by the British Government. As such they are examples of dependencies that fall under colonial rule. All Crown colonies were renamed "British Dependent Territories" in 1981. Since 2002, Crown colonies have been known officially as British Overseas Territories.

The territorial evolution of the British Empire is considered to have begun with the foundation of the English colonial empire in the late 16th century. Since then, many territories around the world have been under the control of the United Kingdom or its predecessor states

Decolonisation of Africa 1950s–70s independence of African colonies from Western European powers

The decolonisation of Africa took place in the mid-to-late 1950s to 1975, with sudden and radical regime changes on the continent as colonial governments made the transition to independent states; this was often quite unorganized and marred with violence and political turmoil. There was widespread unrest, with organized revolts in both northern and sub-Saharan colonies including the Algerian War in French Algeria, the Angolan War of Independence in Portuguese Angola, the Congo Crisis in the Belgian Congo, and the Mau Mau Uprising in British Kenya.

United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories UN General Assembly document listing places that are not self-governing and subject to decolonization

The United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories is a list of places that the United Nations General Assembly deems to be "non-self-governing" and subject to the decolonization process. Chapter XI of the United Nations Charter embodies a "Declaration on Non-Self-Governing Territories" which declares that the interests of the occupants of dependent territories are paramount and requires member states of the United Nations in control of non-self-governing territories to submit annual information reports concerning the development of those territories. Since 1946, the General Assembly has maintained a list of non-self governing territories under member states' control. Since its inception, dozens of territories have been removed from the list, typically when they attained independence or internal self-government, while other territories have been added as new administering countries joined the United Nations or the General Assembly reassessed the status of certain territories.

British West Africa

British West Africa was the collective name for British colonies in West Africa during the colonial period, either in the general geographical sense or the formal colonial administrative entity. The United Kingdom held varying parts of these territories or the whole throughout the 19th century. From west to east, the colonies became the independent countries of The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Nigeria. Until independence, Ghana was referred to as the Gold Coast.

A colonial empire is a collective of territories, either contiguous with the imperial center or located overseas, settled by the population of a certain state and governed by that state.

Decolonization of the Americas Process by which the countries in the Americas gained their independence from European rule

Decolonization of the Americas refers to the process by which the countries in the Americas gained their independence from European rule. The American Revolution was the first in the Americas, and the British defeat in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) was a surprising victory against a great power. The French Revolution in Europe followed, and collectively these events had profound effects on the British, Spanish, Portuguese, and French colonies in the Americas. A revolutionary wave followed, resulting in the creation of a number of independent countries in Latin America. The Haitian Revolution lasted from 1791 to 1804 and resulted in the independence of the French slave colony. The Peninsular War with France, which resulted from the Napoleonic occupation of Spain, caused Spanish Creoles in Spanish America to question their allegiance to Spain, stoking independence movements that culminated in various Spanish American wars of independence, which lasted almost two decades. At the same time, the Portuguese monarchy relocated to Brazil during Portugal's French occupation. After the royal court returned to Lisbon, the prince regent, Pedro, remained in Brazil and in 1822 successfully declared himself emperor of a newly independent Brazil.

Scandinavian colonialism is a subdivision within broader colonial studies that discusses the role of Scandinavian nations in achieving economic benefits from outside of their own cultural sphere. The field ranges from studying the Sami in relation to the Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish states, to activities of the Danish Colonial Empire and Swedish Empire in Africa and on Caribbean islands such as St. Thomas and Saint-Barthélemy.

History of colonialism 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, and the crusaders, among others. Colonialism in the modern sense began with the "Age of Discovery", led by Portuguese, and then by the Spanish exploration of the Americas, the coasts of Africa, the Middle East, India and East Asia. The Portuguese and Spanish empires were the first global empires because they were the first to stretch across different continents, covering vast territories around the globe. Between 1580 and 1640, the two empires were both ruled by the Spanish monarchs in personal union. During the late 16th and 17th centuries, England, France and the Dutch Republic also established their own overseas empires, in direct competition with each other.

The history of external colonisation of Africa can be dated from ancient, medieval, or modern history, depending on how the term colonisation is defined. In popular parlance, discussions of colonialism in Africa usually focus on the European conquests of the New Imperialism and the Scramble for Africa (1884-1914) era, followed by gradual decolonisation. The principal powers involved in the modern colonisation of Africa are Britain, France, Germany, Portugal, and Italy. In nearly all African countries today, the language used in government and media is the one imposed by a recent colonial power.

Monarchies in the Americas

There are 13 monarchies in the Americas. Each is a constitutional monarchy, wherein the sovereign inherits his or her office, usually keeping it until death or abdication, and is bound by laws and customs in the exercise of their powers. Ten of these monarchies are independent states; they equally share Queen Elizabeth II, who resides primarily in the United Kingdom, as their respective sovereign, making them part of a global group known as the Commonwealth realms. The others are dependencies of three European monarchies. As such, none of the monarchies in the Americas have a permanently residing monarch.

The decolonization of Asia was the gradual growth of independence movements in Asia, leading ultimately to the retreat of foreign powers and the creation of a number of nation-states in the region. A number of events were catalysts for this shift, most importantly the Second World War. Prior to World War II, some countries had already proclaimed independence.


  1. Puerto Rico:The Trials of the Oldest Colony in the World. By Jose Trias Monge. Yale University Press. 1997.
  2. James S. Jeffers (1999). The Greco-Roman world of the New Testament era: exploring the background of early Christianity. InterVarsity Press. pp.  52–53. ISBN   978-0-8308-1589-0.
  3. De Lario, Damaso; de Lario Ramírez, Dámaso (2008). "Philip II and the "Philippine Referendum" of 1599". Re-shaping the world: Philip II of Spain and his time. Ateneo de Manila University Press. ISBN   978-971-550-556-7.
  4. In 1521, an expedition led by Ferdinand Magellan landed in the islands, and Ruy López de Villalobos named the islands Las Islas Filipinas in honor of Spain's Prince Philip (later to become Philip I of Castile). During a later expedition in 1564, Miguel López de Legazpi conquered the Philippines for Spain. However, it can be argued that Spain's legitimate sovereignty over the islands commenced following a popular referendum in 1599. [3]
  5. Tonio Andrade, How Taiwan Became Chinese: Dutch, Spanish, and Han Colonization in the Seventeenth Century, Columbia University Press.

Further reading

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