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A protectorate, in its inception adopted by modern international law, is a dependent territory that has been granted local autonomy and some independence while still retaining the suzerainty of a greater sovereign state. In exchange for this, the protectorate usually accepts specified obligations, which may vary greatly, depending on the real nature of their relationship. Therefore, a protectorate remains an autonomous part of a sovereign state. They are different from colonies as they have local rulers and people ruling over the territory and experience rare cases of immigration of settlers from the country it has suzerainty of. However, a state which remains under the protection of another state but still retains independence is known as a protected state and is different from protectorates.

International law regulations governing international relations

International law is the set of rules generally regarded and accepted in relations between nations. It serves as a framework for the practice of stable and organized international relations. International law differs from state-based legal systems in that it is primarily applicable to countries rather than to individual citizens. National law may become international law when treaties permit national jurisdiction to supranational tribunals such as the European Court of Human Rights or the International Criminal Court. Treaties such as the Geneva Conventions may require national law to conform to respective parts.

A dependent territory, dependent area or dependency is a territory that does not possess full political independence or sovereignty as a sovereign state yet remains politically outside the controlling state's integral area.

In development or moral, political, and bioethical philosophy, autonomy is the capacity to make an informed, un-coerced decision. Autonomous organizations or institutions are independent or self-governing. Autonomy can also be defined from human resource perspective and it means a level of discretion granted to an employee in his or her work. In such cases, autonomy is known to bring some sense of job satisfaction among the employees. Autonomy is a term that is also widely used in the field of medicine. As a matter of fact, personal autonomy is greatly recognized and valued in health care.



Amical protection

In amical protection, the terms are often very favorable for the protectorate. The political interest of the protector is frequently moral (a matter of accepted moral obligation, prestige, ideology, internal popularity, dynastic, historical, or ethno-cultural ties) or countering a rival or enemy power (e.g., preventing the rival from obtaining or maintaining control of areas of strategic importance). This may involve a very weak protectorate surrendering control of its external relations; this, however, may not constitute any real sacrifice, as the protectorate may not have been able to have similar use of them without the protector's strength.

Dynasty sequence of rulers considered members of the same family

A dynasty is a sequence of rulers from the same family, usually in the context of a feudal or monarchical system, but sometimes also appearing in elective republics. Alternative terms for "dynasty" may include "house", "family" and "clan", among others. The longest-surviving dynasty in the world is the Imperial House of Japan, otherwise known as the Yamato dynasty, whose reign is traditionally dated to 660 BC.

Amical protection was frequently extended by the great powers to other Christian (generally European) states and to smaller states that had no significant importance[ ambiguous ]. In the post-1815 period, non-Christian states (such as China's Qing dynasty) also provided amical protection towards other much weaker states.

Great power nation that has great political, social, and economic influence

A great power is a sovereign state that is recognized as having the ability and expertise to exert its influence on a global scale. Great powers characteristically possess military and economic strength, as well as diplomatic and soft power influence, which may cause middle or small powers to consider the great powers' opinions before taking actions of their own. International relations theorists have posited that great power status can be characterized into power capabilities, spatial aspects, and status dimensions.

In modern times, a form of amical protection can be seen as an important or defining feature of microstates. According to the definition proposed by Dumienski (2014): "microstates are modern protected states, i.e. sovereign states that have been able to unilaterally depute certain attributes of sovereignty to larger powers in exchange for benign protection of their political and economic viability against their geographic or demographic constraints". [1] Examples of microstates understood as modern protected states include Bhutan, [2] Liechtenstein, San Marino, Monaco, Niue, the Cook Islands, and Palau.

Microstate sovereign state having a very small population or very small land area

A microstate or ministate is a sovereign state having a very small population or very small land area, and usually both. The meanings of "state" and "very small" are not well-defined in international law. Recent attempts, since 2010, to define microstates have focused on identifying political entities with unique qualitative features linked to their geographic or demographic limitations. According to a qualitative definition, microstates are: "modern protected states, i.e. sovereign states that have been able to unilaterally depute certain attributes of sovereignty to larger powers in exchange for benign protection of their political and economic viability against their geographic or demographic constraints." In line with this and most other definitions, examples of microstates include Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino, Andorra, the Cook Islands, Niue, and the Federated States of Micronesia.

Bhutan Landlocked kingdom in Eastern Himalayas

Bhutan, officially the Kingdom of Bhutan, is a landlocked country in South Asia. Located in the Eastern Himalayas, it is bordered by Tibet Autonomous Region of China in the north, the Sikkim state of India and the Chumbi Valley of Tibet in the west, the Arunachal Pradesh state of India in the east, and the states of Assam and West Bengal in the south. Bhutan is geopolitically in South Asia and is the region's second least populous nation after the Maldives. Thimphu is its capital and largest city, while Phuntsholing is its financial center.

Liechtenstein principality in western-central Europe

Liechtenstein, officially the Principality of Liechtenstein, is a doubly landlocked German-speaking microstate in Alpine Central Europe. The principality is a constitutional monarchy headed by the Prince of Liechtenstein.

Colonial protection

Conditions regarding protection are generally much less generous for areas of colonial protection. The protectorate was often reduced to a de facto condition similar to a colony, but using the pre-existing native state as an agent of indirect rule. Occasionally, a protectorate was established by or exercised by the other form of indirect rule: a chartered company, which becomes a de facto state in its European home state (but geographically overseas), allowed to be an independent country which has its own foreign policy and generally its own armed forces.

In law and government, de facto describes practices that exist in reality, even if not officially recognised by laws. It is commonly used to refer to what happens in practice, in contrast with de jure, which refers to things that happen according to law. Unofficial customs that are widely accepted are sometimes called de facto standards.

Princely state Type of vassal state

A princely state, also called native state, feudatory state or Indian state, was a vassal state under a local or regional ruler in a subsidiary alliance with the British Raj. Though the history of the princely states of the subcontinent dates from at least the classical period of Indian history, the predominant usage of the term princely state specifically refers to a semi-sovereign principality on the Indian subcontinent during the British Raj that was not directly governed by the British, but rather by a local ruler, subject to a form of indirect rule on some matters. In actual fact, the imprecise doctrine of paramountcy allowed the government of British India to interfere in the internal affairs of princely states individually or collectively and issue edicts that applied to all of India when it deemed it necessary.

Indirect rule system of colonial government, in which the day-to-day government and administration of areas both small and large was left in the hands of traditional rulers, while external affairs, taxation, and communications were left to colonial powers

Indirect rule was a system of governance used by the British and French to control parts of their colonial empires, particularly in Africa and Asia, through pre-existing indigenous power structures. These dependencies were often called "protectorates" or "trucial states". By this system, the day-to-day government and administration of areas both small and large was left in the hands of traditional rulers, who gained prestige and the stability and protection afforded by the Pax Britannica, at the cost of losing control of their external affairs, and often of taxation, communications, and other matters, usually with a small number of European "advisors" effectively overseeing the government of large numbers of people spread over extensive areas.

In fact, protectorates were declared despite not being duly entered into by the traditional states supposedly being protected, or only by a party of dubious authority in those states. Colonial protectors frequently decided to reshuffle several protectorates into a new, artificial unit without consulting the protectorates, a logic disrespectful of the theoretical duty of a protector to help maintain its protectorates' status and integrity. The Berlin agreement of February 26, 1885 allowed European colonial powers to establish protectorates in Black Africa (the last region to be divided among them) by diplomatic notification, even without actual possession on the ground. This aspect of history is referred to as the Scramble for Africa. A similar case is the formal use of such terms as colony and protectorate for an amalgamation, convenient only for the colonizer or protector, of adjacent territories over which it held (de facto) sway by protective or "raw" colonial logic.

Sub-Saharan Africa area of the continent of Africa that lies south of the Sahara Desert

The sub-Saharan Africa is, geographically, the area of the continent of Africa that lies south of the Sahara. According to the United Nations, it consists of all African countries that are fully or partially located south of the Sahara. It contrasts with North Africa, whose territories are part of the League of Arab states within the Arab world. The states of Somalia, Djibouti, Comoros and the Arabic speaking Mauritania are however geographically in sub-Saharan Africa, although they are members of the Arab League as well. The UN Development Program lists 46 of Africa’s 54 countries as “sub-Saharan,” excluding Algeria, Djibouti, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Somalia, Sudan and Tunisia.

Scramble for Africa invasion and occupation, colonization and annexation of African territory by European powers

The Scramble for Africa was the occupation, division, and colonization of African territory by European powers during the period of the New Imperialism, between 1881 and 1914. It is also called the Partition of Africa and the Conquest of Africa by some. In 1870, only 10 percent of Africa was under formal European control; by 1914 it had increased to almost 90 percent of the continent, with only Ethiopia (Abyssinia) and Liberia still being independent. With the Italian occupation of Ethiopia in 1936, only Liberia remained independent. There were multiple motivations including the quest for national prestige, tensions between pairs of European powers, religious missionary zeal and internal African native politics.

Foreign relations

In practice, a protectorate often has direct foreign relations only with the protecting power, so other states must deal with it by approaching the protector. Similarly, the protectorate rarely takes military action on its own, but relies on the protector for its defence. This is distinct from annexation, in that the protector has no formal power to control the internal affairs of the protectorate.

Protectorates differ from League of Nations mandates and their successors, United Nations Trust Territories, whose administration is supervised, in varying degrees, by the international community. A protectorate formally enters into the protection through a bilateral agreement with the protector, while international mandates are stewarded by the world community-representing body, with or without a de facto administering power.

British protectorates

Chinese protectorates

Han dynasty:

Tang dynasty:

Yuan dynasty:

Dutch protectorates

French protectorates


Arab world and Madagascar

Sub-Saharan Africa

1960 stamp of Bechuanaland Protectorate with the portraits of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II 1960 6d Bechuanaland Protectorate stamp.jpg
1960 stamp of Bechuanaland Protectorate with the portraits of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II

The legal regime of "protection" was the formal legal structure under which French colonial forces expanded in Africa between the 1830s and 1900. Almost every pre-existing state in the area later covered by French West Africa was placed under protectorate status at some point, although direct rule gradually replaced protectorate agreements. Formal ruling structures, or fictive recreations of them, were largely retained as the lowest level authority figure in the French Cercles, with leaders appointed and removed by French officials. [6]


German protectorates

The German Empire used the word Schutzgebiet, literally protectorate, for all of its colonial possessions until they were lost during World War I, regardless of the actual level of government control. Cases involving indirect rule included:

During World War II, Nazi Germany designated the rump of occupied Czechoslovakia and Denmark as a protectorate:

Italian protectorates

In Europe:

In the colonial empire:

Japanese protectorates

Polish protectorates

Portuguese protectorates

Russian protectorates

Spanish protectorates

United States Protectorates

The Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau have a similar status (associated state) since their independence.

Contemporary usage by the United States

Some agencies of the United States government, such as the United States Environmental Protection Agency, still use the term protectorate to refer to insular areas of the United States such as Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This was also the case with the Philippines and (it can be argued via the Platt Amendment) Cuba at the end of Spanish colonial rule. Liberia was the only African nation that was a colony for the United States but the government had no control over the land as it was controlled by the privately owned American Colonization Society. It was, however, a protectorate from January 7, 1822 until the Liberian Declaration of Independence from the American Colonization Society in July 26, 1847. Liberia was founded and established as a homeland for freed African-Americans and ex-Caribbean slaves who left the United States and the Caribbean islands with help and support from the American Colonization Society. However, the agency responsible for the administration of those areas, the Office of Insular Affairs (OIA) within the United States Department of Interior, uses only the term "insular area" rather than protectorate.

United Nations protectorates

Joint protectorates

See also


  1. Dumieński, Zbigniew (2014). "Microstates as Modern Protected States: Towards a New Definition of Micro-Statehood" (PDF). Occasional Paper. Centre for Small State Studies. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
  2. Bedjaoui, Mohammed (1991), International Law: Achievements and Prospects, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, pp. 51–, ISBN   92-3-102716-6
  3. "A History of Korea: From Antiquity to the Present, by Michael J. Seth", p112
  4. Bedjaoui, Mohammed (1 January 1991). "International Law: Achievements and Prospects". Martinus Nijhoff Publishers via Google Books.
  5. Capaldo, Giuliana Ziccardi (1 January 1995). "Repertory of Decisions of the International Court of Justice (1947–1992)". Martinus Nijhoff Publishers via Google Books.
  6. See the classic account on this in Robert Delavignette. Freedom and Authority in French West Africa. London: Oxford University Press, (1950). The more recent statndard studies on French expansion include:
    Robert Aldrich. Greater France: A History of French Overseas Expansion. Palgrave MacMillan (1996) ISBN   0-312-16000-3.
    Alice L. Conklin. A Mission to Civilize: The Republican Idea of Empire in France and West Africa 1895–1930. Stanford: Stanford University Press (1998), ISBN   978-0-8047-2999-4.
    Patrick Manning. Francophone Sub-Saharan Africa, 1880–1995. Cambridge University Press (1998) ISBN   0-521-64255-8.
    Jean Suret-Canale. Afrique Noire: l'Ere Coloniale (Editions Sociales, Paris, 1971); Eng. translation, French Colonialism in Tropical Africa, 1900 1945. (New York, 1971).
  7. C. W. Newbury. Aspects of French Policy in the Pacific, 1853–1906. The Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 27, No. 1 (Feb., 1958), pp. 45–56
  8. Gonschor, Lorenz Rudolf (August 2008). Law as a Tool of Oppression and Liberation: Institutional Histories and Perspectives on Political Independence in Hawaiʻi, Tahiti Nui/French Polynesia and Rapa Nui. Honolulu: University of Hawaii at Manoa. pp. 56–59. hdl:10125/20375.