Colonialism is the setting up of or taking over, maintaining and expanding a territory by members of another territory. It is a practice of subjugation which involves enslavement of a people by another. Colonialism involves an outside force coming into a country, destroying or over throwing its government and forcing its norms and values on the people of the colony. Colonialism is referred to as a political-economic situation whereby European nations explored, conquered, settled and economically exploited large parts of the world. The concept of colonialism is one which has to do with making people strangers in their own lands. Governments are overthrown and organizational structures of lands are changed.
Colonialism brings a completely new lifestyle to the colonies. Cultural which are alien to one another are brought together and forced to interact and coexist. The conquest of lands and forceful coexistence of peoples of different backgrounds (as a result of the conquest) with different beliefs and ideologies has brought about many changes, both negative and positive, especially in the colonies. A very good example of where such situation has caused many changes is Nigeria. Nigeria was colonized by Britain around the end of the 19th century well into the 20th century and this has had immense effects on the country.
ADVANTAGES OF COLONIALISM
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Religion: colonialism has helped to spread religion especially the Christian religion. The European missionaries brought Christian religion to their colonies and taught the people of the colonies the religion very well. In the process of learning the religion the colonial masters also made the people acquire new skills. This brought about a development in the people as they were being liberated from the illiteracy which had kept them in the dark for many years.
The advent of the Christian religion brought many changes to the colonies. For example, in Southern Nigeria, Christianity helped stop the killing of twins as the religion preached equality and promoted education for all.
Modernization and technological advancement: colonialism brought modernization to underdeveloped areas. Advanced technological equipment and facilities necessary for improvements in medical and healthcare services, building of railroads and other developments in transportation, modern education etc. have helped in the development of the colonies to what they are today. These developments have improved the status of the colonies globally. The improvements in education have provided opportunities for competition in different disciplines like literature, mathematics, art and science. This is evident in Africa with people like Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiongo and many others.
Discovery of natural resources: the discovery of natural resources was due to the provision of new technology which were made known to the colonies by their colonial masters. The use of new technology made exploration of natural resources easier and more efficient. This resulted in the development and growth of the colonies. There were jobs for the people to do, even though they were not well paying jobs, and this added to the experience of the people as they acquired knowledge and learned new skills which turned out to be useful to them. This meant cheap labour for the colonial masters.
Expansion of land: colonialism also brought about the expansion of land for their colonies. Before colonialism, there was no territory known as Nigeria. There were only towns and villages, which were more or less restricted to their areas, surviving on their own. The coming of colonial masters expanded the land for all ethnic groups, towns and villages. Members of any ethnic group can now move to and live in any part of the country and call the place home. The name Nigeria was also given to the territory around the Niger River by the colonial masters.
Language: the adoption of the language of the colonial masters by the colonies has fostered unity to an extent in most multilingual and multicultural nations. A clear example is seen in Nigeria which has well over five hundred languages. Since no language is considered superior to the other, it would be difficult for any of the native languages to be made the lingua franca. The adoption of English language has made things easier for Nigerians as the language is foreign and does not belong to any particular ethnic group or people in the country.
DISADVANTAGES OF COLONIALISM
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Unfamiliar system of government: the colonial masters brought new and alien systems of government which the natives were not familiar with. These systems of government gave less importance to, and had less regard for the systems of government of the colonies. The methods of ruling which were introduced to the colonies were completely different from what the natives were used to. The new systems of government imposed taxes on the natives and also came up with new, strange and harsh laws for the natives.
Loss and destruction of culture and land: colonialism contributed immensely to the loss and destruction of cultural norms and values. First of all the native languages of the colonies were made inferior to the languages of the colonial masters. The mode of dressing of the people changed. Natives of the colonies started to dress and speak like the colonial masters as they were made to believe that their colonial masters were superior human beings. Natives of the colonies lost some aspects of their culture and they were made second class citizens in their own land. The natives also started to have reduced respect for their traditions due to the changes which were forced on their native life. The colonial masters also took away the nativesâ€™ lands and used them for building churches, schools, houses, prisons etc. this left the natives with less land to farm on.
Dispersion, destitution and death: colonialism caused the dispersion of natives. Some of the natives who could not stand the suffering which they were being subjected to had to flee their lands to different lands in search of better lives. Others who remained in their land were made destitute. The colonialists had power over all the things in the colonies. They took over pieces of land which belonged to the natives and made them dependent on their masters. Due to this many natives were subjected to extreme need of a means of subsistence. Colonialism caused the death of a lot of natives. The harsh living conditions at that time drove many natives to flee from their homes and in the process sent them to their graves. Others died as a result of the hardship and destitution which they were subjected to by the colonial masters. The natives, who were free men, became slaves in their land.
Risk of disease: the colonial masters brought with them some diseases which were not known by the people of the colonies. Some of the diseases with which they came were communicable and some of the natives contracted them. In instances where the colonial masters had access to native women either forcefully or with the consent of the women, they were left with many sexually transmitted diseases which they in turn, spread. The colonial masters also contracted some diseases like malaria, typhoid, chicken pox and small pox from the natives. The risk of disease was fairly high during the colonial period.
Economic dependence: colonialism has made most colonies dependent on their colonial masters even after the colonies have gained independence. This is because the colonial masters tapped into and exploited the mineral and human resources of the colonies and this has left the former colonies somewhat underdeveloped or developing. Many countries fall back to their former colonial masters for help on how to boost their economy and so on. In Nigeria for example, there are so many mineral resources which are just lying around. The oil which is the major source of income to Nigeria is sold to other countries to be refined and then sold back to Nigerians for consumption. Nigeria is still very much dependent on Britain for many things. Even the clothing materials and other things are imported from Britain and other countries. This form of economic dependence is referred to as a type of neocolonialism.
Colonialism has had and still has its effects on the countries which have been colonized and the countries which colonized them. Today in almost all parts of the world cultures are mixed and people are able to tolerate and have respect for other peopleâ€™s cultures and beliefs. It will be biased to say that colonialism has been beneficial all through and or not. Colonialism has both good effects and negative effects depending on what oneâ€™s beliefs are.
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