Empire, imperialism and Colonialism are all interrelated tactics of geopolitics that are used to achieve similar goals of one state maintaining economic, political, or cultural dominance over other territories, often for economic gain.
Colonialism can be defined as – the establishment, exploitation, maintenance, acquisition, and expansion of colonies in one territory by people from another territory. It is a set of unequal relationships between the colonial power and the colony, and often between the colonists and the indigenous population.
An empire forms when a single authority controls multiple territories, states, and countries. There are several ways an empire can function ranging from intrusive to rather hands off.
But when an empire also creates unequal economic or power relationships, that relationship is considered imperialism through this relationship can eventually be more hands off too.
In early 21st century, when we talk about colonialism, we’re often referring to European Colonialism, which happened globally between the 15th century to the present.
Imperialism and Colonialism do have really similar definitions-in fact, they’re still debated within geography and other disciplines.
The Chinese, Japanese, and Mongols built vast empires too. In this case, we talk about imperialism because of the way each expanded through force, and each had elements of extraction of resources and control of local politics. We fed the impacts of colonialism and imperialism around us in almost all places in the world, even though many of those systems have been formally ended.
Imperialism describes the domination and subordination of one state over others, and is often motivated by the acquisition of land, resources, or strategic positions. From this, we can look at different types of colonization, which is either a type of imperialism or just another type of empire.
Colonization starting ;
The explorations or the voyages of Discovery at the end of 15th century, clubbed with the end of Feudalism played an important role in the rise of Colonialism. As early as the 13th century, Marco Polo of Italy discovered China.
Technical innovations in 15th century played an important role in success of explorers in being able to sail to the new lands. By the end of 15th century, innovations in form of compass, Astrolabe, the art of Mapping and development of better ships enabled explorers to safely reach new lands.The new founded lands were rich in mineral resources and many had very good natural harbors which could be developed into ports that could serve as nodal points of trade.
The monetary profit became the most important reason for explorations, which brought goods that could be sold at home at a much higher margin. E.g. Vasco Da Gama (1498) found the price of pepper in India to be 1/20th of the price in Venice. Spice trade was the most lucrative. By mid 13th century, Venice emerged as the primary trade port for spices. From Venice, the spices were transported to Western and Northern Europe. Venice became extremely prosperous by charging huge tariffs.
Geography played an important role. Without direct access to Middle east, the Europeans were forced to pay high prices charged by Venice. Even the wealthy had trouble paying for spices. The routes to the east were known by the name Silk Routes. Along with Venice, it was the Byzantine Empire with its capital in Constantinople, which acted as a middle man in this trade with east. These two lay along the trade routes and had power to choke them if they wanted. In 1453, Ottoman Empire defeated the Byzantine Empire and choked/blockaded the sea routes.
The European merchants sought to establish their set up in new founded lands . i.e. they started to form colonies in these new found lands. Thus came into origin, the word colonization. The colonization of Asia, Africa and America began with three focuses- Gold, Glory and God. While Gold represented the profits from trade, Glory represented the recognition a European power received as a world hegemon. With the flag of the kingdom came the missionaries to promote Christianity.
The profits from trade increased the attraction of the European ports and the merchants made the ports their center of activity . Soon towns developed in coastal areas of the Mediterranean sea and places like Venice & Genoa increased in prosperity . These coastal towns enjoyed freedom from the rural based system of Feudalism . The serfs were free in these towns and thus migration from the villages to the towns gained pace . The society in these coastal towns was based on money and not land . The Kings , who in the Feudal system were dependent on the
The Portuguese had established trade monopoly with Asia after discovery of trade route to India via Cape of Good Hope in 1498 and thus replaced Italian monopoly on trade with the east .
Europe started importing products like spices , which were new to its market and became very popular . Similar was the case with cotton cloth imported from the east .
The Portuguese were replaced by the Dutch in Indonesia and by the British in India . Afterwards , the military strength and the sea power aided France and Britain to emerge as the major colonial powers .
Spain setup sugar plantations in Central American colonies , while the Portugal put up the plantation system in Brazil .
Countries like Holland , which were barren internally made huge profits out of the colonies by providing ships for commerce to Britain and other European countries . On the other hand , the impact of colonialism on the colonies was appalling .
Impact of Colonialism
Early before European Colonialism the Chinese, Japanese, and Mongols built vast empires too.Here implies settlement of people in an area, and a degree of cultural control in addition to control of land and resources, which kind of sounds like “Imperialism plus”. The Mongol empire consolidated a huge chunk of Central Asia, and even though the territory has changed hands many times, it’s still more or less together.Today that land makes up much of what’s now Russia and Mongolia.
On one hand , the European countries saw very rapid increase in trade volume and diversity , while on the other hand , the colonies were ripped off their resources .
South America was colonized by Spain after the Amerigo’s voyage , which it had funded .
The civilization of Aztecs and the Incas were destroyed and their gold and silver plundered . The indigenous Americans were forced to work for the colonists in the mines and farms .
The mines of Peru , Bolivia and Mexico were exploited with all the wealth exported out to Spain .
Later , the Dutch , the British and the French also came to control parts of America .
The objective of Colonialism in Asia was trade profit , while Slave Trade was the main reason in case of Africa .
In Africa , colonization began early but was limited to the coastal region because the hindrances placed by the geography limited the expansion of colonial empire to the mainland Africa .
Slave trade was started by the Portugal as its workers on the plantations were not able to bear the hot and humid climate of Brazil. It hunted down the Black Africans who were physically strong and were used to living in an equatorial climate and brought them to work on plantations. While the Africans worked on the plantations as slaves, the native Americans worked like serfs on the estate of colonies.
Soon the slave trade was introduced in North America, West Indies and other parts of America by European powers after colonization. Spain introduced the slave trade first in Haiti in the Caribbean and then in Florida, Mexico, Chile and other parts of Coastal South America.
The plantation system was mainly put up for production of Sugarcane, tobacco and cotton. The slave trade came to be known as the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade and the Triangular Slave Trade as a tripod of America. The slave trade continued for 300 years.
( Stages of Colonialism can be concluded into three stages as shown under : )
( First Stage ) ;- Monopoly trade and revenue appropriation
During the first stage of Colonialism the basic objections of Colonialism were:
(1) The monopoly of trade with the colony vis-à-vis other European merchants and the Colony’s traders and producers , and
(2) the direct appropriation of revenue or surplus through the use of state power. Whenever craftsman or other producers were employed on account of the Colonial States , Corporation or merchants, their surplus was directly seized, not in the manner of industrial capitalists but that of merchant-usurers.
The Colonial state or corporations required large financial resources to wage wars in the colony and on the seas, and to maintain naval forces, forts, armies and trading posts.
It is to be noted that during the first stage of colonialism
(1) the element of plunder and direct seizure of surplus was very strong and
(2) there was no significant import of metropolitan manufacturers into the colony.
( Second Stage ) ; – Exploitation through trade
1. The colony could buy more imports only if it increased its exports-which could only be of agricultural and mineral products-to pay for them. The colony’s export had also to pay for the drain or in other words had to earn foreign exchange to provide for the export of business profits and the savings and pensions of Europeans working there.
2. The metropolis desired to lessen the dependence on non-empire sources of raw materials and food stuffs. Hence the need to promote the production of raw materials in the colony, which the colonial rule must enable the colony to do so. The colony had to be developed as a productive colony in the agricultural and mineral spheres.
3. As a subordinated complement of a capitalist economy , the use of the colony, both as a market for goods and as a supplier of raw materials and manufacturers. The colony’s social surplus was to be appropriated through trade on the basis of selling cheap and buying cheap. This stage of Colonialism could even embrace countries which retained political freedom.
( Third Stage ) ; – Foreign Investments and competition for colonies.
The Europeans established trading posts in the coastal areas of the new found lands .It is to be noted here that the country which dominated in the realm of sea power was able to benefit from the most out of the Colonial era. The policy of Mercantile capitalism involved attacking merchant vessels of other kingdoms , blocking trade routes , setting up colonies , placing trade barriers , monopolizing the trade with the colonies and if unable to colonize , then securing special trading rights with the new found lands so as to have a trade monopoly .
A larger fleet of merchant ships was a mark of trade volume and spread across external markets while a strong navy could protect them, attack the vessels of the competitors and block the sea-routes of commerce. The country which was able to have friendly harbors along the trade route in form of Ports of call where the ships could refuel and the crew could rest, had an advantage in the trade competition.