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Colonization And Its Economic Impacts

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Published: Mon, 01 May 2017

Colonialism is the establishment, maintenance, acquisition and expansion of colonies in one territory by people from another territory. Colonialism is a process whereby sovereignty over the colony is claimed by the metropolis and the social structure, government, and economics of the colony are changed by colonists – people from the metropole. Colonialism is a set of unequal relationships: between the metropole and the colony; between the colonists and the indigenous population.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy “uses the term ‘colonialism’ to describe the process of European settlement and political control over the rest of the world, including Americas, Australia, and parts of Africa and Asia.” It discusses the distinction between colonialism and imperialism and states that “given the difficulty of consistently distinguishing between the two terms, this entry will use colonialism as a broad concept that refers to the project of European political domination from the sixteenth to the twentieth century’s that ended with the national liberation movements of the 1960s

The term colonialism normally refers to a period of history from the late 15th to the 20th century when European nation states established colonies on other continents. In this period, the justifications for colonialism included various factors such as the profits to be made, the expansion of the power of the metro pole and various religious and political beliefs.

“The policy of acquiring and maintaining colonies, especially for exploitation”

Colonialism is a relationship between an indigenous (or forcibly imported) majority and a minority of foreign invaders. The fundamental decisions affecting the lives of the colonized people are made and implemented by the colonial rulers in pursuit of interests that are often defined in a distant metropolis. Rejecting cultural compromises with the colonized population, the colonizers are convinced of their own superiority and their ordained mandate to rule.


Historians often distinguish between two forms of colonialism, chiefly based on the number of people from the colonizing country who settle in the colony:

Settler Colonialism: involved a large number of colonists, typically seeking fertile land to farm.

Exploitation Colonialism: involved fewer colonists, typically interested in extracting resources to export to the metropole. This category includes trading posts, but it applies more to the much larger colonies where the colonists would provide much of the administration and own much of the land and other capital, but rely on indigenous people for labor.

These models of colonialism overlap. In both cases, people moved to the colony, and goods were exported to the metropole.A plantation colony is normally considered to fit the model of exploitation colonialism. However, in this case there may be other immigrants to the colony – slaves to grow the cash crop for export.A League of Nations mandate was legally very different from a colony. However, there was some similarity with exploitation colonialism in the mandate system.


Modern colonialism started with the Age of Discovery. Portugal and Spain discovered new lands across the oceans and built trading posts. For some people, it is this building of colonies across oceans that differentiate colonialism from other types of expansionism. These new lands were divided between the Portuguese Empire and Spanish Empire, first by the papal bull Inter caetera and then by the Treaty of Tordesillas and the Treaty of Zaragoza (1529).

The 17th century saw the creation of the British Empire, the French colonial empire and the Dutch Empire. It also saw the establishment of some Swedish overseas colonies and a Danish colonial empire.

The spread of colonial empires was reduced in the late 18th and early 19th centuries by the American Revolutionary War and the Latin American wars of independence. However, many new colonies were established after this time, including for the German colonial empire and Belgian colonial empire. In the late 19th century, many European powers were involved in the Scramble for Africa.


Settlers acted as the link between the natives and the imperial hegemony, bridging the geographical gap between the colonizers and colonized. Painter, J. and Jeffrey, A. affirm that certain advances aided the expansion of European states. With tools such as cartography, shipbuilding, navigation, mining and agricultural productivity colonizers had an upper hand. Their awareness of the Earth’s surface and abundance of practical skills provided colonizers with a knowledge that, in turn, created power.


A colony is part of an empire and so colonialism is closely related to imperialism. The initial assumption is that colonialism and imperialism are interchangeable, however Robert Young suggests that imperialism is the concept while colonialism is the practice. Colonialism is based on an imperial outlook, thereby creating a consequential relationship between the two. Through an empire, colonialism is established and capitalism is expanded, on the other hand a capitalist economy naturally enforces an empire. In the next section Marxists make a case for this mutually reinforcing relationship.


Marxism views colonialism as a form of capitalism, enforcing exploitation and social change. Working within the global capitalist system, colonialism is closely associated with uneven development, he thought. It is an “instrument of wholesale destruction, dependency and systematic exploitation producing distorted economies, socio-psychological disorientation, massive poverty and neocolonial dependency.” Colonies are constructed into modes of production. The search for raw materials and the current search for new investment opportunities is a result of inter-capitalist rivalry for capital accumulation.


Post-colonialism (a.k.a. post-colonial theory) refers to a set of theories in philosophy and literature that grapple with the legacy of colonial rule. In this sense, postcolonial literature may be considered a branch of postmodern literature concerned with the political and cultural independence of peoples formerly subjugated in colonial empires. Many practitioners take Edward Said’s book Orientalism (1978) to be the theory’s founding work (although French theorists such as Aimé Césaire and Frantz Fanon made similar claims decades before Said).


Debate about the perceived negative and positive aspects (spread of virulent diseases, unequal social relations, exploitation, enslavement, infrastructures, medical advances, new institutions, technological advancements etc.) of colonialism has occurred for centuries, amongst both colonizer and colonized, and continues to the present day. The questions of miscegenation; the alleged ties between colonial enterprises, genocides – see the Herero Genocide and the Armenian Genocide – and the Holocaust; and the questions of the nature of imperialism, dependency theory and neocolonialism (in particular the Third World debt) continue to retain their actuality.

Slave trade

Slavery has existed to varying extents, forms and periods in almost all cultures and continents. Between the 7th and 20th centuries, Arab slave trade (also known as slavery in the East) took approximately 18 million slaves from Africa via trans-Saharan and Indian Ocean routes. Between the 15th and the 19th centuries, the Atlantic slave trade took up to 12 million slaves to the New World.


“The scramble for Africa by the nations of Europe… was due to growing commercial rivalry which brought home to civilized nations the vital necessity of securing the only remaining fields for industrial enterprise and expansion. It is well, then to realize that it is for our advantage and not alone at the dictates of duty that we have undertaken responsibilities in East Africa. It is in order to foster the growth of trade of this country, (England) and to find an outlet for our manufacturers and our surplus energy, that our far-seeing statesmen and our commercial men advance colonial expansion.”

Colonial rule in Uganda was ultimately victorious. In 1900 the British government sent Sir Harry Johnston as a special commissioner to implement Britain’s plans for the new colony.

Firstly the land of Buganda was apportioned among the people of Buganda and the British Crown. Whereas previously the land was publicly owned so that the people derived the right to use it from the Kabaka, now they could take individual possession of it.

Secondly, the necessity to own land was underscored by another provision in the agreement, which required that each household pay taxes to the colonial government.

This so called ‘hut tax’, which required every hut owner to pay three rupees to the colonial government annually, was intended to force the people to produce commodities for sale.

Thirdly, apart from offering their services as hired labour, the people of Buganda traditionally had no other means of obtaining money to pay taxes.

Colonization of Africa

The colonization of Africa has a long history, the most famous phase being the European Scramble for Africa of the nineteenth century. North Africa experienced colonization from Europe and Western Asia in the early historical period, particularly Greeks and Phoenicians.

The Scramble for Africa

Established empires, notably Britain, Portugal and France, had already claimed for themselves vast areas of Africa and Asia, and emerging imperial powers like Italy and Germany had done likewise on a smaller scale. With the dismissal of the aging Chancellor Bismarck by Kaiser Wilhelm II, the relatively orderly colonization became a frantic scramble. The 1885 Berlin Conference, initiated by Bismarck to establish international guidelines for the acquisition of African territory, formalized this “New Imperialism”. Between the Franco-Prussian War and the Great War, Europe added almost 9 million square miles (23,000,000 km²) – one-fifth of the land area of the globe – to its overseas colonial possessions.

Globalization: Economic colonization?

Globalization is defined as “the rapidly accelerating process, which enables, encourages and advances connections between both individuals and groups worldwide, allowing for the exchange and influence of cultural, technological and political ideas and their applications.” In the post World War II era dozens of new states were formed gaining independence from their colonizers. However in gaining their sovereignty most of these nations remained economic slaves to the western powers. This new age of globalization that we are in the mist of only seems to be a catalyst American economic conquest of countless states. This globalization behaves pro-western supporters and those willing to submit to American culture but, leaves cultural destruction and economic despair for all others. America is using the flattening forces of globalization to aid in economic conquest and exploitation or a virtual version of colonization of third world countries. This image fits the definition of my class in the sense of what globalization is yet, also adds what America is doing with this great force of globalization.

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