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Colonialism occurs when a country or a nation takes control of other lands, regions, or territories outside of its borders (boundaries of the country) by turning those other lands, regions, or territories into a colony. Usually, it is a more powerful, richer country that takes control of a smaller, less powerful region or territory. Sometimes the words "colonialism" and "imperialism" are used to mean the same thing.
In the 1700s and 1800s, many of the richer, more powerful European countries (such as Britain, France, Spain, and the Netherlands) established colonies in the continents of Africa, South America, Asia, and the Caribbean.
Some countries use colonialism to get more land for their people to live in. They helped settlers move to the new area. The local people living in the land or territories were usually moved away by using force and violence from armies. To protect these settlers from the local residents who were pushed aside, colonial nations often set up a military fort or colonial police system.
Other countries use colonialism to get more land so that they can use the land for farming or to extract (take out) resources such as trees (wood), coal, or metals, or to create a local government or military fort.
Other countries use colonialism so that they can get workers from the poorer country to work in factories or farms (either in the richer country, or in the poorer country). In the past, powerful countries that were colonizing poorer countries or regions often forced the people from the poorer countries to work as slaves.
Later, the Ancient Greeks expanded their territories with colonies. Ancient Greece was many city-states. Each city was independent with a government in place. Those cities also fought wars against each other and traded goods. To get more influence, or to secure a trade route, the city would send settlers to a new place. These people would then make a new city called a colony. Sometimes a new city had to pay some form of taxes to the mother city in exchange for protection, for example. The colonies, however, ruled themselves. The mother city did not send them a governor. Syracuse is the most famous of these Greek colonies.
If the Greek settlers found a local tribe living in the new territory, they would fight to force them to leave. The local tribe was usually made into slaves. The new colony would exploit the land it found, by growing crops or by raising cattle.
Ancient Rome invented the word "colonia" from the word "colonus" meaning "farmer". "Colonia" at that time meant a new town to which some Romans moved, including farmers. Many of the settlers were veterans. In later centuries the word "colony" less often meant settlers, and more often meant rule by foreigners.
Types of colonialism
There are several different types of colonialism. Some countries that expanded their territory made settler colonies. Some countries that started out as settler colonies include the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the states of Latin America. In all of these countries, people from European countries moved to the best parts of the new place, and forced the indigenous peoples (such as Indians, Maori, etc.) to move. When the local people or tribes had to move, it caused a lot of problems. Many of these indigenous peoples were also enslaved, killed through genocide or died in pandemics because they had no immunity against infectious diseases brought by the settlers.
With the plantation colony, the powerful, rich country use the poorer country's land to grow crops. Typically, slaves work on the farms. Examples of plantation colonies include Barbados, Saint-Domingue and Jamaica.
In some regions which were colonized, the settlers married the local people and had children with them. An example is Mexico, where a new people called the mestizos came from the marriages of the settlers and the local tribes. In other regions which were colonized, the settlers and the local people lived in separate areas, without living together or marrying. An example of this situation is French Algeria (when France colonized the African country of Algeria) or Southern Rhodesia.
Another type of colonialism is when a powerful country sets up (establishes) dependencies. With a dependency, the colonizing country does not send over thousands of settlers to the new territory. Instead, the colonizing country sets up administrators (a governing organization) that controls the existing local (native) populations or tribes. Examples include the British Raj, (geraldine) in which the British government controlled India; the Dutch East Indies, in which the Netherlands controlled parts of the East Indies; and the Japanese colonial empire, in which Japan controlled Asian territories.
Another type of colony is the trading post colony. Rich and powerful countries set up trading post colonies so that there would be a territory where trading, selling, and business could be conducted. The rich and powerful countries usually set up military forts or police forces to enforce the rules and laws of the colonizing country. Examples of trading colonies include Macau, Malacca, Deshima and Singapore.
Massive colonization took place in Ancient India too. But the history of colonization is attributed to Greece only. In Ancient India Colonization began not with political conquest but with cultural conquest. Hinduism, and after centuries Buddhism became the main source of colonization. It was a colonization that began with cultural expansion leading to economic colonization. Indians were in the role of masters for a few centuries and in the role of slaves for centuries.
- Liberal opposition to colonialism, imperialism and empire (pdf) Archived 2005-12-31 at the Wayback Machine - by professor Daniel Klein
- Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry
- Colonialism -Citizendium