Colonialism is defined as “the control exercised by a power over a dependent area or people”. This occurs when one nation subjugates another, conquering and exploiting its population, often while imposing its own language and cultural values. In 1914, a large majority of the nations of the world had been colonized by Europeans at one point.
Japan, Korea and Thailand are the only other country never having been colonized by Europeans.
The concept of colonialism is closely related to that of imperialism, which is the policy or ethos of using power and influence to control another nation or people, which underpins colonialism.
History of colonialism
In ancient times, colonialism was practiced by empires such as Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, Ancient Egypt, and Phoenicia. These civilizations all expanded their borders into surrounding, non-contiguous areas starting around 1550 BC. colonies that used the physical and demographic resources of the people they conquered to increase their own power.
In ancient Greece, for example, city-states often established colonies in search of additional living space and economic gains. After consulting an oracle, members of the city-state would send a select group of its inhabitants to establish a new colony. To seal the association between colony and city, its founding members lit a fire with a flame drawn from the center of the original city. hearth and engage in other rituals claiming the new location.
During what is now called the Age of Discovery, the founding of a new colony depended on another ritual: obtaining the sponsorship of a wealthy patron, usually a monarch, and embarking on large ships searching for unceded land. From the 15th century, Portugal began looking for new trade routes and searching for civilizations outside Europe. In 1415, Portuguese explorers conquered Ceuta, a coastal city in North Africa, kicking off an empire that would last until 1999.
Soon the Portuguese had conquered and populated islands like Madeira and Cape Verde, and their rival nation, Spain, decided to attempt exploration as well. In 1492, Christopher Columbus began searching for a western route to India and China.. Instead, he landed in the Bahamas, kicking off the Spanish Empire. Spain and Portugal soon found themselves competing for new territories and taking over indigenous lands in the Americas, India, Africa, and Asia.
The rest of Western Europe quickly followed: England, the Netherlands, France and Germany quickly began building their own overseas empires, fighting Spain and Portugal for the right to lands they had already colonized.
Often, settlements were wrested from the hands of their native inhabitants by relatively small groups of European men who claimed them after short skirmishes or by intimidating the inhabitants with their ships, weapons, and trade items. For example, Columbus’s crew for his famous 1492 voyage consisted of only 90 men, of whom he left 39 behind to build a colony in what is now Haiti.
Subjugation and revolutions
Among the attractions of colonialism was the possibility of recruiting – and often enslaving – indigenous peoples for the benefit of a colonial power. In Brazil, for example, explorers called bandeirantes embarked on expeditions in search of indigenous people to capture and enslave for the plantations and mines established by the Portuguese. And slavers across Europe participated in the Atlantic slave trade, selling kidnapped Central and West Africans and forcing them to perform labor that enriched their overseas empires.
Even former colonies became colonizers themselves: the United States, once in the hands of Great Britain, expanded its territory soon after winning the Revolutionary War and later extended its claims to the Pacific and the ‘Latin America.
Beginning in the 1880s, European nations also began to take over African nations, rushing for coveted natural resources and establishing colonies that they would hold until an international period of decolonization which lasted from approximately 1914 to 1975 and challenged European domination
By far the most successful colonizer was the British Empire, which, at its peak shortly after World War I, could to boast territories in all time zones around the world. The sun “never set” on England’s political and economic ambitions, which it achieved with the help of British colonial governments.
Despite the growth of European colonies in the Western Hemisphere, most colonized countries gained independence during the 18th and 19th centuries, beginning with the American Revolution of 1776 and the Haitian Revolution of 1781. However, the Eastern Hemisphere continued to tempt the European colonial powers.
Colonial justification and resistance
The colonial powers justified their conquests by claiming that they had a legal and religious obligation control the land and culture of indigenous peoples. Conquering nations play their role as “barbarian” or “savage” civilizing nationsand argued that they were acting in the best interests of those whose lands and peoples they exploited.
Historically, Church leaders have encouraged and participated in the takeover and exploitation of foreign land and labor, most often in the name of Christian conversion. In the 15th century, Catholic popes presented a religious justification for colonization, issuing a series of papal bulls now known as the Doctrine of discovery who asserted that colonization was necessary to save souls and seize land for the growth of the Church. Often, Christian missionaries were among the first to enter new countries. Inspired by the belief that they must convert as many Native people as possible to Christianity, they imported religious and cultural customs as well as a paternalistic attitude toward the native inhabitants of the colonies.
Yet resistance to this control is an integral part of the history of colonialism. Even before decolonization, indigenous peoples on all continents offered violent and nonviolent resistance to their conquerors. These include the Pueblo Rebellion that overthrew Spanish rule in what is now New Mexico in 1680, the slave revolt turned revolution in Haiti in 1791, a series of rebellions against the English rule in India and many other cases of collective and personal resistance.
Ethiopia managed to remain one of only two African nations to circumvent European colonial rule through a series of shrewd alliances forged by its emperor. In 1896, the nation succeeded in repelling an Italian. invasion at the Battle of Adwa.
The legacy of colonialism
Colonial governments invested in infrastructure and trade and spread medical and technological knowledge. In some cases, they have encouraged literacy, adoption of Western human rights standards, and sowed the seeds of democratic institutions and systems of government. Some former colonies, such as Ghana, experienced an increase in nutrition and health with colonial domination and European colonization has been linked to certain development gains.
However, coercion and forced assimilation often accompanied these gains, and researchers continue to do so. discuss the many legacies of colonialism. The impacts of colonialism include environmental degradationTHE spread of disease, economic instability, ethnic rivalriesAnd human rights violations– problems that can last long beyond a group’s colonial rule.
Like South Asian historian John McQuade writing“It takes a misguided and highly selective reading of the evidence to argue that colonialism was anything other than a humanitarian disaster for most of the colonized. »
This article was originally published on February 2, 2019.