What Are Examples of Colonialism?

Examples of colonialism include the ancient Greek colonization of Sicily, the Spanish colonization of South America, the Viking colonization of Normandy and the British colonization of Australia. Colonialism involves a powerful nation sending settlers to permanently live in another land under the originating nation’s control.

Though there is some overlap, colonialism is distinct from imperialism in that colonies were places controlled by permanent settlers from the ruling nation, whereas empires involved control of distant lands by ruling nations but not necessarily a permanent settlement. For example, U.S. citizens colonized the North American West, but the United States exerted imperial control over the Philippines, where Americans sent to administer the small nation had no expectation of settling there permanently. Both imperialism and colonialism have shaped civilizations for most of recorded history. In both cases, high mobility by the dominant nation, usually secondary to trade growth as well as high prosperity leading to an increase in population, end with the colonization and/or imperial control of other regions.

In modern times, the term imperialism has been used to describe indirect control of other nations, such as the financial dominance of Western nations over much of the world. According to some scholars, including Edward Said, this modern indirect imperialism is largely due to postcolonialism, in which a previously colonial power continues to control its former colonies.