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World History

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2. Colonization

What is colonialism?

Colonialism defined as the practice of conquering colonies and making them independent. A colony is described as a country that is being subjugated by a metropolitan capitalist country. However, it can be said that colonialism is equalled to the imperialist domination system of a pre-capitalist country. Moreover, an occupation or a direct rule over a country by another country is not necessarily an aspect of imperialism. The essential aspect lies here is EXPLOITATION and that too with or without direct political control. History says that most of the countries of Africa, Asia, and other parts of the world remained under the control of one or many imperialist countries.

The domination of lives and cultures of different communities and individuals defines the goals of colonialism. The other goal is to extract all the economic benefits from the colonised country. It results in the overall control in terms of political, economic, cultural and social life of the natives. It is subtle in nature while imperialism is aggressive.

Types of Colonialism

There are two major types of the colonization on a historical basis:

  • Settler colonialism – Here, a large number of the immigrants, often motivated by religious, political, or economic reasons, settle in a new place and dominate the local indigenous population in terms of social, economic, and .political
  • Exploitation colonialism – It involves relatively less number of immigrants and predominantly centres on the exploitation of the resources of the colonised country.

Therefore, colonialism signifies a pair of unequal relationships between the colonial power and the colony, and also between the colonists and the indigenous population; relationships in which the colonists acquire benefits (disproportionally), at the expense of the local population.

What is the difference between Colonialism, Imperialism And New Imperialism

Colonialism as mentioned above signifies a system through which a country conquers and rules over other countries. It basically involves the exploitation of resources of the colony and the colonial country benefits from those resources.

Imperialism is defined as an ability to outline or exerting the influence beyond the borders. This can be achieved through various methods for example, militarism, colonialism, cultural hegemony, and others. Therefore, it can be said that colonialism is a practice and imperialism is the idea driving that practice.

New Imperialism is referred to as the period when territorial expansion by the United States, Japan, and other European countries took place. This was happening during the late 19th century and early 20th century. It had resulted in the subjugation or oppression of Asian and African countries. Though it is different from the early phases of imperialistic expansion; Old imperialism.

The new imperialism has started with the advent of the industrial revolution. Even though, in order to maximize the economic profits from resource-rich countries, this was the new tactics of imperialism discovered by the industrialized countries. In comparison to the old form of imperialism, in which Colonialism formed the main method of pursuing imperialistic ambitions and goals.

What are the causes of Colonialism?

To propagate Christianity: During the Age of Discovery; the Catholic Church started a major effort to propagate Christianity in the New World by converting indigenous peoples. As such, the establishment of Christian missions went complementary with the colonizing efforts of European powers such as Spain, France and Portugal.

Mercantilism:  Mercantilist policy was based on the premise that the economic development of the mother country (Metropolis) was significant and the colonies should be governed in such a manner that they lead to the benefit of the mother country that is the metropolis.

Economic Benefits: The countries like England, France, Spain and Portugal conquered colonies primarily for the economic benefits.

Rivalry between European powers: The colonization was initiated by Spain and Portugal. Gradually, other countries like France and England also joined the race. Acquiring new colonies became a thing of national pride. Moreover, due to various economic benefits of colonization, a phase of ‘competitive colonialism’ also started among them.

Push Factors: The enclosure movement, taking land out of cultivation and converting it into pasture land for sheep, was creating a surplus population. Sheep raising, more profitable than traditional agriculture, required fewer labourers. The new lands in America gave these unemployed a place to work.

New lands and trade routes discovery was also one of the biggest cause of colonialism.

The four important characteristics of colonization

  • political and legal domination over an alien society.
  • relations of economics and political dependence.
  • exploitation between imperial powers and the colony.
  • racial and cultural inequality.

Gist of European Colonies in India

The process of directing Indo-European commerce was initiated with Vasco da Gama with his early discovery of sea route to India in 1498. Trading posts in Daman and Diu, Goa, and Bombay were established by these Portuguese. The next in the line were the Dutch, English, and lastly the French. Not having a sense of togetherness, regional rivalry, were some of the reasons for internal conflicts among Indian kingdoms. Also, the technological advancement and Economic benefits of Europeans were the main reasons behind political and military control over lands. However, all European powers conquered various regions of southern and eastern India, subsequently they lost all their territories in India to the British, with the exception of the few outposts, like French of Pondichéry, the Dutch port in Travancore, and the Portuguese colonies of Goa, Daman, and Diu.

What are the impacts of Colonialism?

  • Columbian Exchange: This term refers to the widespread exchange of plants, animals, culture, technology, human populations, and ideas that happened between the new world (Americas) and the Old World (Eurasia) in the 15th and 16th centuries, as a result of European colonization and trade.
  • Slave Trade: To efficiently utilize the resources, colonizers needed an immense amount of labour. In the initial years, the European settlers met labour requirements by enslaving the native populations. However, the decline in the native population led to importing slaves from Africa which emerged as a lucrative alternative.
  • Mercantilism boost: Mercantilism, in a way, was both the cause as well as the effect of colonialism. Mercantile economic policies were definitely an impetus for the start of colonization. But subsequently, the benefits due to colonial exploitation further reinforced the ideology of mercantile capitalism and augmented its spread across Europe. As a result, these countries saw a very rapid increase in trade volume while colonies suffered proportionally.

Click here to read about decolonization.

Practice question:

  1. Differentiate between colonialism and imperialism. What were the reasons behind its rise?
  2. Explain colonialism and neo-colonialism.