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.
Colonialism is 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 colonies to trading only with the metropole. By the mid-19th century, however, 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.
In the aftermath of World War II colonial powers were forced to retreat between 1945–1975, when nearly all colonies gained independence, entering into changed colonial, so-called postcolonial and neocolonialist relations. Postcolonialism and neocolonialism has continued or shifted relations and ideologies of colonialism, justifying its continuation with facts such as development and new frontiers, as in exploring outer space for colonization.
Definitionsfounding Santiago de Chile
Collins English Dictionary defines colonialism as "the policy and practice of a power in extending control over weaker peoples or areas". 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". The Merriam-Webster Dictionary offers four definitions, including "something characteristic of a colony" and "control by one power over a dependent area or people". 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 "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".
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." In the book, Osterhammel asks, "How can 'colonialism' be defined independently from 'colony?'" He settles on a three-sentence definition:
Types of colonialism, 1927
Historians often distinguish between various overlapping forms of colonialism, which are classified into four types: settler colonialism, exploitation colonialism, surrogate colonialism, and internal colonialism.
- Settler colonialism involves large-scale immigration, often motivated by religious, political, or economic reasons. It aims largely to replace any existing population. Here, a large number of people emigrate to the colony for the purpose of staying and cultivating the land. Australia, Canada, and the United States all exemplify settler-colonial societies.
- Exploitation colonialism involves fewer colonists and focuses on the exploitation of natural resources or population as labour, typically to the benefit of the metropole. This category includes trading posts as well as larger colonies where colonists would constitute much of the political and economic administration. Prior to the end of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and widespread abolition, when indigenous labour was unavailable, slaves were often imported to the Americas, first by the Portuguese, and later by the Spanish, Dutch, French and British.
- Surrogate colonialism involves a settlement project supported by a colonial power, in which most of the settlers do not come from a same ethnic group as the ruling power.
- Internal colonialism is a notion of uneven structural power between areas of a state. The source of exploitation comes from within the state. This is demonstrated in the way control and exploitation may pass from whites from the colonising country to a white immigrant population within a newly independent country.
Socio-cultural evolutionAs 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 the vast majority of "Dutch" settlers were in fact Eurasians known as Indo-Europeans, formally belonging to the European legal class in the colony.
Colonial empires in 1800.svg|Map of colonial and land-based empires throughout the world in 1800 CE.
World 1914 empires colonies territory.PNG|Map of colonial and land-based empires throughout the world in 1914 CE.
World 1936 empires colonies territory.png|Map of colonial empires throughout the world in 1936 CE.
Colonization 1945.png|Map of colonial empires at the end of the Second World War, 1945 CE.
PremodernActivity that could be called colonialism has a long history starting with the Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans who all built colonies in antiquity. Phoenicia was an enterprising maritime trading culture that spread across the Mediterranean from 1550 BC to 300 BC and later the Greeks and Persians continued on this line of setting up colonies. The Romans would soon follow, setting up colonies throughout the Mediterranean, Northern Africa, and Western Asia. Beginning in the 7th century, Arabs colonized a substantial portion of the Middle East, Northern Africa, and parts of Asia and Europe. In the 9th century a new wave of Mediterranean colonisation had begun between competing states such as the Venetians, Genovese and Amalfians, invading the wealthy previously Byzantine or Eastern Roman islands and lands. Venice began with the conquest of Dalmatia and reached its greatest nominal extent at the conclusion of the Fourth Crusade in 1204, with the declaration of the acquisition of three octaves of the Byzantine Empire.
Modernof Spain and Portugal between 1580 and 1640
Modern colonialism started with the Portuguese Prince Henry the Navigator, initiating the Age of Exploration. Spain and soon later Portugal encountered the Americas through sea travel and built trading posts or conquered large extensions of land. For some people, it is this building of colonies across oceans that differentiates colonialism from other types of expansionism. These new lands were divided between the Spanish Empire and Portuguese Empire.
The 17th century saw the creation 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.
A first wave of independence was started by the American Revolutionary War, initiating a new phase for the British Empire. The Spanish Empire largely collapsed in the Americas with the Latin American wars of independence. However, many new colonies were established after this time, including the German colonial empire and Belgian colonial empire. In the late 19th century, many European powers were involved in the Scramble for Africa.
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. The Empire of Japan modelled itself on European colonial empires. Argentina and the Empire of Brazil fought for hegemony in South America. The United States of America gained overseas territories after the Spanish–American War for which the term "American Empire" was coined.
After the First World War, the victorious allies divided up the German colonial empire and much of the Ottoman Empire between themselves as League of Nations mandates. These territories were divided into three classes according to how quickly it was deemed that they would be ready for independence. The empires of Russia and Austria also collapsed.
After World War II decolonisation progressed rapidly. This was caused by a number of reasons. First, the Japanese victories in the Pacific War showed Indians and other subject peoples that the colonial powers were not invincible. Second, all the colonial powers were significantly weakened by World War II.
Dozens of independence movements and global political solidarity projects such as the Non-Aligned Movement were instrumental in the decolonisation efforts of former colonies. These included significant wars of independence fought in Indonesia, Vietnam, Algeria, and Kenya. Eventually, the European powers—pressured by the United States and Soviets—resigned themselves to decolonisation.
In 1962 the United Nations set up a Special Committee on Decolonisation, often called the Committee of 24, to encourage this process.