Overpopulation, economic distress, social unrest, and religious persecution in the home country may be factors that cause colonization, but imperialism, more or less aggressive humanitarianism, and a desire for adventure or individual improvement are also causes. Colonization may be state policy, or it may be a private project sponsored by chartered corporations or by associations and individuals. Before colonization can be effected, the indigenous population must be subdued and assimilated or converted to the culture of the colonists; otherwise, a modus vivendi must be established by the imposition of a treaty or an alliance.
As early as the 10th cent. B.C., the Phoenicians founded trading posts throughout the Mediterranean area and later exercised political dominion over these commercial colonies. The Greeks, from a desire for wealth or as a result of the expulsion of a political faction or the defeated inhabitants of a city, established colonies in Asia Minor and Italy, spreading Hellenic culture and stimulating trade. Greek colonies were patterned after the parent state and were at first subject to its jurisdiction. Colonization was an integral part of Roman policy, providing land for the poor, supporting Roman garrisons, and again spreading Roman culture. In their colonization the Romans sought to assimilate the native culture into their own, and in some cases they bestowed Roman citizenship upon natives of the colony. Medieval colonization began with the Crusades and was mainly Italian. The Venetians and Genoese established commercial colonies along trade routes and exercised strict supervision over them.
The Portuguese and Spanish became great colonizing nations at the end of the Middle Ages. Portuguese colonization, which received impetus from the development of greatly improved methods of navigation, began with the establishment of trading ports in Africa and the East, while the Spanish concentrated most of their efforts in the Americas. Both the Spanish and the Portuguese exercised strict governmental control over their colonies and used them primarily as a basis for rich commerce with the parent government. They discouraged them from becoming economically self-sufficient.
In the late 16th and early 17th cent., the English, Dutch, and French began to undertake colonization through the agency of chartered companies. The greatest of these private trading companies was the British East India Company, which played a vital role in the history of the British Empire.
The French generally adhered to mercantilist theory in establishing their colonies, using them mainly for the economic advantage of France. The English colonists in North America, however, were, in many respects, virtually independent of the parent country, the most serious restriction being the establishment of a trade monopoly by the home government through the Navigation Acts. Because their territory was suitable for settlement, rather than exploitation, the residence of the British colonists in America tended to be permanent. The increase in overseas trade and colonial consumption helped to stimulate the Industrial Revolution, which in turn, because of the increased technological superiority afforded Europe, especially Great Britain, and because of the greater desire for markets and raw materials, gave added impetus to colonization and made it easier to accomplish.
Although Great Britain lost most of its North American colonies as a result of the American Revolution, other acquisitions (most notably in India) soon made it the greatest colonial power in the world. The French, stripped of one colonial empire in the colonial wars of the 18th cent., established another in the 19th cent.
Germany emerged as an industrial empire in the late 19th cent., but found the colonies of other powers closed to German products and, therefore, embarked upon its own colonial adventures. Japan, also recently industrialized, followed the same path. These ambitions helped to bring on World Wars I and II. Germany was stripped of its colonies after the first conflict; Japan lost its colonies after the second.
Modern colonization, frequently preceded by an era in which missionaries and traders were active, was largely exploitative, but it did not in the long run prove directly lucrative to the colonial power, because it involved a heavy drain on the treasury of the home government. After World War II, there was increasing agitation and violence in the European colonial empires as subject peoples demanded their independence. Most colonies were granted or won independence from the imperial powers; those belonging to Portugal were among the last major colonies to become independent. Today, only a few remnants of the great colonial empires survive, mainly as self-governing dependencies (e.g., Aruba, Bermuda, and French Guiana). Colonization in its classical form is rarely practiced today and is widely considered to be immoral.
See D. K. Fieldhouse, The Colonial Empire (1965); C. Verlinden, The Beginnings of Modern Colonization (1970); J. H. Parry, Trade and Dominion (1971).
Control by one power over a dependent area or people. The purposes of colonialism include economic exploitation of the colony's natural resources, creation of new markets for the colonizer, and extension of the colonizer's way of life beyond its national borders. The most active practitioners were European countries; in the years 1500–1900, Europe colonized all of North and South America and Australia, most of Africa, and much of Asia by sending settlers to populate the land or by taking control of governments. The first colonies were established in the Western Hemisphere by the Spanish and Portuguese in the 15th–16th century. The Dutch colonized Indonesia in the 16th century, and Britain colonized North America and India in the 17th–18th century. Later British settlers colonized Australia and New Zealand. Colonization of Africa only began in earnest in the 1880s, but by 1900 virtually the entire continent was controlled by Europe. The colonial era ended gradually after World War II; the only territories still governed as colonies today are small islands. Seealso decolonization, dependency, imperialism.
Learn more about colonialism with a free trial on Britannica.com.
Colonization: Second Contact is an alternate history and science fiction novel by Harry Turtledove. It is the first novel of the Colonization series, as well as the fifth installment in the Tosev timeline.
At the start of the novel, the colonization fleet of the Race enters the Solar System, bringing with them eighty to one hundred million colonists for settling on Earth. As the fleet enters Earth orbit, a human satellite unleashes a nuclear attack that kills millions. As Germany, the USSR, and the United States each have large-scale space capability, any of the three nations may have been responsible for the attack. In addition, while there is peace between the independent human nations and the Race, Mao Zedong and Ruhollah Khomeini continue to lead popular resistance to the invaders in China and the Middle East, respectively.
Meanwhile, the Race colonists, who expected to encounter an Earth that was already conquered with the natives still at medieval levels of advancement, have to deal with the consequences of the cold war with the humans. The fleet brings with it not only the first civilians, but also the first Race females, both of which cause tension among the male soldiers who formed the invasion force. To the Race males, ginger is a euphoric drug; to the females, it causes them to go into estrus, resulting in wide-scale social implications.