Increase your knowledge of the topic of colonialism, which is defined as the control by one nation over a dependent area or people. Colonialism is often used synonymously with the term imperialism, although there are key differences between the two. While both refer to political or economic control by one nation over an “other,” colonialism involves the settlement of the colonizing power’s people in a new territory for the purpose of administration and exploitation of the territory’s natural resources and people, while imperialism can involve more indirect methods of domination. In that sense, colonialism is one of many expressions of imperialism.
Colonialism has been a feature of civilization since ancient times, when the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, and Phoenicians built enormous empires through conquest and subsequent settlement of their people in newly conquered territories. Other empires followed suit, including the Islamic caliphates of the Middle Ages, which spread as a result of military victory, followed by the establishment of their culture and religion as colonizing influences.
While colonialism isn’t specific to one people, group, or region, the concept is most closely associated with Western colonialism, beginning with the “Age of Discovery” in the fifteenth century. During that time period, advancements in navigation allowed European explorers, traders, and soldiers to travel farther and faster than they ever had before. Portugal led the way by establishing its first colonies in North Africa, followed by Spain, which established a vast empire in the Americas. The competition between those two nations soon expanded to include England, France, Germany, and the Netherlands, who fought for hegemony in Africa, the Americas, and Asia. Early colonial efforts were often masked as attempts to “civilize” indigenous peoples through conversion to Christianity.