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colonialism history, features of colonialism, colonialism examples, colonialism in india, colonialism vs imperialism, effects of colonialism, colonialism in africa, stages of colonialism

Colonialism Meaning – The policy or practice of obtaining total or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers and exploiting it economically is known as Colonialism.

History of Colonialism 

The explorations or the voyages of discovery clubbed with the end of feudalism and technical innovations such as compass, astrolabe and art of mapping and development of better ships helped in finding the new lands.

The new found lands were rich in mineral resources and many had good harbours which were useful for development of ports that could serve as nodal points of trade .

The profits from goods imported from the new found lands of America , Asia and Africa led to a race for exploration.

Features of Colonialism

  • International Political Dimension –

It refers to the control of the colony (colonized people) by a foreign power that has defeated the colonized people and imposes its will on the colonized peoples that subjugate them militarily exploits them, deprives them of their autonomy, imposes them the culture and colonized values for the people of his image. The idea is to create a complete dependence on the colonizer.

  • Economic Objective –

The basis of colonialism is the economic exploitation of the colonies surplus. Monopoly trading period and allocation followed by a period of purchase of colonial products. The last step is to invest in the colony to expand the area of the subsequent appropriation.

  • Technological advantage –

The colonial powers had revolutionized their military capacity, both technologically. They used these advantages over those they colonized (for example, high-tech guns, unlike colonized nations, rocks or swords will not do so much)

  • Hegemonic ideology 

The colonizers’ ideology that justified colonialism, the colonizers saw themselves as a benevolent force, a force for good.

For example, they tried to modernize or give Christianity or another religion to those who colonized. they also thought that they were superior to the nations they colonized that made them feel superior.

Stages of colonialism

First stage (Period of monopoly trade and direct appropriation)

Here , the colonial powers focused on acquiring the monopoly of trade by destroying the native merchants .

They also directly appropriated or took over governmental revenues  through control over state power .

No basic changes were introduced in the colonial administration which made the British rule resemble not very different from traditional Indian empires .

Second stage (Exploitative trade and imperialist trend)

Colonizers focused on free trade where the colonies were expected to just serve as a source of raw materials and market of finished goods unconditionally.

The  colonizers tried to bring in the western political and administrative set up in colonies so that the empires of the west is strengthened for centuries to come.

Third stage (Era of foreign investments and international competition)

Greater Industrialization as a result of application of scientific knowledge and intensification of search for new markets .

In search for markets , raw materials and avenues for capital investment the colonial masters began

To divide and re- divide the word among themselves which made them to lower the degree of supremacy from absolute control to benevolent despotism in the colonies as a tool of pacification.

Colonialism in Different Continents & Examples

Colonialism in Africa

The geographical features such as difficult terrain , non –navigable rivers , etc ensured that colonialism footprint into mainland Africa was delayed and for a long time restricted only to coastal Africa .

In 19th century , publication of expeditions , accounts of explorers , knowledge of navigation implied that European companies could now reach into the interiors and transport out the mineral wealth to the coasts for further exports .

After the colonization of Congo by king Leopold II of Belgium, the scramble for Africa began . By 1914 whole of Africa was scrambled among Britain , Belgium , France , Germany , Italy , and Portugal, except Abyssinia and Liberia .

There were squabbles among European powers for territory and trading rights in Africa . French and Britain interests collided in Egypt and Sudan .

Belgium opposed an agreement signed by Britain and Portugal , demarcating their areas of influence , as it would have resulted in denial of sea access to Congo .

The negative fallout of colonialism in Africa

Slavery : Slave trade made native Africans leave their home forever destroying the family set up . Local Africans were traded in local slave markets and forced to work on European plantations .

Slavery injected the component of inferiority complex which led to the notions of master and slave institutionalizing the race thesis .

White settlers verses black natives : The European settlers were elites in Africa and enjoyed luxuries of living ; became wealthy and powerful in Africa . They controlled the government an denied Africans any political right .

Massacres by colonial powers : Whenever the native Africans resisted the loss of their lands , slavery , unfavorable treaties offered by Europeans and imposition of European culture , they were killed ruthlessly .

European trademark of divide and rule : The scramble for Africa divided Africa into colonies with arbitrary boundaries , which lacked geographical continuity, cultural unity and economic viability which did not emanate the feeling of being a part of nation and nationalism .

This resulted in mutual hostility among tribal groups . Lack of national unity still haunts many African Nations and it has been very difficult to ensure functional democracy .

Negligence towards health and education : The native Africans did not get educated which resulted in inefficient governance , collapse of democratic regime and even the elected governments failed to deliver developmental goals and became dependent on developed world for aid , which brought neo-colonialism to African nations .

Also the colonies suffered from epidemics regularly given the humid conditions due to an equatorial climate .

Economic ruin : Lack of cohesion in society due to tribal rivalries , presence of prejudices , lack of education , and denial of participation in governance prevented economic development and indigenous entrepreneurship .

The policy of mercantile capitalism made Africans remain an exporter of raw materials and importer of finished goods without any development of indigenous industry .

Thus , in many African nations the colonists ruled and reaped the economic benefits , but without any responsibility of government . Further , colonial rivalry resulted in establishing trade barriers between colonies and thus an integrated market could not develop across Africa.

Colonialism in central and west Asia

Here, the main rivalry for colonies was between Russia and Britain . Russia wanted access to the sea for trade and thus desired to control the ports , following an expansionist policy, threatening Britain with respect to Indian empire.

In 1858 , Russia forced China to hand over huge territory north to the river Amur which gave Russia a port in western pacific . To check Russian influence in Tibet, Britain recognized Tibet and Afghanistan as areas of Britain influence.

In  Asia , Britain colonized India , Ceylon , Afghanistan and Burma . Most of the far East , except China , was scrambled by 1871 . Russia had one-third of the area under its control . In East Asia , China and Japan were independent.

Colonialism in China

China followed a policy of seclusion and took to limited trade with invasive Portuguese . But the opium wars of 19th century forced china to open up to the rest of the world trade , inflow of foreigners and in establishing diplomatic relations .

Colonial interests snatched certain territories from China and in 1911 china proclaimed to be republic against various dominant factors after which there is slow decline of colonialism by parts and emergence of china as an imperial power.


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