Colonialism: Meaning, History, Types, and Evolution

What is colonialism? It is a sort of domination policy through which a political party/ power of one territory or area, by force, tries to establish its own colony in another territory.

colonialism meaning

Once the colony is set up, then the party seeks to expand its magnitude. But in order to prevent the colony from collapsing, it has to be maintained in doing which the people are exploited sometimes. There’s always a conflict of relations between the colonial power/ colonists and the indigenous people.

According to the Collins English Dictionary, colonialism is “the policy and practice of a power in extending control over weaker peoples or areas.”


Colonialism traces its origin around when the pre-colonial African empires came into existence which then encouraged the Egyptians, Greeks, Phoenicians, and Romans to build their own colonies in antiquity. Military colonies were set up by the Vietnamese in between 11th and 18th centuries. The Age of Discovery gave rise to modern colonialism. Some people believed in building colonies across oceans. Like Portugal and Spain in their sea travel came to know about Central and South America. The period in which Portuguese and Spanish empires were divided with other dynamic changes happening around, is also associated with the Commercial Revolution.

In 17th-century French colonial empire, Dutch empire and English overseas possessions which later transformed into British empire were created. By late 18th and early 19th centuries, the practice of spreading colonies was reduced in which the American Revolutionary War and the Latin American wars of Independence played major roles. But despite the objection colonies were still being established like the Ottoman empire, the Russian empire, and Austrian empire.

In fact, the World War II is known to be majorly caused because of the colonial system. After the war ended Decolonization progressed with mobility.

Types of colonialism

Majorly there are two types of colonialism: Settler colonialism and Exploitation colonialism. The Settler colonialism involves immigration at large scale as an outcome of religious, economic or political issues. Exploitation colonialism involves the trade and commerce like the export of goods or even the slave trade. To carry out the trade, labor is required and thus the colonists forced the indigenous people to work. They were given meager salary or no salary at times and were exploited.

There’s also Surrogate colonialism and Internal Colonialism. The former is one in which the colonial power supports the settlement of immigrants. The latter is about the uneven structural power between different areas of the state.


It had a lot of negative effects on the people and the society and left deep scars. There was enslavement, exploitation, a flood of diseases and problems of settlement again and again. But colonization also brought certain advantages like there was spread of languages, literature and cultural Institutions and technological progress. Though these were all that the colonists enforced the people to adopt they can be considered as important factors. It gave new empires. The European colonization influenced the economic systems of many places.

“The Other” or “Othering” are terms used in reference to colonialism. It means creating separate entities of people or groups.


Colonialism gave rise to a hybrid population with mixed cultural and ethnic values and practices.  For example, the Mestizos population of America which included people with combined European and Amerindian descent. Other examples include the Anglo-Saxon Burmese, Anglo-Saxon Indian and the Eurasians known as Indo- Europeans.

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