The early Assyrian empires and the Roman Empires of early antiquity period (484 BC – 250 AD) can be considered the precursors to the practice of colonialism when both the empires expanded their border with the view to assert cultural domination and exploitation of resources. Modern colonialism began with the age of exploration during the early 15th century when explorers like Christopher Columbus and Francisco Pizzaro made voyages to the American continent.
Colonialism implies domination of people’s life, racial and culture, the main goal was to control people and physical territory politically in order to exploit it economically. Different nations discovered, conquered, settled, and exploited large zones of the world. The country which subjugated by a metropolitan capitalist country (machine-oriented civilization with Christian origins) was described as a colony, and what happens in a colony is colonialism. The cultural which are unfamiliar to one another are brought together and forced to interact and coexist with both negative and positive impacts in the colonies. (mostly negative)
The most remarkable colonial powers were Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark, whose shared empires covered at various times the whole of North, Central and South America, Africa, Australia, much of Indonesia, the countries lying in the Levant, much of the Indian subcontinent as well as most of the countries lying in between. In short, most of the world.
Types of Colonialism
Historians have classified four different types of colonialism that have been practiced throughout the ages. They are as follows:
- Settler colonialism– a large number of immigrants, often motivated by religious, political, or economic reasons, settle in a new place and dominate the local indigenous population in economic, political as well as social aspects. That replaced the local existing population and, exploited colonies for mainly agricultural purposes. The erstwhile colonies of Australia, the United States of America, and Canada are examples of settler colonialism.
- Exploitation colonialism- involves relatively less number of immigrants, focuses on the exploitation of the natural resources and the local population as cheap labor that benefits the mother country economically. An example of this is the use of local labor in India and South East Asia where the indigenous population was used as slave labor to cultivate cash crops such as tea and rubber of the colonial country.
- Surrogate Colonialism: Surrogate colonialism involves a settlement project supported by a colonial power, in which most of the settlers do not come from the same ethnic group as the ruling power. South Africa and Rhodesia (Modern-Day Zimbabwe and Zambia) were examples of Surrogate Colonialism, where large numbers of British settlers became the dominant group despite being in minority as compared to the local indigenous population
- Internal Colonialism: It is a notion of uneven or even discriminative power structure between different areas of a state. This is demonstrated in the way control and exploitation may pass from whites from the colonizing country to a white immigrant population within a newly independent country.
Factors of Colonialism
- Improved navigation technique and led to Discovery of New Lands And Trade Routes.
- The period of the renaissance or enlightenment came with scientific and commercial revolutions. Renaissance led to an increase in the ambitious middle class that triggered the industrial revolution. The industrial revolution increases the need for resources for industry and new markets to sell goods. (Economic Consideration)
- Mercantilism: The policy of Mercantilism was based on the premise that the economic development of the mother country, also called Metropolis. This Mercantilism discovered the most important phenomenon, that the colonies should be governed in such a way that benefits the mother country.
- European Rivalry: The exploration and colonization were started by Spain and Portugal, which was continued by others. Acquiring new colonies became a thing of national pride. Moreover, due to various economic benefits of colonization, a stage of ‘competitive colonialism’ started among the European powers due to Extreme nationalism.
- To Spread Christianity: During the Age of Discovery, the Catholic Church started a major effort to spread Christianity in the New World by converting indigenous peoples. Christian missions went simultaneously with the colonizing efforts of European powers. Settling of religiously persecuted people in colonies also practiced.
- 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 laborers.
Colonialism in India
In Asia, the Europeans met ancient and well-populated societies, and hence direct colonization was not feasible, rather armed coastal trading posts along maritime trade routes such as Goa, Malacca, and Macau were established. Nonetheless, in certain areas both Spanish and Portuguese became effective rulers. That resulted in the underdevelopment of nations. In India, its social, economic, and political current was completely tied to the British economy. India transformed into the chief market for British goods (biscuits, shoes, types of machinery, cars, and railway engine) and the source of supply of raw materials. The period of complete but complex integration of the Indian economy with the world capitalist system extended for 200 years, till the formal announcement of independence on 15 of August, 1947.
- Vasco da Gama’s discovery of a new sea route to India in 1498 and started the process of direct Indo-European commerce.
- The Portuguese soon set up trading posts in Goa, Daman, Diu, and Bombay. The countries next to arrive were Dutch, English, and French.
- The internal conflicts among Indian Kingdoms, the technological superiority of Europeans, and the financial benefits of commerce-enabled the European traders to gradually gain political and military influence and appropriate lands.
- Although all European powers controlled various regions of southern and eastern India, ultimately they lost all their territories in India to the British, except the few outposts, like the French of Pondicherry, the Dutch port in Travancore, and the Portuguese colonies of Goa, Daman, and Diu. Larger Indian areas were under British control at the end of their rule.
The Indian economy had been largely halted during the British regime due to low availability of actual social surplus or internal savings available for investments attributed to drain of wealth or unilateral transfer of surplus to metropolis through unrequited export.
Advantages of Colonialism
The European missionaries brought Christian religion to their colonies and communicated the people of the colonies the religion very well, made the people attain new skills. For example, in Southern Nigeria, Christianity helped stop the killing of twins as the religion addressed equality and encouraged education for all people.
Progressive technological equipment and amenities were necessary for improvements in medical and healthcare services, the building of railroads, and other developments in transportation, and modern education had developed in the colonies. They improved the status of the colonies internationally, the education had provided opportunities for competition in different disciplines like literature, mathematics, art, and science.
Colonization also helped in the exploration of natural resources due to the provision of a new technology known to the colonies by their colonial leaders. That increased job opportunities for the people, even though they were not well-paying jobs. That also added to the experience of the people acquiring knowledge and learning new skills beneficial to them.
Colonialism also brought about the enlargement of land, before this there were only towns and villages, which were more or less restricted to their areas, living on their own. Members of any ethnic group can now move to and live in any part of the country and call the place home.
The implementation of the language of the colonial masters by the colonies has promoted unity to an extent in most multilingual and multicultural nations. It is apparent in Nigeria and India. 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 the English language has made things easier. As language was foreign and does not belong to any particular ethnic group or people in the country.
Improvement of roads, waterways, and railways brought every country within the reach of industrialized nations. Colonial powers planned it to increase the supply of raw materials, which could be transported easily and efficiently.
Disadvantages of Colonialism
The colonial masters were unfamiliar with the systems of government of inhabitants and also gave less importance. They took less regard for the systems of government of the colonies.
Colonialism contributed vastly to the loss and destruction of cultural norms and values of inhabitants. The native languages, culture, social system, people, the race of the colonies were made lower than the languages and culture of 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, which was considered Racialism in colonies.
There was a widespread exchange of plants, animals, culture, human populations, technology, and ideas that occurred between the new world called the Columbian Exchange. That led to widespread destruction of natural resources in colonies, fulfilled the demands of industries of colonial powers. To effectively utilize the resources, colonizers needed an immense amount of labor. During the initial years, the European settlers met labor 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. Give impetus to the slave trade.
How and when it ended?
After the end of World War II in 1945, the erstwhile colonies gained independence due to multiple factors, such as local independence movements. (The Indian Freedom struggle and Independence Movements in Vietnam and Indonesia) The colonial powers themselves became economically weakener due to the devastation caused by the Second World War. Massive transnational migration movements and the increase in the number of culturally and religiously diverse states have stemmed from the processes of decolonization and globalization.
Global political solidarity projects such as the Non-Aligned Movement (India was founding member) were instrumental in the decolonization efforts of former colonies. NAM worked along with the United Nations in setting up a Special Committee on Decolonization in 1962, to encourage the process. The last colony to gain independence was the British colony of Southern Rhodesia, which became the new nation of Zimbabwe on 18th April 1980.
Some shots of evidence of Colonialism could be seen in the current world, where China is providing loans to countries, which will never able to repay such as the lease of the southern port of Hambantota to a Chinese venture, citing national interest. This practice now called Neocolonialism is also based on economic exploitation and domination of independent but economically backward countries, by the powerful countries.
(Pictures from google)