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I. Political AspectsRupert Emerson


II. Economic AspectsD. K. Fieldhouse



Colonialism is the establishment and maintenance, for an extended time, of rule over an alien people that is separate from and subordinate to the ruling power. It is no longer closely associated with the term “colonization,” which involves the settlement abroad of people from a mother country, as in the case of the ancient Greek colonies or the Americas. Colonialism has now come to be identified with rule over peoples of different race inhabiting lands separated by salt water from the imperial center; more particularly, it signifies direct political control by European states or states settled by Europeans, as the United States or Australia, over peoples of other races, notably over Asians and Africans. To this category should be added Japan’s rule over her dependent territories, lost after World War ii.

Some further features of the “colonial situation” are: domination of an alien minority, asserting racial and cultural superiority, over a materially inferior native majority; contact between a machine-oriented civilization with Christian origins, a powerful economy, and a rapid rhythm of life and a non-Christian civilization that lacks machines and is marked by a backward economy and a slow rhythm of life; and the imposition of the first civilization upon the second (Balandier 1951, p. 75).

The Belgians attempted in the earlier years of the United Nations to broaden the concept of colonialism to include all ethnically distinct minorities discriminated against in their home countries. Contending that such minorities were often in greater need of UN attention than the people in overseas dependencies, the Belgian thesis proposed their acceptance as nonself-governing peoples under Chapter xi of the Charter. This interpretation was generally rejected in the UN and by the colonial and former colonial peoples themselves. The most serious shortcomings of the narrower interpretation are that it excludes the Asian and other non-Russian peoples in the Soviet Union, alleged to be dominated by the Great Russians, and the Africans and Asians of South Africa, barred from the main stream of the country’s life by the apartheid doctrine. South Africa lacks the geographic separation of colonies from the imperial center but can be at least partially brought within the colonial rubric because the dominant group is white European whereas the ruled are of different race and color. The Asian peoples of the Soviet Union are usually placed outside the traditional colonial category even though Western observers often accuse the U.S.S.R. of being the colonial power par excellence.

Definitions of colonialism couched in terms of value and emotion take quite a different form. This is most true of those left-wing analysts who can find nothing but evil in colonialism. Thus the “Great Soviet Encyclopaedia” of 1953 speaks of colonization as the military or economic enslavement of any dependent country and sees it as accompanied by bestial exploitation and extermination of the indigenous population. The more leftward-inclined Asian and African leaders frequently denounce colonialism in similar terms.

Historical evolution of modern colonialism

Modern colonialism started with the fifteenth-century voyages of the Portuguese along the west coast of Africa, which in 1498 brought Vasco da Gama to India. The Portuguese and Spaniards were the first to establish their dominions overseas and clung to them long after their imperialist drive had lost its forward thrust. The Americas were wholly taken over as European domains, the Dutch and British began to stake out their claims in India and the Indies, and France had won and lost more than one empire by 1815. The first blows for anticolonialism were struck by the American Revolution and the subsequent liberation of most of Latin America.

Although Europe’s imperial expansion and growth in power continued during the first three-quarters of the nineteenth century, the circumstances of the times tended to discourage the extension of colonial holdings. Britain’s command of the seas and its industrial head start gave it a virtual monopoly of access to the world overseas, making unnecessary the kind of exclusive control that colonialism offered. The abandonment of mercantilism and the swing to laissez-faire and free trade made colonies less attractive than they had been before. Bentham had pleaded that Britain and France should rid themselves of their dependencies; Turgot saw colonies falling from the tree like ripe fruit; and Disraeli, assuming the colonies would soon be independent, regarded them in 1852 as “millstones around our neck.”

China was opened to the penetration of the West but was not subjected to colonial rule. Only in India did the British more or less consistently expand their colonial sway, and France took over Algeria and made its first encroachments in Indochina. In Britain it was even seriously proposed, not long before the start of the scramble for Africa, that there should be a withdrawal from African holdings.

A very different climate of opinion and range of action prevailed in the last quarter of the century. The restraints on colonialism were swept away in the new imperialist flood that speedily completed the partition of the world between the imperial powers. Africa was almost totally divided into European dependencies. In other areas as well, new colonies were carved out or old ones consolidated and extended, as in southeast Asia, where the Dutch, French, and British greatly expanded the scope and intensity of their rule in the Indies, Indochina, Malaya, and Burma. Changing power relationships brought a redivision of territories in the Spanish–American War, in the Boer War, and after World War i with the transfer of German and Turkish holdings.

To assess the causes of the change in the last decades of the nineteenth century would involve the whole range of theories of imperialism, but certain elements particularly related to colonialism may be singled out. Such men as Jules Ferry, Joseph Chamberlain, and Cecil Rhodes justified the revival of colonialism in terms of the needs of the new industrial system and by the demands of a Darwinian struggle between nations and races. The entry of France, Germany, and Italy, followed by Japan and the United States, into the imperial rivalry, not to mention Russia’s expansive mood, seemed to substantiate Lenin’s dictum that only colonial possession gave a complete guarantee against the risks of competitive struggle. The new wave of protectionism and governmental intervention at home restored validity to the assertion of direct political control overseas. Such control seemed particularly justified in tropical Africa, where it was arguable that only the assumption of full responsibility by a Western government could establish the conditions under which modern enterprise could function. This position found powerful support in the prevalent theories holding that certain races, notably the Teutonic or Anglo–Saxon, had a peculiar genius for government.

The transition away from colonialism

Western imperialism reached its highest point before World War i, although several decades went by before World War ii brought a full rejection of colonialism. The Spanish–American War marked the beginning and the end of any large-scale American involvement with colonialism, and the Boer War crystallized the hostility of many, in Britain and elsewhere, to imperialism. The years preceding World War i were the last in which a complacent colonialism could flourish as a part of what seemed the natural order of things. Liberal and socialist attacks on colonialism were growing, although the belief in white supremacy lingered on. The adoption of the mandates system in the Versailles peace settlement was one significant expression of the doubts that were beginning to undermine colonialism. The only significant additions to the colonial domains between the two world wars were short-lived: Mussolini’s anachronistic seizure of Ethiopia and Japan’s drive on China and, later, southeast Asia.

All the forces opposed to colonialism and sap-ping its vitality grew in strength in the interwar years. The success of the Russian Revolution brought into being a world-wide network of agitation against imperialism, and nationalist activities and organizations were multiplying in the dependent territories themselves. In the imperial centers the will to maintain empire steadily declined with the spread of ideas hostile to racialism and colonial domination. World War ii greatly hastened the process through the Japanese displacement of the colonial powers in southeast Asia, the further weakening of those powers at home, the intensification of anti-imperialist opinion throughout the world, and the atmosphere of change that permeated many of the colonies.

After 1945 the flood tide of anticolonialism swept away the colonial system with a speed and thoroughness that matched colonialism’s advance at the close of the nineteenth century. The possession of colonies, so long a matter of pride and prestige, now became a sin to be expiated only, if at all, by the granting of immediate independence. The League of Nations’ indifference to the problem was replaced by the profound involvement of the United Nations in the process of decolonization.

Attitudes toward colonialism

Attitudes toward colonialism have varied greatly from time to time and from place to place. Most frequently, colonialism has been accepted as merely one manifestation of the ever-present truth that the strong dominate the weak. Although the missionary element has rarely been wholly absent, the usual presumption has been that every colony does or ought to exist for the benefit of the mother country.

The justifications of colonial rule cover a wide range, often resting upon the right of the conqueror, perhaps bolstered by a claim of racial superiority. Where the interests of the dependent peoples are taken into account, it is held that an extended period of guardianship is necessary to enable them to “stand by themselves under the strenuous conditions of the modern world.” Here the mission civilisatrice and the “white man’s burden” come into play. Some French spokesmen for colonialism acclaim it as the universal instrument for the spread of civilization, pointing to themselves and many of their neighbors as products of Roman colonization.

The defense of colonialism is likely to adopt some variant of the criterion laid down by John Stuart Mill, who, in the case of peoples not yet ready for representative government, defended alien rule on the ground that the colonial mode of government was as legitimate as any other if it was the one which in the existing state of civilization of the subject people most facilitated their transition to a higher stage of improvement. Lord Lugard (1922) introduced another element in proposing that the colonial powers were under a dual mandate obligating them to secure the advancement of their dependent territories and to develop them in the interest of the world at large.

The assumptions on which such defenses of colonialism rest have been increasingly subject to challenge in recent decades. The more moderate present-day approach tentatively accepts colonial rule if the authorities devote themselves to preparing their wards for independence, but growing skepticism as to the trustworthiness of the colonial powers has led to the insistence that they accept international supervision in so doing. The UN Charter looked to independence or self-government for all dependent peoples, tightened control over the trust territories surviving from the mandates system, and brought all nonself-governing territories into the international public domain.

The more radical approach denounces the imposition of alien rule as always evil under all circumstances. This starting point eliminates all controversy as to whether one colonial system or policy is better than another by blanket condemnation of all, leaving immediate independence as the only way out. Building on the anticolonial resolution of the 1955 Bandung Conference, the UN General Assembly in its 1960 Declaration on the Granting of Independence gave this position international recognition. This declaration denounced the alien subjugation of peoples as a denial of human rights and an impediment to peace, proclaimed the right of all peoples to self-determination without conditions or reservations, and repudiated the doctrine of tutelage by asserting that inadequacy of political, economic, social, or educational preparedness shall never serve as a pretext for delaying independence. Asian and African opinion has constantly been moving toward this radical position, pillorying colonialism as the source of most of the world’s troubles and proclaiming that the higher law of anticolonialism renders all remnants of the era of European colonialism illegitimate and open to attack.

The anticolonialists project such doctrines into the future through the use of the concept of neocolonialism, which accuses the imperialists, among whom the Americans figure prominently, of regarding the independence that the colonial peoples have wrung from them as only the occasion to adopt more subtle tactics of domination and exploitation. Overt colonial rule is thus replaced by economic and other forms of control, including the provision of aid, and the nominally free countries are Balkanized and manipulated in the imperial interest.

The colonial and former colonial powers see what has been happening in recent decades in a very different light. They reject the charge of being oppressors and exploiters and point to their accomplishments in advancing their dependent peoples in every sphere, including the granting of independence to hundreds of millions since 1945. However, they differ greatly in the way in which they have envisaged their colonial mission. The position of four of them—Britain, France, Belgium, and Portugal—may be briefly sketched to indicate the wide range of variation.

Varying colonial policies

Great Britain

With the exception of the United States, whose colonial holdings were far smaller, Great Britain could adapt itself more easily to the new dispensation than any of the other colonial powers. The entire British policy of regarding colonies not as integral parts of the mother country but as countries with their own distinctive ways of life facilitated autonomous development. The colonial peoples were given an increasing share in the governing councils, public service, and judiciary and thus were started on what came to be a standard cycle culminating in self-government and then independence. This was a cycle through which the older dominions had passed and which was tested again in India, Ceylon, and elsewhere in the interwar decades. World War ii brought both a heightening of the belief that colonial rule imposed responsibility for the well-being of dependent peoples and an acceptance of the need to move speedily to end colonialism. India’s independence, in 1947, started a process of decolonization that dismantled the British empire in Asia and most of Africa and the West Indies; and although difficulties have cropped up where there is a substantial amount of white settlement or race mixture, as in the Rhodesias, Kenya, and British Guiana, the British have been able to transform most colonies into independent states within the framework of long-established policies that were already in operation.


France, on the other hand, was forced to undertake a basic reversal in direction. In contrast to the British, the French inclined always to a policy of cultural, economic, and political assimilation. It was characteristic of French policy that the 1944 Brazzaville conference of leading colonial officials decreed that France’s work of civilization in her colonies excluded any idea of autonomy or of evolution outside the French empire, “even in the distant future.” French aid for the colonies was greatly increased after World War ii, and many reforms were introduced, but the bonds linking the colonies to France were not relaxed until the eve of independence. The Indochinese and Algerian wars demonstrated French reluctance to accept colonialism’s end. Even in 1958, when Guinea opted for independence by voting “no” in the referendum on de Gaulle’s constitution, Guinea was treated as an outlaw. Yet in the succeeding months de Gaulle reconciled himself and the French people to African independence on terms of intimate collaboration between France and the newly freed countries—terms often so intimate as to lead to charges that a French neocolonialism had been instituted, rendering independence nominal.


Belgian rule over the Congo, which came to an abrupt end on July 1, 1960, was an unusual combination of elements. The Belgians concentrated power in Brussels, as did the French in Paris, but they did not follow France in associating Africans with them in the imperial center nor Britain in drawing the Congolese into the local administration and governing councils. The great triumvirate—the Belgian government, the giant corporations, and the church—made tremendous strides in economic development, and to a lesser extent in welfare and education, laying the foundation for what would have been a solid structure if uninterrupted decades of colonial rule had stretched ahead. The Belgian philosophy of colonialism explicitly excluded the creation of an elite on the French or British model until mass education would have spread widely and a middle class come into being. The haste with which Belgium moved to sever its formal ties with the Congo following the riots in Leopoldville in January 1959 gave no opportunity to bridge the immense gap between its patronizing paternalism and the responsibilities suddenly assumed by the Congolese, who were left with a government lacking trained African leaders and officials and an army lacking African officers.


The Portuguese offer a fourth variant of colonialism, ruling over an empire shorn of Goa but still reaching from Macao to Mozambique and Angola. Oldest of the Western colonial powers, Portugal continues to protest vigorously that she has no nonself-governing peoples but only equal provinces of a single indivisible realm. The Portuguese boast that they are free of racial prejudice, but their African colonies are marked by the cleavage between the few thousands of “civilized” or “assimilated” Africans and the millions of “uncivilized.” The 1961 rising in Angola led the Portuguese government to announce a number of reforms, including the abolition of the regime do indigenato and the establishment of a single status for all within the Portuguese domain, but the overwhelming majority of the Africans remain illiterate and touched by little more of modernity than pressure to work as laborers for the Europeans. Furthermore, embittered competition has inevitably broken out between the advancing African elements and the thousands of Portuguese peasants and workers officially encouraged to emigrate to Portuguese Africa with the double purpose of relieving home poverty and establishing the Portuguese presence so firmly as to make it unchallengeable. The heart of the problem is that Portugal is itself only a partially developed country, having lived for many years under a dictatorship and being unable to overcome its own poverty and mass illiteracy. Its ability to secure the advancement of millions of people overseas is obviously questionable.

The literature of colonialism

The literature dealing with colonialism is wide-ranging and diverse and reflects the changing nature of the colonial problem. For the most part it consists of studies of particular dependencies or groups of dependencies, but a substantial body of literature dealing with general aspects of colonialism has also been built up. Several studies have undertaken to compare the colonial policies of the powers in terms of the goals that have been set, the success with which these goals have been reached, and the administrative and other machineries that have been employed. At both ends of the spectrum the motives lying behind the acquisition of dependencies and the evaluation of the forces leading to the present surge of decolonization open challenging vistas to inquiry. Among the themes that have recurred regularly in the examination of colonialism are the relative values of direct and indirect rule, centralization and decentralization, varying types of economic policy, the acceptability and effects of white settlement, pressures of different kinds to aid in recruiting a labor force, and the scope and nature of the educational system.

In the interwar decades there appeared in the literature of colonialism the relatively new theme of international control over the colonial powers, but since 1945 this has been superseded by the processes and problems of decolonization and the means of securing economic and political development. The transition through the last stages of colonial rule to independence has been studied in a number of instances but still offers an unusually rich field of inquiry. Africa, achieving independence almost overnight, has come in for unprecedented attention. Now that colonialism is virtually at an end, it becomes possible to explore in depth and in detail what type of colonial system has produced the best results, but before this question can be meaningfully explored it is necessary to determine the scale of values by which colonialism in its various guises is to be measured.

The era of colonialism is far too close to us for any definitive and objective assessment of it to be possible. A few salient points may, however, be tentatively put forward.

(1) Colonialism imposed alien and authoritarian regimes on subordinate societies. These regimes tended to train a few of their subjects in bureaucratic management and required passive acquiescence from the remainder.

(2) Although for long periods passive acquiescence was indeed largely attained, as colonialism advanced it also stimulated nationalist agitation and organization and came to be more and more passionately detested, particularly by those among the colonial people who came into closest contact with the European superiors.

(3) The anticolonial forces have derived their inspiration and ideas primarily from the teachings of the colonial powers themselves, have for the most part adopted Western forms of organization and action, and have been led by men intimately acquainted with the West.

(4) For good or ill, colonialism has been the primary channel through which the ideas and techniques, the spiritual and material forces of the West, have impinged upon the rest of mankind.

Rupert Emerson

[See alsoImperialism; Modernization; Nation; Nationalism.]


Balandier, Georges 1951 La situation coloniale: Approche théorique. Cahiers internationaux de sociologie 11, no. 51:44–79.

Burns, Alan 1957 In Defence of Colonies: British Colonial Territories in International Affairs. London: Allen & Unwin; New York: Macmillan.

Easton, Stewart C. 1964 The Rise and Fall of Western Colonialism: A Historical Survey From the Early Nineteenth Century to the Present. New York and London: Praeger.

Furnivall, John S. 1948 Colonial Policy and Practice: A Comparative Study of Burma and Netherlands India. Issued in cooperation with the International Secretariat, Institute of Pacific Relations. New York: Macmillan; Cambridge Univ. Press.

Girault, Arthur (1895) 1938 Principes de colonisation et de législation coloniale. 7th ed. Revised by Louis Milliot. Paris: Sirey.

Hailey, Malcolm (1938) 1957 An African Survey: A Study of Problems Arising in Africa South of the Sahara. Issued under the auspices of the Royal Institute of International Affairs. Rev. ed. New York and London: Oxford Univ. Press.

Kat Angelino, A. D. de (1929–1930) 1931 Colonial Policy. 2 vols. The Hague: Nijhoff; Univ. of Chicago Press. → Abbreviated translation from the Dutch. Volume 1: General Principles. Volume 2: The Dutch East Indies. First published as Staatkundig beleid en bestuurszorg in Nederlandsch-Indië.

Lugard, Frederick J. D. (1922) 1929 The Dual Man-date in British Tropical Africa. 4th ed. Edinburgh and London: Blackwood.

Mannoni, Dominique O. (1950) 1956 Prospero and Caliban: The Psychology of Colonization. New York: Praeger; London: Methuen. → First published in French as Psychologie de la colonisation.

Maunier, RenÉ (1932–1946) 1949 The Sociology of Colonies. 2 vols. Edited and translated by E. O. Lorimer. London: Routledge. → Volume 1: An Introduction to the Study of Race Contact: Psychology of Expansion. Volume 2: The Progress of Law. First published in French in three volumes.

Nkrumah, Kwame 1965 Neo-colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism. London: Nelson.

Panikkar, Kavalam Madhava (1953) 1959 Asia and Western Dominance: A Survey of the Vasco da Gama Epoch of Asian History, 1498–1945. New ed. London: Allen & Unwin.

Perham, Margery F. 1962 The Colonial Reckoning: The End of Imperial Rule in Africa in the Light of British Experience. New York: Knopf.

Plamenatz, John P. 1960 On Alien Rule and Self-government. London: Longmans.

Royal Institute of International Affairs 1937 The Colonial Problem. Oxford Univ. Press.


This article will deal with the economic theories propounded and the practices adopted at different times during the four and a half centuries of European colonization and with the effects these had on the colonies. It will examine what difference the end of formal empires in the mid-twentieth century made to the economic relations between metropolitan powers and former colonies.

The primary fact about colonialism as a historical phenomenon is that precast theories seldom dictated or even strongly influenced practice. At every stage the economic relationships between colonies and metropolis were determined pragmatically, according to current European practices and needs and conditions in the colonies. Theories were secondary, designed to justify or attack existing practice. Even in the case of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (1776), when a new approach seems to have had demonstrable effects, it is clear that changed colonial policies resulted more from altered circumstances than from an intellectual acceptance of his arguments.

Economic theories of colonialism

Theories of colonialism may be placed into four periods of time: prior to 1660; from 1660 to 1776; from 1776 to 1870; and from 1870 onward. Such divisions are arbitrary, but they provide a primitive frame-work for analysis.

Before 1660. During the two centuries before 1660 colonial economic theories were of minimal importance. The expansion of colonial territories proceeded experimentally, reflecting a wide diversity of aims: crusading zeal against Islam, the missionary impulse, geographical curiosity, the desire for bullion and for luxury trades in the East, and land hunger. None of these objectives required theoretical justification—though men like Bartolomé de Las Casas might denounce particular aspects of Spanish native policy in America—and the economic systems imposed on American settlements and Eastern trading bases were derived from the simple premise that each colonizing country was entitled to any advantages its new possessions offered. The northern European countries that came to colonization later—England, France, and Holland—had more time to theorize before acting; but no one produced a general theory of colonialism, and contemporary attitudes must be deduced from passing references. Most French and English commentators, such as Bodin, Antoine de Montchretien, Marc Lescarbot, Bacon, and Richard Hakluyt, mixed economic with other rewards of colonization indiscriminately: the need for a route to the East via a northwest passage, the utility of American bases in the war with Spain, the interests of transatlantic fishermen, the possibility of finding gold and silver, the support a maritime empire would give the navy, the value of outlets for unemployed people, the possibility of new markets and sources of raw materials, and the Christian mission to convert the heathen. Most of these were commonplaces of Iberian writers: there was no attempt to select or to provide a rationale of colonialism.

The mercantilist era. During the period after about 1660, however, colonial theories became more sophisticated. This was the classical age of mercantilist thought, though it must be remembered that the multiplicity of arguments and practices it embraced were first dubbed a “system” by Adam Smith in 1776 [seeEconomic thought]. The essence of mercantilism was that it projected current metropolitan preoccupations into the colonies and assumed that dependencies existed solely to serve these particular interests. There was still some diffusion of aims, but the primary considerations were now economic advantage and the value of colonial trade for supporting an artificially large merchant marine. The economic possibilities of colonies were categorized. As producers of raw materials they served their owners by freeing them from dependence on European supplies, which might be cut off during war and for which monopoly prices were often charged. Colonial products could, moreover, be paid for in exported manufactures, saving foreign exchange, and could be re-exported to Europe to help the balance of trade. Conversely, colonies provided uniquely favorable markets for European exports, since they were monopolies, and thus helped to maintain employment in metropolitan industries. Since they were subordinate, they could be prevented from building competing industries, and their economies could be made entirely complementary. These arguments, based on observation of established practices, were the staple of pamphleteers and statesmen from the second quarter of the seventeenth into the early nineteenth century: of Richelieu, Colbert, and Vauban in France; of Child, Petty, Davenant, Defoe, Arthur Young, and many others in Britain. Though never brought together into a coherent academic “system,” they formed a well understood and only occasionally criticized corpus of concepts, conveniently summarized as the pacte colonial.

Adam Smith: free trade. Attacks on these principles became significant only in the mid-eighteenth century, led by the French physiocrats and Encyclopedists; the first because they disapproved of overemphasis on industrial production for the colonies, the second because they disliked all monopoly [seeEconomic thought]. But it was Adam Smith (1776), normally taken to be the first academic economist, who first attacked mercantilism root and branch and provided an alternative theory of colonial economics. He did this by applying his theory of the division of labor to colonial production and trade. The value to Europe of colonies in America (he largely ignored possessions elsewhere) was merely that they provided new articles for international trade and extended the market for European manufactures. Such advantages were in-dependent of any colonial system and were diminished to the extent that any state tried to monopolize its colonial trade. Monopoly raised the cost to consumers both in America and Europe; discouraged foreign capital from colonial investment; raised the profits of metropolitan capital and so reduced each country’s competitiveness; and made the metropolis dangerously dependent on colonies of uncertain loyalty. In addition, the higher profits allegedly made by European merchants on the monopoly trade of the colonies had to be set against the costs of imperial government and defense, which were paid by the general taxpayer. Hence a better colonial system would be one in which there was no monopoly and in which common costs were shared between colonies and metropolis. Better still, all colonies should be liberated, for once their trade was open to the world, the principle of the division of labor could be fully applied, and Europe would no longer bear the unrewarding cost of imperial organization.

Smith was rightly pessimistic about Europe’s willingness to admit the truth of these facts. For half a century his arguments convinced only the minority, and no colony was liberated voluntarily, for there were always enough traditionalists to argue that the benefits of colonialism were real and to run against colonial monopoly and therefore purely economic rewards. But the trend of economic theory, as expounded in England by men like David Ricardo and the Benthamites, continued to run against colonial monopoly and therefore against colonies, for the two were still assumed to be inseparable. In any case the question had become almost academic by the 1830s, for once the United States, Spanish America, and Brazil were independent the British alone retained a substantial empire, compensating by gains in India for what they had lost in America. But in the 1820s, the British, as they moved toward international free trade, were also losing interest in their colonies, which were increasingly criticized as fields of government expenditure unrequited by economic advantages. India and trading bases in the East were generally accepted, because they were economically self-supporting and were an increasingly valuable market for British manufactures; but settlement colonies were falling into disrepute.

Modern period: capital outlet. In the century after 1830 two distinct theories were developed to justify or rationalize colonies as economic phenomena under the new conditions. The first theory applied only to colonies of white settlement in North America, South Africa, and Australasia and concerned only the British. Against those who denounced such possessions, E. G. Wakefield, in a series of publications starting with his Letter From Sydney in 1829 and culminating in his Art of Colonization in 1849 argued that suitable colonies were valuable to the parent state, even under free trade conditions, provided they were correctly organized. Denying the precepts of Ricardo, he argued that an industrialized state could generate surplus capital which it was unprofitable to invest at home either in agriculture (because of the declining profitability of marginal lands) or in industry (because foreign markets did not expand fast enough to absorb its products). Adopting Smith’s theory of “new equivalents,” he held that this capital would be more profitably employed if it were exported to places where fertile land was in good supply. Provided ample labor was made available by emigration, capital would be more productive in these new lands and at the same time would expand the market for British manufactures and increase the supply of cheap foodstuffs and industrial raw materials. Colonies would provide these advantages better than independent states because colonies could be forced to be free-trading, and the new settlements would remain primary producers for the indefinite future.

Wakefield’s theory and the detailed prescriptions he laid down for new settlements were never fully tested; but his basic argument carried conviction and constituted the main justification for settlement colonies under free trade conditions. But since only Great Britain possessed important settlement colonies in the nineteenth century, Wakefield’s theory had limited applicability. The vast majority of new European colonies in the period after 1830 were tropical territories in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific that did not fit his formula. By the last quarter of the century new theories were necessary to justify these acquisitions to the mass electorates of Europe.

Modern period: market outlet. Thus the second main theory of colonialism in the modern period was specially adapted to the facts of tropical dependencies. Significantly, no leading economist dared challenge Adam Smith by formulating a comprehensive doctrine; the new “neomercantilist” theories were evolved by politicians and businessmen rather than academic economists. Theory followed the fact of new colonies and had to justify them. As propounded and widely disseminated by such statesmen as Jules Ferry of France and Joseph Chamberlain of Britain, the new argument was that tropical colonies were essential as markets (débouchées) for the surplus products of European industry as it expanded under the influence of renewed domestic protectionism—necessary safety valves for industrial capitalism—without which Europe faced social chaos and perhaps revolution. As a secondary point it was held that industrial states needed guaranteed sources of cheap industrial raw materials and food and that colonies ensured that any one country could not be made to pay monopoly prices for them. In addition, some argued that Europe had surplus capital that was best invested in tropical plantations, mines, and communications. Thus, in general, such colonies provided the solution to most of the economic and social problems of industrial Europe under conditions of protectionism.

Twentieth-century criticism. By the early twentieth century these arguments were widely accepted, even to the extent that many believed tropical colonies actually did provide these projected advantages and that they had been deliberately acquired for these functions. Seldom were any of these assumptions true: the irony was that critics of the new colonization accepted them and founded their new anticolonialist arguments on these alleged facts. Critics had been vocal throughout the later nineteenth century, mostly on financial or humanitarian grounds. After about 1900 they divided into two groups: those who believed the profits of tropical empire to be real but deplored them; and those who believed the rewards to be illusory. The first school was led by European Marxists who regarded the export of capital to the tropics as evidence that Europe was entering a new phase of “monopoly capitalism” when it was no longer profitable to invest in protected domestic markets because they were dominated by a few great trusts. Europe had to export surplus capital or allow capitalism itself to stagnate. Ultimately the nations would compete for the limited supply of colonies, and the resulting wars for imperial redivision would inaugurate the socialist revolution and the end of capitalism. This was the basic argument propounded by V. I. Lenin in his influential pamphlet Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1916). Others, like Rosa Luxemburg, produced variants on the same theme.

The rival school of critics was led by J. A. Hobson, whose Imperialism: A Study (1902) stated the case against the profitability of tropical colonization. Hobson accepted the propagandists’ argument that colonies were the product of surplus capital seeking fields for investment but held that this surplus existed only because the social and economic systems of Europe denied the masses sufficient consumer capacity to justify increased investment in home industry. Hobson was wrong in thinking that the bulk of the exported capital had gone to the new dependencies: in fact most was going to the old settlement colonies, India and the independent American countries. But he rightly pointed out that most of the new colonies were too poor to provide valuable markets for manufactured exports and held that the cost of defense and administration, coupled with the moral degradation resulting from most of Europe’s activities in Africa and Asia, outweighed any advantages such colonies might provide. His conclusion was that Europe’s best interest was to invest at home; to stick to free trade; and to place undeveloped tropical territories, whose raw materials were needed by the West, under international supervision. He thus brought the debate over colonization back to the position taken by Adam Smith. During the remaining half century of European colonialism no one satisfactorily demonstrated that tropical empire was either necessary or profitable to the Western powers.

The “practice” of colonialism

The practice of colonialism (taking this to mean the devices actually employed to provide economic advantages to the owners of colonial dependencies) can be described as having evolved through three stages of unequal length: from the foundation of the first colonies to the 1830s; from that time to near the end of the century; and from about 1890 to the period of decolonization after 1945. In each period imperial arrangements closely followed contemporary practices in the parent states and owed very little to theory.

Before 1830: the mercantilist period. During the first period—the era of mercantilism—the pattern was set by Spain and Portugal as the pioneers of overseas colonization. They in turn instinctively applied the protectionist and monopolistic practices current in sixteenth-century Europe to their new possessions. Later-starting imperial states adopted most, though not all, of these techniques, so that by the later seventeenth century there was a “system” largely common to all empires, varying mainly according to whether colonies were in America or the East. There were practices common to all: foreign ships were entirely excluded from colonial ports; virtually all colonial exports and imports were routed through the ports of the metropolis; and specified manufactures or processing of raw materials were banned in the dependencies. Spain and Portugal went further than others by insisting, until late in the eighteenth century, that American trade should be carried only in annual convoys and be restricted to a single metropolitan port. Spain also banned most intercolonial trade in America and restricted the Pacific trade from Mexico to the Philippines. By these means it was hoped that each metropolis would have a monopoly of colonial bullion and raw materials and a guaranteed colonial market for manufactures; that metropolitan merchants would be ensured a middleman profit on trade passing through the parent state; and that the colonies would be preserved as primary producers, ideal markets for industrial Europe. In addition, production of the most wanted colonial products was encouraged by complex systems of bounties and preferential tariffs in the home markets. Trade with Africa and the East was dealt with rather differently. Until after 1640 Portugal excluded even her own nationals from dealing in the more valuable Eastern commodities, leaving a monopoly to the crown. England, France, and Holland also imposed monopolies on their Eastern trade but granted them to privileged chartered companies with full administrative powers.

The main imperial “profit” from these mercantilist practices arose from commercial monopoly. This is practically impossible to estimate quantitatively but almost certainly existed, at least to the extent that colonists had to pay a higher price for their imports and received lower returns for their exports than under a free trading system. This metropolitan profit varied inversely with the economic capacity of the parent state, favoring economically uncompetitive countries like Spain, who would otherwise have had little share in the trade of their own colonies, more than a country like Britain, which, by the eighteenth century, possessed the greater economic potential. For Britain it has been estimated that in 1773 the gross “profit” of mercantile controls in North America lay between $2.5 and $7 million, ignoring the ancillary costs involved in empire. But in addition to such commercial profits, Spain and Portugal made substantial fiscal profits from their American colonies by transferring surplus revenue to the metropolitan exchequer. Portugal was receiving thereby some £900,000 annually in the mid-eighteenth century. No other colonial power used this device. The French subsidized their colonies. The British conceded the principle of fiscal autonomy until after 1763 and then attempted to impose taxes on the colonies, not to make a profit but to offset the cost of colonial defense and administration. This attempt failed, although it had considerable importance in the course of events leading to American independence.

Nineteenth-century trend to free trade. The first and longest era of colonialism ended effectively during the first half of the nineteenth century— more because the colonies that had made it meaningful were now independent than because colonial theory had changed. The British, who possessed the only large empire, gradually adopted free-trade practices at home and extended them to the colonies. British colonies were virtually open to the world by 1830 and by 1860 the last vestiges of shipping controls and preferences on colonial products had gone. Other colonial powers slowly followed suit. The Dutch threw open their colonial trade after 1815 but created a special monopoly of the carriage and sale of certain commodities that the Batavian government collected as part of the “culture system” from 1830 to the 1870s. France preserved the colonial shipping monopoly together with preferences and certain exclusive regulations until the 1860s but had abolished them by 1870. Spain and Portugal never completely removed mercantile controls but largely liberalized them for their few dependencies. By 1870 the era of mercantilism seemed over, in that no imperial power then obtained economic advantages from its dependencies that were not available to the world.

Resurgence of limited protectionism. The period of colonial free trade was very short-lived. The revival of protectionism in most parts of Europe in the last quarter of the century led naturally to its extension to the new tropical empires. France adopted a strongly protectionist domestic tariff in 1892 and extended it to all her colonies except West Africa, the Congo, and the Pacific, which had to have separate tariff systems because of international treaties or local economic conditions. Even so all colonies gave and received preferences. The Russians enclosed their new possessions in central Asia and the Far East within their metropolitan tariffs and gave bounties and preferences on selected colonial products. The United States incorporated most new dependencies in the Caribbean and Pacific within the metropolitan tariff, leaving only the Panama canal zone and Samoa open to international trade on the open-door principle. Portugal, Spain, and Italy either assimilated their colonies to the metropolis or imposed preferences. But not all states reverted to mercantile concepts. The Dutch abolished their semimonopoly of Indonesia in the 1870s and maintained an open door, although using quotas on imports in the 1930s. Germany before 1914 and Belgium also preserved the open door with moderate tariffs in their colonies. Britain resisted demands from pressure groups at home and from some settlement colonies and did not drop free trade until 1932, though the self-governing colonies indulged in protection and, after 1899, gave Britain limited preferences. Some preferences were given to colonial products in the British market during and after World War i. Britain reverted to protection in 1932, and the Ottawa agreements of that year led to a preferential system throughout the empire, coupled with quotas on some products and financial control by means of the sterling area.

During the last phase of European colonialism, therefore, most colonial powers adopted some form of preferential system: hence the term “neomercantilist” to describe the new pattern. Yet it never approximated in its severity the mercantilism of the first period. No power excluded foreign ships or goods from its colonies, forced colonial trade to pass through metropolitan ports, forbade colonial manufactures that might compete with its own or, with the sole exception of Holland between 1830 and 1877, transferred colonial revenues to the metropolitan treasury.

Significance of colonial trade. Moreover, few colonial powers obtained anything approaching a monopoly of the overseas trade of their dependencies or found their chief market or source of imports in their empires. Russia and the United States took most of the exports and supplied most of the imports of their possessions; but for both colonial trade was of marginal importance. Britain’s share in her empire’s overseas trade declined steadily from about 49 per cent in the decade after 1854 to 35 per cent in 1929–1933, rising only slightly thereafter as a result of imperial preferences. But the colonies’ share in British total overseas trade rose from about 28 per cent in the 1850s to 51 per cent between 1950 and 1954. France continued to furnish a high proportion of her colonies’ imports—always more than half (except during the world wars)—but the proportion of colonial exports to France declined fairly steadily. On the other hand the colonies’ share of France’s total overseas trade was always relatively small: about 10 per cent until 1914, then rising to 28 per cent in 1934. Belgian territories in central Africa took 51 per cent of their imports from Belgium in 1928 and 46 per cent in 1938. They sent 70.6 per cent of their exports in 1928 and 80.7 per cent in 1938 to Belgium. But the Congo played a very small part in Belgian overseas trade, supplying 2.4 per cent and 6.6 per cent of Belgian imports in 1928 and 1938 respectively and taking less than 2 per cent of Belgian exports in each year. The trade of the Netherlands Indies was not monopolized by Holland and played a minor part in Dutch overseas trade. In 1928 only 5.3 per cent of Dutch imports came from Indonesia, 7.2 per cent in 1938. In the former year 8.9 per cent of Dutch exports went to Indonesia and 9.5 per cent in 1938. Indonesian exports to Holland declined from 78.3 per cent in 1850 (during the period of the “culture system”) to 15.3 per cent in 1930; and Indonesian imports from Holland fell from 41.9 per cent to 16.8 per cent in the same period.

Although not comprehensive, these figures point to a firm conclusion about modern colonialism on its commercial side. Most colonial powers took a large proportion of the overseas trade of their colonies; but with the sole exception of Britain, whose empire was far larger and provided uniquely favorable markets and varied sources of raw materials, the colonies were of small importance to the world trade of their owners. Artificial factors, such as tariffs, preferences, and currency systems, probably affected the pattern of colonial trade to some extent, but never as much as mercantile controls had done before 1830. Since, moreover, there was never a total ban on foreign trade or shipping, and therefore no monopoly, it cannot be said that “neomercantilism” exploited dependencies; in fact, bounties, preferences, and quotas on colonial products probably favored the colonial producer more than colonial tariffs helped the metropolitan producer. The old pacte colonial was indeed revived, but it was no longer exclusive and was reasonably two-sided in its benefits.

Advantage of colonial investments. There remains the question of metropolitan advantage from capital investment in the colonies. Did political controls, especially of non-European labor, create especially favorable conditions for European capital in the dependencies, providing a “superprofit” for European “finance-capitalists”? The question is too complex to unravel briefly; but two points are reasonably certain. First, the great bulk of European investment in colonies was in government bonds or in fixed interest debentures in public utility companies. On both, the interest paid was only very slightly higher than that from comparable stocks in Europe or America, so that colonies were not forced to provide artificially high returns to metropolitan investors. Second, the return on some risk stocks—equities—was often high, and probably higher than could be obtained at most times on industrial equities in Europe or the United States. But this was due less to the fact of colonial subordination than to the intense world demand for certain products possessed by some tropical colonies, for example, metals and rubber; and the return on capital invested in such ventures was not evidently different from that invested in independent countries of similar economic type that lacked the capacity to develop their own natural endowments, notably those in the Middle East and Latin America. In short, the special profitability of capital investment attracted to the tropical colonies reflected the inherent advantages of the strong world demand at particular times for their particular types of product, the scarcity of capital there, and the strong bargaining position of Western countries when dealing with politically or economically weak societies. Colonial investments did not depend on formal imperial control to provide excess profits.

This fact is the key to understanding the economic relations between the industrialized Western powers and the new ex-colonial countries in the period after decolonization in the 1960s. The phenomenon denounced by Marxists and by nationalists in the new states as “neocolonialism” was the continued economic dependence of the ex-colonies on their previous masters or on other Western powers. This could take the form of special commercial relations, such as exist between France and several ex-dependencies in west Africa and elsewhere; between Britain and many members of the sterling area; and between the United States and the Philippines or Puerto Rico. Alternatively, “neocolonialism” might consist in the “exploitation” of these “developing” societies through their reliance on foreign capital, which tends to place segments of their economies under the control of foreign companies or governments. In either case “neocolonialism” implies that the advanced countries are continuing to interfere in the economic life of onetime colonies as if they had not been liberated.

It remains debatable how much truth there is in these allegations; but in fact “neocolonialism” is as imprecise a concept as colonialism. Facts are in any case more important than accusations. Most developing countries, like most earlier colonies, are primary economies, and depend heavily on more advanced states for markets, imported manufactures, capital, technical skills, and opportunities to train their own nationals. If they prefer to avoid contacts of these kinds in order to retain their entire freedom of action, the choice is now open to them, strengthened by the possibility of obtaining the same amenities from Russia or China as “nonimperialist” states. In practice, however, the balance of advantage almost certainly lies with the receiving countries. In the 1960s they have been given much capital in the form of “aid”—i.e., grants or capital on noncommercial terms—and many have benefited substantially from preferential markets for their products in France, the Common Market, Britain, or the United States. [SeeForeign aid, article onECONOMIC ASPECTS; International integration, article onECONOMIC UNIONS; International trade controls, article onTariffs and protectionism.] If “neocolonialism” exists, it is the inevitable product of an inherent imbalance between the advanced and the developing economies, irrespective of the political factors involved. This one-sided relationship will disappear only when the new states reach the position already achieved by Japan and become as powerful economically as the ex-colonial powers on whom they continue to depend. Evidence provided by eastern Europe after 1945 does not suggest that the economic status of nominally independent countries associated with socialist Russia differs substantially from that alleged to exist between the ex-colonial territories of Africa and the East with their onetime masters.

D. K. Fieldhouse


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Colonialism: Africa

Colonialism: Africa

Conceptions and characterizations of colonialism vary considerably among scholars of Africa. Differences and debates center on four sets of interrelated issues: first, the place and importance of the colonial period in African history; second, the nature of the colonial encounter and its driving force; third, the typologies of African colonialism; and fourth, the legacies of colonialism for postcolonial Africa. These questions have been addressed from a wide variety of disciplinary and analytical traditions. In general, the historiography of colonialism in Africa has been dominated at different moments by four paradigms: the imperialist, nationalist, radical, and postcolonial.

Imperialist approaches, which prevailed in the early twentieth century, emphasized the civilizing mission and impact of colonialism. Critiques against this tradition, combined with nationalist struggles that led to decolonization, culminated in the rise of nationalist historiography, which emphasized African activities and agency. From the 1970s, influenced by a growing sense of pessimism about the developmental and democratic capacities of the postcolonial state and the rise of militant ideologies and social movements, "radical" approaches emerged, centered on dependency and Marxist ideas that highlighted the economic depredations and effects of colonialism. In the 1990s, following the demise of socialist regimes and ideologies and the spread of poststructuralism and postmodernism, postcolonial perspectives were increasingly used to reinterpret the cultural and discursive dynamics and complexities of colonialism. Additional paradigms on colonialism arose, most critically those informed by feminist and environmental studies, which stress the role of gender and ecology in the construction of colonial identities, societies, and political economies.

Colonialism in African History

Imperialist and nationalist historiographies represent almost diametrically opposed views of the place and impact of colonialism in African history, with one regarding it as a decisive moment, the other, as a parenthesis. To the imperialists, colonialism in fact brought Africa into history, for in their view, Africa "proper," to use Hegel's monikerfrom which North Africa was excisedwas the land of the "Unhistorical, Undeveloped Spirit," exhibiting "the natural man in his completely wild and untamed state" (pp. 91, 93). European colonialism, therefore, was depicted as a civilizing mission undertaken to historicize and humanize Africans.

Consequently, imperialist historians mostly discussed in positive light the policies of colonial governments and the activities of colonial auxiliaries, from European merchants to missionaries. When their narratives mentioned Africans, it was to condemn their societies and cultures or to chronicle their Westernization or modernization. Those who resisted colonial conquest or colonial rule were depicted as atavistic, while those who collaborated or accepted the colonial regime were praised for their foresight and wisdom. In fact, in-depth study of African societies was largely left to anthropology, which, with its functionalist-positivist paradigms and ethnographic present, exonerated, if not extolled, colonialism.

Nationalist historians offered an ideological and methodological revolt against imperialist historiography. Using new sources, including oral tradition, historical linguistics, and historical anthropology, together with written and archaeological sources, they chronicled the histories of African states and societies before the European colonial conquest and celebrated the growth and eventual triumph of nationalism during the colonial era. They sought to unravel painstakingly African activity, adaptations, choice, and initiative. Led by J. F. Ade Ajayi (1968) in Anglophone Africa and Cheikh Anta Diop (1974) in Francophone Africa, they emphasized continuity in Africa's long history and reduced colonialism to a parenthesis, an episode, a digression, a footnote that had altered African cultures and societies only slightly. In this narrative, independence marked a moment of historical recovery in which the agency of the precolonial past was restored and reconnected to the postcolonial future. The linear and celebratory tales of nationalist historiography were later found wanting by numerous critics.

While both the dependency and the Marxist scholars focused on the exploitative economic structures and processes of colonialism, the former were more interested in explaining the external forces that produced and reproduced Africa's underdevelopment; the latter preferred to concentrate on the internal dynamics. To the dependentistas, colonialism marked a second stage in Africa's incorporation into an unequal world capitalist system that was ushered in during the fifteenth century with the onset of the Atlantic slave trade. Marxist scholars sought to transcend the ubiquitous and homogeneous capitalism of dependency theory. Colonialism, they argued, entails the articulation of modes of production whereby pre-capitalist modes are articulated in their diverse relations with the capitalist mode. Hence the introduction of capitalism by colonialism does not eliminate the precapitalist modes but re-shapes them; the latter are progressively subordinated to capital through a contradictory process of destruction, preservation, and transformation.

Unlike the nationalists, the imperialist, dependency, and Marxist historians share the view that the colonial period was decisive in African history. But they differ in their characterization and conceptualization of the place and impact of colonialism. Like the nationalists and unlike the imperialists, the dependentistas and Marxists see colonialism as an intrusive moment in the longue durée of African history. Insofar as dependency analyses concentrate on the external determinations of underdevelopment, they diminish African agency and echo imperialist accounts of African history, whereas the Marxist focus on internal production processes and social relations resonates with nationalist historiography.

The nationalist periodization of African history, in which the colonial moment occupies limited space, was sanctified in the Cambridge (History of Africa, 19771985) and UNESCO (General History of Africa, 19811993) histories, each in eight thick volumes, only two of which were on the colonial and postcolonial periods. Yet far more African historians currently work on the colonial period than on the precolonial period.

The Nature of the Colonial Encounter

Colonialism in Africa entailed an encounter between the continent and Europe. This encounter encompassed multiple spheres (from politics, economy, and culture to sexuality, psychology, and representations), spatial scales (from local and individual colonial territories to subregions and the continent as a whole), and social groups and inscriptions (from the colonizers and colonized to class, gender, and generation). Analyzing the nature of the colonial encounter, therefore, has proved exceedingly complex and contentious, given the range of possible analytical categories and conceptions of what indeed "Europe" and "Africa" mean. Different readings informed by disparate disciplinary or theoretical orientations emphasize the political, economic, cultural, or representational import of the colonial encounter.

Overall, some regard this encounter as essentially antagonistic while others depict it as ambivalent or even accommodative. Until recently, especially before the rise of postcolonial theory, colonialism was largely conceived in antagonistic terms as a series of encounters between the seemingly enduring and impermeable binaries of colonizer and colonized, Western and non-Western, domination and resistance, modernity and tradition, destruction and preservation, and universal and local. Postcolonialists insist on the ambivalent nature of colonialism, its contingency and decenteredness, and the hybridities and pluralities of the identities it produced. If colonialism is primarily viewed as a political encounter among imperialist and nationalist scholars and as an economic one among the radicals, the postcolonialists emphasize its cultural and discursive dimensions.

The Bifurcated Colonial State

Studies on colonialism as politics and the politics of colonialism have tended to focus on two main issues: the nature of the colonial state and African resistance. Discussion and debate on the colonial state have centered on its specificities and construction, how to classify African colonial states and administrations, the dynamics of colonial power and civil society, and the demise or reconstitution of the colonial state into the postcolonial state. Crawford Young has argued quite forcefully that the African colonial state derives its peculiarity from the fact that it enjoyed only some of the crucial attributes of the modern state (territory, population, sovereignty, power, law, and the state as nation, an international actor, and an idea) and could not exercise some of its imperatives (hegemony, autonomy, security, legitimacy, revenue, and accumulation).

This is because the colonial state in Africa was created in the late nineteenth century, long after both the modern metropolitan state and the generic colonial state had been formed, which allowed for no experimentation. Also, as a conquest state imposed by force, its hegemony was excessively coercive, so that it enjoyed little legitimacy. Moreover, its territoriality was ambiguous, its sovereignty and institutions of rule were extraverted and resided in the imperial metropole, and its revenue base was weak. Charged with the onerous tasks of consolidating colonial rule, linking the colony to the metropole, and establishing or promoting colonial capitalism, the result was that the colonial state was both interventionist and fragile, authoritarian and weak, and exercised domination without hegemony, all of which ensured its eventual downfall.

All colonial states, irrespective of their ideologies and administrative systems, justified themselves in the names of civilization and pacification. Economic motivations of colonialism were assiduously downplayed. Moreover, all colonial powers used African intermediaries in their administrative systems because they lacked personnel and local knowledge and in order to minimize African resistance and administrative costs. They also used chartered companies in some of their colonies in the early years.

In imperialist historiography, colonial power was portrayed as unassailable because it was for Africa's good. For the opposite reason it was decried in nationalist historiography, which stressed its oppressiveness and incapacity to withstand the full might of nationalist struggle. Dependency writers tended to disregard the importance of politics because they believed that neither the colonial state nor African resistance could stop the ineluctable juggernaut of the world capitalist system, while Marxists subsumed colonial politics to either local class struggles (waged by the numerically small working classes, and only reluctantly and later were struggles by the much larger peasantries considered) or anti-imperialist struggles mediated by communist parties in the imperial metropoles themselves or the Soviet Union. Many of the early studies failed to examine the ways that colonial power was specifically deployed, engaged, contested, deflected, or appropriated.

It was not until Peter Ekeh published his influential essay "Colonialism and the Two Publics in Africa" that colonial civil society began to receive serious scholarly attention. He argued that colonialism created two publics that he called the primordial and civic publics, whose dialectical relationships accounted for the political problems of postcolonial Africa. The first public is associated with primordial groupings, sentiments, and activities; the second is associated with the colonial administration and is amoral, lacking the generalized moral imperatives operative in the private realm and in the primordial public. The two publics emerged because colonial ideologies of legitimation denigrated African societies and cultures and glorified European colonial rule, while African bourgeois ideologies of legitimation accepted colonial ideas and principles to justify the leadership of the elites in the fight against colonialism and the inheritance of the postcolonial state. Both ideologies envisaged and sought to separate the indigenous and colonial publics, in which different conceptions of citizenship, morality, and material expectations prevailed. Thus colonial civil society was characterized by the bifurcation of the public realm, which accounts for the centrality of ethnicity in African politics and the disjunction between the state and society that has bedeviled postcolonial Africa.

Others saw the bifurcation and ethnicization of colonial civil society differently. In his award-winning book Citizen and Subject, Mahmood Mamdani argued that the bifurcation of power in Africa results from the continent's distinctive colonial experience. The configuration of colonial rule in Africa led first to the institutionalization of two systems of power under a single authority: one urban, based on civil power and rights, excluding the colonized on the basis of race, the other rural, where tradition and culture incorporated the colonized into the rule of custom. Second, colonial rule in Africa led to the privileging of state-ordained and state-enforced traditions that had least historical depth and were monarchical, authoritarian, and patriarchal, so that customary power and law became an integral part of a decentralized despotism. Finally, with custom becoming the language of force, colonial rule led to rationalizing the appropriation and management of land and the mobilization of labor under the colonial rubric.

This bifurcated state power, civil and customary, first crystallized in equatorial Africaas "indirect rule" in British colonies and "association" in French coloniesand later spread to older colonies to the north and south, including South Africa, where apartheid represented the last attempt at reorganizing the state structure to incorporate the "native" population in a world of enforced tradition. The challenges confronting African countries in the struggles for independence and after were to democratize the state and particularly customary power, deracialize civil society, and restructure unequal external relations of dependency.

Dependent Colonial Capitalism

To many scholars, economics, not politics, is central to the colonial project. In the 1970s systematic studies began to appear on African colonial economies. Three dominant approaches emerged. The first was rooted in neoclassical economic theory and focused largely on market processes and the problems of resource allocation. Anthony Hopkins has provided the most famous neoclassical treatment of African economic history. Using vent-for-plus theory (that colonialism provided a "vent," or an "opening"), he argues that colonialism inaugurated an "open economy" of increased market opportunities, which West Africans seized with alacrity by mobilizing previously underutilized resources. Hopkins's economic history walked a fine line between the imperialist approaches that stressed the modernizing impact of colonialism and the nationalist emphasis on African initiatives.

The second approach was dependency, which was born out of dissatisfaction with prevailing neoclassical descriptions, analyses, and prescriptions for Third World development. Using the concepts of "incorporation," "unequal exchange," "development of underdevelopment," and "center-periphery," dependency writers emphasized external economic linkages and exchange relations, often at the expense of internal and production processes. Walter Rodney's influential text How Europe Underdeveloped Africa portrayed colonialism simply as a new stage in Africa's unrelenting slide into structural internal underdevelopment and external dependency.

Marxist scholars attacked both neoclassical and dependency writers for alleged theoretical inadequacies, empirical shortcomings, and ideological biases. They sought to employ concepts of dialectical and historical materialismwhich seek to examine how specific systems originate, develop, function, and change in given historical epochsto unravel Africa's historical realities. For the precolonial era, it proved difficult to fit Africa into the traditional Marxian modes or to construct specific African ones. As far as the colonial economy was concerned, many Marxists found the concept of the articulation of modes of production useful and produced interesting studies on labor and workers, agriculture and peasants, and the changing structures of Africa's incorporation into the world economy.

Despite the different emphases of the three approaches, it is possible to outline the common features shared by African colonial economies: they were all expected to provide raw materials and markets for the imperial economies and to be financially self-supporting. The colonial economy was characteristically export-oriented and monocultural and suffered from uneven productivity between sectors and outside domination in terms of markets, technology, and capital. It developed in three phases: first, the period up to World War I, when coercionforced labor, cultivation, and taxationpredominated; second, the interwar years, characterized by regulation of the colonial economy and the disruptions of the Great Depression, which exposed its vulnerabilities and fostered new economic policies of development planning; and third, the postWorld War II period, when "colonial development and welfare" policies took hold, characterized by increased state intervention and investment in "economic development."

Typologies of Colonialism

A key challenge in analyzing African colonial economies, as with other spheres of colonialism, is their sheer diversity. The temporal division between precolonial and colonial economies and polities and their spatial development during the colonial period were manifested quite unevenly. The growth and structure of colonial economies, for example, were determined by the level of development of the precolonial economies themselves, the nature of precolonial relations with Europe, the modes of conquest and resistance, the level of development of the colonizing powers, the resource endowment of each territory, and the presence or absence of European settlers.

Several attempts have been made to construct typologies of African economies and colonialism more broadly. Three can be identified. First is the renowned tripartite division of Africa developed by Samir Amin (1972): the Africa of the labor reserves (Algeria, Kenya, and much of southern Africa), where Africans were primarily expected to provide labor for European colonial enterprises; the Africa of trade (West Africa, Uganda, Morocco, and Tunisia), where Africa produced the bulk of commodities traded by colonial companies; and the Africa of concession companies (central and equatorial Africa and the Portuguese colonies), where chartered companies enjoyed economic and administrative control over African labor and produce. Second is Thandika Mkandawire's typology distinguishing between rentier and merchant economies, in which surpluses are extracted from rents from mining and trade and taxes from agriculture, respectively. Third is the distinction often drawn between settler and peasant economies or modes of production.

The concept of peasants has a rich and controversial literature in African studies. Debate has focused on the historical origins of African peasantries, their relations with capital and the state, internal differentiations, the changing organization of peasant workespecially its complex articulations with gender and generational relations and divisionsthe impact of environmental conditions and changes, the complex patterns of rural cultural construction, peasant knowledge systems, and the intricacies of peasant politics and struggles at various levels, from the household and the local community to the national and global system. In this context, not only did colonialism alter the lives of African peasantries, but the latter also profoundly shaped the terrain of colonialism in Africa.

The concept of the settler mode of production sought to capture the specificities of settler colonies. Settler colonialism was characterized by several features: the exclusion of competition (settler control of key economic resources, including land, allocation of infrastructure, banking, and marketing, at the expense of the indigenous people); the predominance of the migrant labor system (which allowed the costs of reproducing labor power to be borne in the rural reserves); generalized repression whereby direct and brutal force was used regularly; and the close intersection of race and class.

Linked to the concept of settler colonialism is the concept of internal colonialism, in which the colonizing "nation" or "race" occupies the same territory as the colonized people. This concept found favor among some academics and liberation movements in South Africa who saw the hierarchical, exploitative, and separatist structures of segregation and apartheid as analogous to the relationship of domination and subjection between an imperialist state and its racialized colonies. Harold Wolpe attacked the concept for positing an unexplained autonomy of racial, ethnic, and cultural groups and obscuring the relationships between them, akin to the theory of plural society widely used by liberal scholars to describe South African society.

The Ambivalences of Colonial Society

The pluralist approach was widely applied by social anthropologies to explain many other African colonial societies, which were depicted as "plural societies" in which different ethnic groups and races lived in close proximity; colonial social change was attributed to "culture contact" and "acculturation." To the pluralists, colonialism provided an arena for the acculturation of African ethnic groups to European culture and values, and so they were preoccupied with recording the patterns of what they called "detribalization" as indicated by changes in clothes, occupations, education, family forms, and leisure activities.

Marxist critics such as Bernard Magubane attacked the indices used by the pluralists and the fact that the specifics of European life and culture in Africa and their own "acculturation" or "Africanization" were ignored. Above all, in their view, the pluralists mystified the real social relations for they failed to place colonial social change in the context of colonialism as a global system of economic relations. The Marxists demonstrated that behind the processes of "acculturation" lay widespread practices of resistance. For example, the leisure activities of workers, as exhibited in work songs, often articulated African popular resistance against colonial rule. Similarly, it was demonstrated that transformations of cultural practices in the rural areas reflected peasant attempts to resist and remake the colonial situation. The Marxists maintained that religious conversions, whether to Christianity or Islam, represented not simply "acculturation" and the renunciation of the old religions but also translations of the old religions into new terms as filtered through the complex mediations of class and social consciousness.

Preoccupied as they were to show African agency, nationalist scholars were perhaps the loudest in refusing to see the processes of colonial social and cultural change simply as a product of "Westernization." In a famous essay on the invention of tradition in colonial Africa, Terence Ranger insisted that social and cultural traditions were invented and manipulated by both Europeans and Africans to serve their own interests. Specifically, elders, men, ruling aristocracies, and indigenous people appealed to "tradition." The elders did so in order to defend their dominance over the rural means of production against challenges from the youth; men wanted to retain control against women, who were playing an increasingly important role in the rural areas, especially in regions dominated by male migrant labor; ruling aristocracies sought to maintain or extend their control over their subjects; and indigenous people were anxious to ensure that migrants who settled among them did not achieve political or economic rights. This model became popular for analyzing the contexts in which various cultural and social practices in colonial Africa developedfrom music and dance to law and marriage.

This constructivist approach was to be fully developed by postcolonial scholars, for whom colonialism was a regime of material and cultural relations as well as discursive and symbolic representations that affected both Africans and Europeans profoundly, although in different ways. The postcolonialists sought to dismantle the image of colonialism as a coherent and monolithic process, to transcend the dichotomy of colonizer and colonized by problematizing, differentiating, and pluralizing each group and mapping out their complex and shifting relations, and to specify the cultural configurations and discourses fashioned out of their changing identities, consciousness, interactions, and negotiations.

Postcolonialists brought into sharper focus issues previously ignored or misconstrued in structuralist and social scientific analyses of colonialism, especially those concerning sexuality, subjectivity, psychology, and language. Besides the textual notions and readings of colonial culture, analyses have increasingly come to stress the nonverbal, tactile dimensions of social practice and the corporeal regimes of bodies, clothing, and performances. Particularly influential have been Frantz Fanon's acclaimed work on the psychology of colonialism and his crucial insights that "blackness" and "whiteness" were mutually constitutive ideological constructions. Building on Fanon's insights, scholars of Africa have highlighted the construction of colonial mentalities, madness, and medicine as mechanisms for inscribing and policing racial and sexual boundaries. Kwame Appiah has shown how the ideas of race in Africa were socially constructed and how colonial and anticolonial discourses reinforced each other to fix racial essences on bodies.

The Feminist Intervention

Many of the approaches used to analyze African colonial politics, economies, societies, and cultures were often gender-blind and tended to ignore women's lives, experiences, contributions, voices, perceptions, representations, and struggles. This began to change following the rise of the feminist movement, which emerged out of both localized and transnational trajectories and intellectual and political struggles within and outside the academy. While the struggles to mainstream women and gender are far from over, African women have become increasingly more visible in histories of colonialism, which has disrupted the binaries and chronologies that tend to frame colonialism in Africa.

As the field of women's studies has expanded, African women have become more differentiated in terms of class, culture, and status, and their complex engagements, encounters, and negotiations with and contestations against the wide range of forces described as colonial are now clearer. From the large and diverse body of theoretical, methodological, and pedagogical literature that has been generated in the last three decades, vigorous debates are evident. One of the most intriguing is on the validity of the term gender itself, with writers such as Ifi Amadiume stressing the relative flexibility of sex/gender relations in precolonial Africa, and Oyèrónké Oyewùmí denying the existence of gender categories altogether.

In the early twenty-first century it has become well established that colonialism had a contradictory impact on different groups of women, although the dominant tendency was to undermine the position of women as a whole. Colonialism combined European and African patriarchal ideologies to create new practices, relations, and ideologies. Earlier work on colonial gender regimes focused on women in productive and commercial activities in the rural and urban areas and the acute tensions in gender relations that were created, to which the colonial state responded by tightening already restrictive customary law, leading to important changes in family structure and new forms of patriarchal power. The topic that attracted by far the most attention was that of women's resistance to colonial rule. Studies ranged from those that examined specific activists and events to general analyses of women's involvement in nationalist struggles in various countries that demonstrated conclusively women's political engagements and contributions.

More recent work has focused on issues of sexuality, constructions of gender identities, and colonial representations. According to Zine Magubane, African sexuality and its control and representations were central to ideologies of colonial domination. In colonial discourse, female bodies symbolized Africa as the conquered land, and the alleged hyperfecundity and sexual profligacy of African men and women made Africa an object of colonial desire and derision, a wild space of pornographic pleasures in need of sexual policing. Sexuality was implicated in all forms of colonial rule as an intimate encounter that could be used simultaneously to maintain and to erode racial difference and as a process essential for the reproduction of human labor power for the colonial economy, both of which demanded close surveillance and control, especially of African female sexuality.

Feminist studies on the construction of gender identities and relations have helped spawn a growing literature on the creation and transformation of colonial masculinities. Writing on Southern Africa, Robert Morrell argues that the colonial divisions of class and race produced different masculinities, some of which were dominant and hegemonic, and others, subordinate and subversive, although the latter received a patriarchal dividend over women of their class and race. These masculinities were produced and performed in different institutional contexts, each with its own gender regime and power relations, from the state, church, and school to the workplace and the home. Needless to say, masculinities changed over time and manifested themselves differently in rural and urban areas, where different gender and associational systems existed and patterns of political, social, and political change took place.

The Demise of Colonialism

Conceptions and analyses of colonialism in Africa have been affected quite considerably by how the demise of colonialism is understood. This in turn has centered on how two processes are examinednamely, decolonization, and African nationalism or resistanceand the connections between the two. Nationalist historians contend that nationalism was primarily responsible for the dismantling of the colonial empires, while to imperialist historians decolonization was largely a product of metropolitan policy and planning. Others seek to place decolonization in the context of changes in the international relations system. Clearly, a process as complex as decolonization was a product of many factors. It involved a complex interplay of the prevailing international situation, the policies of the colonial powers, and the nature and strength of the nationalist movements, which in turn reflected internal conditions both in the metropoles and the colonies and the ideologies and visions of the postcolonial world. There were also variations in the patterns of decolonization among regions and colonies, conditioned by the way in which these factors coalesced and manifested themselves. Furthermore, decolonization was affected by the relative presence and power of European settlers and the perceived geopolitical strategic importance of each colony.

Similarly, the nature and dynamics of African nationalism were exceedingly complex. Not only were the spatial locus and social referent of the "nation" imagined by the nationalists fluid (they could be ethnic, national, regional, and continental), but multiple secular and religious visions of the postcolonial state vied for supremacy. Moreover, nationalism was articulated and fought on many fronts (political, economic, social, cultural, religious, and artistic) through different organizational forms (from political and civic organizations to cultural and religious movements) and in different terrains (rural and urban). The development and impact of nationalism also varied between different colonies even among those under the same imperial power, depending on such factors as the way the colony had been acquired and was administered, the presence or absence of settlers, the traditions of resistance, and the social composition of the nationalist movement and its type of leadership.

Two key questions dominate African scholarship on de-colonization and nationalism. The first is the social content and composition of anticolonial resistance. By the 1980s the old accounts of elite politics and heroic resistance had been abandoned in favor of analyses of resistance by peasants, workers, and women, and from the early 1990s more attention was paid to everyday forms of resistance by various subaltern groups, including youth. In short, the challenge was to write resistance with a small "r" rather than a capital "R" without losing, as Frederick Cooper (1994) insisted, the connections between the subaltern resistances and the larger and fluid constructs of colonialism. The second question centers on the continuities and discontinuities marked by decolonization. In the 1960s, nationalist scholars were inclined to see decolonization as ushering a radical break with colonialism. From the 1970s, the revolutionary pessimism of Fanon, who had pronounced decolonization false in his searing treatise of 1963, The Wretched of the Earth, gained adherents among radical scholars who stressed the structural continuities of colonialism. For their part, the postcolonialists, with their fixation on colonialism, recentered colonialism in African history.

See also Africa, Idea of ; Anticolonialism: Africa ; Empire and Imperialism ; Internal Colonialism ; Nationalism .


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Colonialism and Neocolonialism

Colonialism and Neocolonialism

Edward M. Bennett

Traditionally, colonialism is understood to refer to an area of the world acquired by conquering the territory or settling it with inhabitants of the nation holding it in control, thereby imposing physical control over the region and its population. There are two ways this condition may be terminated: the area may be freed of the control of the colonial power by allowing it to become an independent nation, or if the area is absorbed into the borders of the controlling nation.

The United States began its history as a colonial possession of Great Britain and confronted two other colonial powers in contiguous areas during its infancy and contested France and Spain for control of that territory. After the American Revolution, gradually the European powers were expelled, and the new United States expanded its influence by absorbing the contiguous territories until it controlled the area it occupies today. (Later, Russia was one of those powers expelled.) A debate has ensued concerning whether in this process the United States became a colonial power by its absorption of these areas. This discourse continues, but by the traditional definitions of colonialism, the American experience is quite different from that which characterized the European colonial tradition, as it was not until the late nineteenth century that the United States entered the race for noncontiguous colonies.

With the elimination of colonialism per se in the twentieth century, there emerged a new form, called neocolonialism, which may be defined as the establishment of a form of sovereignty or control without the encumbrance of physical possession or actual colonial rule. Here, the United States may be defined as a neocolonial power because it influences less powerful or Third World nations by its economic authority exercised through its control or preeminent influence on such agencies as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. When this new colonialism began is another debatable question, but there can be no argument with the assertion that it was certainly in place shortly after World War II and may have begun with the Marshall Plan.


Colonialism began as a descriptive term and subsequently assumed a pejorative connotation. In recent times, most studies of the subject have focused attention on attacking both the idea and its practitioners but have also tended to confuse it with imperialism to such a degree as to blur the lines of distinction between the two. (Some people have argued that neocolonialism is a form of imperialism, but this is a specious argument because each has a distinct and separate existence.) It is necessary to discuss imperialism in the context of colonialism and to make the differences clear. For example, it is possible to be imperialistic without having colonies, but it is not possible to have colonies without being an empire. Thus, in the case of the Soviet Union, which exercised rigid controls over the economies of its small neighbors and forcefully absorbed within its structure Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, the Soviets practiced imperialism but not colonialism. If Stalin had succeeded in holding Manchuria under his control at the end of World War II, the Soviet Union would also have become a colonial power. The United States, however, must be judged a colonial power because it holds American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands, the latter formerly held as part of the strategic Trust Territory of the Pacific. Some of the islands of the trust area were not inclined to move toward independence and sought instead territorial status, while one large area, Palau, sought first a compact of free association with the United States and in 1994 became completely independent. In exchange for military base rights, which have not been exercised, the United States agreed to give Palau $700 million in what was called "compact money" over a period of fifteen years.

A state possessing territories not incorporated within its borders, the native inhabitants of which are not granted the full rights or privileges of citizenship of the possessing state, is a colonial power. There is, however, a difference between colonizing an area and colonialism per se. For example, in the American experience colonialism did not exist while the United States was annexing contiguous areas on the continent of North America, for the areas being colonized were recognized as territories destined to be incorporated into the United States as an integral part of the nation.

While there were numerous efforts by various presidents and secretaries of state to make the United States a colonial power in the nineteenth century, none succeeded in permanently adding territory not destined for statehood until the United States formally annexed the Midway Islands in the Pacific Ocean on 28 August 1867, after their discovery in 1859 by the American N. C. Brooks. This was not, however, a true colonial venture, because the American purpose was to provide a way station and fueling stop en route to the Far East. The United States made no effort to develop the islands economically or politically or to populate them with colonists. Therefore, another definition of colonialism is that there must be a conscious effort on the part of the possessing power to develop or exploit the area in the interest of the possessor and to provide some form of government or control through colonial administrative machinery. This does not mean that the colonial power must necessarily neglect or abuse the interests of the native inhabitants of the territory taken as a colony, although more often than not such neglect and abuse does occur. It does mean, however, that the colonial nation has the power to impose its rule over the area and to assert its economic preeminence without resistance from the inhabitants of the area.


Probably no region under colonial administration received more considerate treatment by the mother country than Great Britain's colonies in North America, partly because they were peopled in the main by British subjects transplanted for the purpose of developing raw materials and markets for England. Where a colonial administration was imposed on an already existing and alien population, treatment of the native residents was less benign and generally considered more degrading by those thus possessed, depending on their level of civilization and organization at the time of conquest or occupation. For example, in the areas where Islamic or Asian culture, religion, and laws had existed for a thousand or more years there was often fierce resistance to being subjected to colonial status, whereas in parts of Central Africa, New Guinea, and Borneo, where the native inhabitants were less developed in an economic and material sense, the resistance was less prolonged or nonexistent.

If the American colonists were treated more as equals than most, they also resented more than most that they were not accorded exactly equal status with Englishmen who had not emigrated to the colonies. Therefore, when they rebelled and gained their independence, they had a particular dislike for the very concept of colonialism. Representatives of the new United States wrote their prejudices into the Constitution in 1789, insisting that new acquisitions must become states after securing sufficient population and complying with the laws of the land. This anticolonialism continued as the preeminent view of Americans and their government until the end of the nineteenth century when the new manifest destiny seized the popular imagination and propelled the United States into the race for colonies.


When John L. O'Sullivan coined the term "mani-fest destiny" in 1845, it referred to the "destiny" of the United States to occupy and develop the American continent because of its superior institutions and form of government. Relative to its later counterpart, the "old" manifest destiny provided a modest program for the development and population of contiguous areas to the then existent United States. The new manifest destiny at the end of the nineteenth century bespoke a certain arrogance, since it claimed for Americans a superior system of government, a superior culture, and a superior race destined to carry mankind to the highest pinnacle of achievement. Many of the adherents of this philosophy extolled Yankee capitalism as part of the superior culture.

A man worthy of the task of educating the nation to the needs of expansion appeared in the form of Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, whose major work, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 16601783 (1890), extolled the virtues of a big navy as the route to national greatness which required colonies to extend the defense perimeters of a great nation, and a merchant marine to carry trade to and from the colonies that would be defended by the navy. Mahan's great fear was a forthcoming contest with a rising China, and by means of its navy he wished to put the United States in a position that would keep China confined to the Asian continent. In numerous books, articles, speeches, and through his classes at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, Mahan bombarded Americans with his perception of the need for colonies. Ironically, while his impact was great in the United States, before World War I it was possibly even greater in Germany and Japan. Mahan was not nearly as interested in colonies for their commercial value as for their strategic value, but commerce became a selling point to attract a broad segment of the American public.

Social Darwinism added a sinister bent to the American urge for colonial expansion. American exponents of this pseudoscientific philosophy espoused by the Englishman Herbert Spencer adapted the concept of the survival of the fittest to the new manifest destiny, urging the spread of the Anglo-Saxon race and system of government to the less fortunate peoples of Asia and the Far Pacific. Such proponents of expansion for security motives as Theodore Roosevelt might stress the strategic value of port facilities in the Philippines, but they were drowned out by the more flamboyant spokesmen like Senator Albert Beveridge, who demanded annexation of the whole Philippine archipelago. Roosevelt warned President William McKinley that it was feasible to hold a military naval base to protect American interests in Asia, but possession of the whole of the Philippines would be a commitment that the American people would not support in the long run. His advice was ignored. Again in 1907, Roosevelt referred to the Philippines as an Achilles' heel, which should be given at least nominal independence at the earliest possible moment.

Various answers have been proposed for why Americans, with an anticolonial bias deeply ingrained in their political system, turned to colonialism, or, in other words, what the cause was of the development of the new manifest destiny. Obviously, social Darwinism and the hold that it established on the opinion makers in the United States provide one of the many answers. Richard Hofstadter ascribed America's outward thrust for colonies to what he called the psychic crisis. In The Paranoid Style in American Politics and Other Essays (1965) he argues that the severity of depressions of the period created fears about radicalism that caused the upper-middle and upper classes in the United States to look for some diversion from internal crises, and they found relief by focusing on the expansionist issue. Restless energies, which had concentrated on internal development in the first century of American history, turned in some degree to external adventures, such as Frederick Jackson Turner feared they would with the closing of the frontier in 1890. Missionary enthusiasts saw fields available for the spread of Protestant doctrine. Idealists dreamed of lifting the yoke of European monarchists from the Western Hemisphere and then also from Asia. Some proponents of the Spanish-American War hoped to reunite the North and the South through this uplifting national endeavor. A search for markets motivated some enthusiasts for annexation of the Philippines. A desire to be included among the nations of great powers, which required colonial possessions in the late nineteenth century, proved yet another component to the expansionist movement. But Hofstadter's main emphasis in the psychic crisis rests on internal stimuli for external policy, not the least of which was the contest for political position as each of the major parties struggled to become the repository of public confidence.


In a perceptive study of Sino-American relations pertaining to Manchuria in the period 18951911, Michael H. Hunt examines the forces that worked toward American involvement in China. He stresses the misperceptions that guided both powers' views of one another and their vital interests. He sees racism or ethnocentrism along with excessive provincialism as contributing factors on both sides, keeping the Chinese and Americans from seeing their true interest. Contrary to a number of writers who attempted to discover a carefully developed imperial plan underlying American moves in Asia at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries, Hunt found American imperialism to be ill-defined or haphazard in its goals. Many policymakers dreamed of cooperation with China in preserving and developing Chinese nationalism and of profiting by trade with this emergent nation. Opportunities for such cooperation existed but foundered on mis-trust and misunderstanding.

An important conclusion that emerged from this study was Hunt's observation that while imperialism was in part a motivating force for a number of Americans promoting U.S. involvement in Manchuria, with some even demanding territorial concessions, the government dragged its feet on implementing imperial plans, did not stand firm on economic penetration, laid its faith in the open door, and criticized China for the failure of American policy. The Americans asked why the Chinese did not stand up to the powers trying to carve out spheres of influence, especially when the Americans gave them the Open Door policy to use as a weapon to deny special rights, while the Chinese asked why the Americans did not help to enforce the open door with more than words. Hunt also reinforced much of Hofstadter's argument concerning the importance of the psychic crisis as an influence on American foreign policy and the impetus to "look outward" as an escape from domestic problems.

George F. Kennan, the historian-diplomat, argued cogently for the idea that the legalistic-moralistic tradition of the United States accounted for adventures in imperialism without commensurate understanding of the burdens or responsibilities of empire by most Americans and some policymakers, especially President McKinley and his third secretary of state, John Hay. Hay, who assumed office on 30 September 1898, the day before the peace commission met in Paris to determine the settlement of the Spanish-American War, spoke the language of the new manifest destiny: "No man, no party, can fight with any chance of final success against a cosmic tendency; no cleverness, no popularity avails against the spirit of the age." Hay was a determined annexationist, but more significantly he was the author of the Open Door policy, proclaiming the need and obligation of the powers involved in Asia to maintain the open door to trade in China and the maintenance of China's territorial integrity. Later historians accused Hay of fomenting through the Open Door policy a kind of imperialism, one that denied the need for territory and promoted instead economic exploitation of areas not strong enough to resist it.

Kennan said Hay did not understand the far-reaching commitments assumed under the Open Door policy. It was part of the effort to ensure U.S. participation in the external world by legalism and appeal to the moral conscience of Americans defending China against the assault of the great powers at no cost save legal definition of the obligations of the powers. This is probably true as far as it goes, but it also was intended to guarantee the entrance into the Asian world of American power and influence through a door Hay and others considered to have been opened by the acquisition of the Philippine Islands. That he became disillusioned by the inability and ineffectiveness of the United States to win support for the open door does not in any way diminish his responsibility for it. Hay opened not a door but a Pandora's box with his policy, which the United States was to pursue through a tortuous maze to participation in the Pacific phase of World War II.

Marilyn Blatt Young, in her study of U.S. China policy from 1895 to 1901, corroborates much of Kennan's viewpoint on the inefficacy of open door diplomacy, the difficulties inherent in the legalistic-moralistic perspective that permeated the Department of State, and the tendency to be more concerned with chauvinistic interests than national interests. In addition, she points out the difficulties that plagued both China and the United States because of the view each held of the other as barbarians and the attendant implications of racism stemming from the perception of social Darwinism, which gained credence in the late nineteenth century. If imperialism was the American objective, it was so poorly contrived and so reliant on rhetoric and half-baked schemes failing of genuine government support as to be ineffectual.

Kennan was one of the early and chief spokesmen for the realist perspective in assessing right conduct in America's foreign relations and ascribing colonial expansion to a lack of realism in the formulators of the policy. Hay, Beveridge, Henry Cabot Lodge, and others who promoted the idea of empire for the United States failed to take into consideration, according to Kennan, the pervasive influence of anticolonialism in the United States, and failed to advertise the cost of empire to the American people, who were unwilling to bear the expense of defending what they had won by war or annexation. Believing that the Filipinos would welcome them with open arms, Americans were flustered and embarrassed when they were greeted instead with open rebellion. As soon as the empire had been acquired, agitation began to get rid of it, with mixed results. Incorporated territories (Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico) were retained without much question. Where there was a desire to adhere to American protection (for example, American Samoa), responsibility was ultimately accepted (February 1929); but the Philippines demanded independence, and by means of the Tydings-McDuffie Act (1934) were promised independence in 1944, which was postponed until 1946 because of Japanese occupation of the islands during World War II. The Virgin Islands, purchased from Denmark in 1917, became a U.S. territory, while other islands, too small for incorporation but important strategically, continued as possessions, such as Wake and Johnston islands. At the end of World War II, various Pacific Islands south of Japanthe Bonin Islands, the Volcano Islands, which included Okinawa, and the Daito Islands, which were captured from Japan during the warwere later returned, the first three groups in 1968 and the rest in 1972. But during that time span they were under American rule. The last territories considered for annexation by an incorporation agreement were part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific, under U.S. supervision as a United Nations trusteeship, including the Marshall, Caroline, Mariana, and Palau islands. Parts of the Caroline and Mariana islands asked for incorporation in 1975. It was determined in 1986 to grant the Caroline and Marshall islands sovereignty in 1986 and, as noted earlier, the Palau Islands in 1994.


Realist and traditionalist historians have usually judged that the United States entered the colonization business by the back door at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries and could not wait to exit by the same route because being a colonial power was embarrassing and outside the American tradition. For example, in the traditional school, Samuel Flagg Bemis, Thomas A. Bailey, and Julius W. Pratt held such views, while among the realists Norman A. Graebner and George F. Kennan agreed to the extent that colonialism was not and did not become a part of the American tradition. Another group of historians, the New Left, argued that colonialism was a conscious expression of American capitalism, which had always been the determining force in American foreign policy and merely reached a conscious level of expression in colonialism. William Appleman Williams argued that colonialism was merely one phase of American imperialism, which became passé when it was discovered that economic imperialism that penetrated other areas by the force of dollars was superior to the actual possession of the territories that the United States wished to dominate. According to Williams and those of his persuasion, dollar diplomacy became the preeminent source of imperialism because it was easier to maintain, less embarrassing, and made it possible to eliminate the bother of colonial administration. But colonialism itself was merely an extension of the American experience and not an aberration.

One of the most respected historians associated with the New Left, Walter LaFeber, argued that there was no break in tradition. While he emphasized the economic forces behind the new manifest destiny, he recognized that other forces played a part in promoting it. He insisted that colonialism was part and parcel of the American experience, all of which was preparing the way for the surge to overseas colonial possession as a natural extension of the colonial spirit developing from the outset in America. One of the few historians normally classed in the realist tradition, Richard W. Van Alstyne, agreed with at least part of the New Left assessment that there was no break in the American pattern of expansion. According to Van Alstyne, the westward movement itself was an imperial endeavor preparing the way for further imperialism when the continent was filled or occupied.

These examples could be extended to include a number of other prominent diplomatic historians who have sided with the innocent victim-of-circumstances view of American colonial expansion versus the concept of the planned and persistent imperial thrust. Thus, the debate over how and why the United States became a colonial power at the end of the nineteenth century rages on, with definitive answers lying in neither camp.

It seems prudent to assume that like all significant events in the world's development there were many causes for American colonialism. Economic determinists assess greed or material benefits deriving from colonial possession as the determinate cause. This does not explain the correspondence of such advocates of the colonial experiment as Mahan and Theodore Roosevelt, who laid stress on the importance of prestige and great-power status for the United States resting on the needs of security, which is or should be the primary consideration underlying the motivation for formulators of foreign policy.

Realist historians tend to examine colonialism as the result of some elements of the psychic crisis, the security motives, the spread of American industry and commerce, emotional appeals to liberal humanitarian objectives, social Darwinism, nationalism, and "egoistic nationalism," a term applied by the political scientist Robert E. Osgood to explain positions taken by Lodge and Beveridge, who flamboyantly expressed American national destiny without carefully examining the consequences. The traditionalists have been more inclined to focus on the idea of the aberration of anticolonial liberal democratic ideals. In some degree they are all correct, but because the realists take into account a multiplicity of factors arguing for colonial expansion and the retreat from colonialism that followed, they would appear to provide the most complete explanation.

Of course, there are also Marxist interpretations carried to the level of prediction by Lenin, who argued that imperialism was the highest stage of capitalism, which would lead to the most flagrant exploitation of proletarians and to the ultimate collapse of capitalism as imperial rivalries led to struggles for markets terminating in enervating wars. What Lenin did not foresee was the Soviet Union's entrance into the imperial grouping through such practices as the economic exploitation of the states under its sway. While condemning the United States and other Western powers, historians of the Marxist persuasion first rationalized Soviet behavior and claimed there was not exploitation, or else dropped Russia as the exemplar of communist or Marxist principles and raised Communist China as a new model. Marxists and other economic determinists have also tended to lump together the Western colonial powers in defense of one another's interests and in support of racism, as in the case of American support of France in Algeria and Indochina, and of South Africa and Israel. This ignores Franklin D. Roosevelt's frequently expressed anticolonialism. It also overlooks such changes in position as the Department of State's shift concerning American support of South Africa until the apartheid regime was overthrown and replaced by an electoral process that allowed enfranchisement of blacks, permitting Nelson Mandela to become the first black leader of South Africa.

Ironically, while racism or ethnocentrism has undeniably played a determinant role in both colonialism and imperialism and the powers that practiced them have been justly criticized for the practice, those who were its victims have generally not illustrated a much better record in their treatment of other races or ethnic groups over whom they have been able to establish control. Fostered by the efforts to break free of colonial domination, virulent nationalism has led to extremist attitudes on the part, for example, of Arabs toward Jews, and Jews toward Arabs; of neighboring African tribes struggling to achieve preeminence over other tribes inside the borders of new states; of Chinese toward Tibetans and Indians; and of Indians toward Pakistanis and Pakistanis toward Indians. While this list is incomplete, it is still impressive of the evidence that the power to abuse is confined to no particular race. Perhaps the problem lies not in racism per se so much as in the corrupting influence of absolute power over another people. Some historians have attempted to identify racism as a phenomenon of one socioeconomic group exclusively or to whites versus other races, as though the problem would be eliminated if the world were socialist or the whites lost influence to the other races. They have not met the real challenge, which is that abuse rests with unrestrained power.

Ethnocentric behavior is a form of racism, which has permitted the Japanese to treat others of the yellow race as inferior when they held imperial control of the Chinese and the Koreans, and the Chinese to do the same when they have held similar power over Tibetans. The same phenomenon has permitted various tribal groups in Africa to persecute other tribes and the others to retaliate in kind. Ethnocentrism permitted Great Russians to maintain that their "little Slav brothers" inside and outside Russia's borders have needed special tutelage by their betters. Often ethnic bias is combined with religious bigotry, which accounts in part for the atrocities of the 1990s in Yugoslavia and the continuing contest in Ireland. What made racism identifiable with colonialism and imperialism was the unrestrained power of the colonial and imperial nations to abuse those over whom they held dominance. The decline of colonialism has not eliminated the problem, for the nationalism that grew in a virulent strain in the places formerly under colonial control has bred a similar virus.

Admittedly there are still areas that may be defined as colonial possessions, but generally, at the beginning of the twenty-first century they are headed for either incorporation within the possessing state, autonomous status within some sort of confederation like the British Commonwealth, or independence. For example, in some cases there is the fiction of independence or autonomy, as in the continued possession of Samoa by the United States; French colonial administration of Martinique, St. Pierre, and French Guiana; and British control of such places as the Falkland Islands. There are, however, very few vestiges of colonialism left.

This, however, does not mean the end of imperialism, which has taken many forms. Economic penetration of underdeveloped areas has become a competitive replacement for colonialism and is absorbing the energies of the former colonial powers. Added to this form of exploitation of resources and capital control is a new elementthe oil-rich Arab states that have emerged from colonial status and exhibited all the symptoms of nationalism and desires for political power they condemned in their former imperial masters. Colonialism is virtually dead, but imperialism continues as those nations with the economic or military power to perpetuate it have refused to give up the practice.


There is one more area which must be considered and that is neocolonialism. What this is depends on who is defining it. Socialist or communist writers have defined it as the efforts of the former colonial powers to maintain colonial control by other means. This definition lacks precision, as some of the neocolonial powers were in fact previously colonies, such as the United States. A largely accepted definition of neocolonialism is as follows: it includes retention of military bases, exploitation of resources, preferential trade treaties, imposed unification of colonies, conditional aid, and defense treaties. It also includes artificially created countries or combining countries into a group or federation. However, this grouping of countries is ill-defined in terms of whether they represent neocolonialism or not, as some of the Third World countries created in such combinations contend they are not dependencies in any way, although they may retain economic ties with the metropolitan power that previously held sway there.


Easton, Stewart Copinger. The Rise and Fall of Western Colonialism: A Historical Survey from the Early Nineteenth Century to the Present. New York, 1964. Examines the motives and processes of colonial expansion and development in the nineteenth century and traces the reasons for the decline of colonialism and what happened to the colonial areas through 1964.

Graebner, Norman A., ed. Ideas and Diplomacy: Readings in the Intellectual Tradition of American Foreign Policy. New York, 1964. Argues that the new colonialism at the end of the nineteenth century was as much motivated by a quest for prestige as for economic advantages and that strategic position for security was always a part of the American strategy.

Hunt, Michael H. Frontier Defense and the Open Door: Manchuria in Chinese-American Relations, 18951911. New Haven, Conn., 1973. Focuses on the attempts of the Chinese to use the United States to bolster defense of China's frontiers.

Kennan, George F. American Diplomacy: 19001950. Chicago, 1951. Expanded edition, Chicago, 1984. A series of lectures for the Walgreen Foundation at the University of Chicago in 1950; provides a realist viewpoint on the development of American foreign policy at the turn of the century.

Kupchan, Charles A. The Vulnerability of Empire. Ithaca, N.Y., 1994. Examines the structure of empires and in the case of the United States gives security motives for the foundation of American neocolonialism.

LaFeber, Walter. The New Empire: An Interpretation of American Expansion, 18601898. Ithaca, N.Y., 1963. The author is more inclined to credit motives other than economic as contributing factors to America's colonial experiment, but argues that the empire was consciously acquired as a part of the traditional role of expansionism in American history.

Morgan, Dan. Merchants of Grain. New York, 1979.

Obadina, Tunde. The Myth of Neo-Colonialism ( Provides a very perceptive assessment of the arguments for and against colonialism in its influence on African nations.

Pratt, Julius W. Expansionists of 1898: The Acquisition of Hawaii and the Spanish Islands. Baltimore, 1936. The first important study that submitted the war and the imperial thrust to a multicausationist analysis.

Stuart Peter C. Isles of Empire: The United States and Its Overseas Possessions. Lanham, Md., 1999. Clearly defines the continuing debate over whether the United States is or has been a true colonial power and concludes it is and was but not without internal dissent over the issue.

Tompkins, E. Berkeley. Anti-Imperialism in the United States: The Great Debate, 18901920. Philadelphia, 1970. A careful tracing of the debate over whether the United States should assume an empire.

Van Alstyne, Richard Warner. The Rising American Empire. New York, 1960. Argues that imperial expansion was part of American historical development and disagrees with the traditionalists that it was a departure from tradition.

Verlinden, Charles. The Beginnings of Modern Colonization: Eleven Essays with an Introduction. Ithaca, N.Y., 1970. Translated by Yvonne Freccero, this is a good description of the beginnings of colonialism in the fifteenth century and offers some explanations for its development in Western civilization.

Williams, William Appleman. The Roots of the Modern American Empire: A Study of the Growth and Shaping of Social Consciousness in a Marketplace Society. New York, 1969. Presents the United States as imperialistic from its inception and the colonial expansion at the end of the nineteenth century as a further expression of the traditional posture of an economically oriented society.

Young, Marilyn Blatt. The Rhetoric of Empire: American China Policy, 18951901. Cambridge, Mass., 1968. Does not believe the Open Door policy was effective, in part because the Department of State did not limit application of the policy to the extent that the United States was willing to enforce it.

See also Anti-Imperialism; Continental Expansion; Imperialism; Isolationism; Mandates and Trusteeships; Open Door Policy; Race and Ethnicity .

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Colonialism: Southeast Asia

Colonialism: Southeast Asia

Studies detailing the nature of colonial policy and practice in Southeast Asia have all acknowledged its disparate nature and overwhelming range of characteristics. While many European powers shared the desire to establish colonies overseas, the manner in which this was accomplished was more random than regular. Factors contributing to this variance include differing philosophies of administrative governance, differing levels of indigenous resistance, and differing periods of influence in the region. For instance, Spanish colonial projects in Southeast Asia began in the 1560s, nearly two hundred years earlier than the efforts of the British, French, and Dutch, resulting in a much longer and more enduring history of colonialism in the Philippines (originally a Spanish colony) than in Malaya (a British colony). The Dutch employed a more indirectly ruled system (using indigenous elites to initiate their policies) than the British, who in Burma, for example, deposed the sitting monarchy in favor of ruling more directly through an impersonal civil service administration. In French Vietnam, there was a mixture of both systems, resulting in corresponding levels of resistance in areas more intensively encroached upon by colonial authorities. In general, polities that had achieved sophisticated levels of cultural, political, and economic integration tended to resist European powers more vigorously than polities in more decentralized areas. Some polities in insular Southeast Asia, whose political relations were more tenuous because of geographical constraints, competitive economies, and personal ties, offered less sustained, organized, or intensive resistance than in the mainland kingdoms whose populations were linked by common religious, economic, and historical worldviews. Simply put, the shape of colonialism in Southeast Asia was in large part determined by the nature of precolonial regional dynamics and the ability of the local communities to interact and respond to the differing policies, attractions, and challenges of colonial governance. Yet the idea of colonialism in Southeast Asia has also been understood and considered through approaches suggested by scholars of both Southeast Asian and colonial studies. This entry, after first providing a brief historical overview of colonialism in the region, discusses the ways in which Southeast Asian studies was constructed and shaped by scholars who were writing about or reacting to colonialism, producing works that revealed the complexities of that encounter as well as the epistemological links between the two branches of study.

Historical Overview

While this article is not concerned with the history of the colonialism in Southeast Asia per se, a brief overview highlighting some of its key points is necessary. The history of Southeast Asia's encounter with Europe begins as early as the first decades of the sixteenth century, an occurrence that is indeed one of the earliest episodes in the history of colonialism as a global phenomenon. In many respects, some of the "classical" features of colonialismsuch as territorial conquest; the intervention and disruption of local socioeconomic networks; and the introduction of new cultural regimes and models through various missionary and educational activityfirst came into play in Southeast Asia before they appeared later elsewhere. All major colonial European powers (as well as, later, the United States and Japan) took part in the long history of colonialism in the region: In the twentieth century the Netherlands was in control of Indonesia; Portugal, of East Timor; the United States, of the Philippines (taken from Spain after 1898); France, of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia (so-called French Indochina); and Great Britain, of Malaya and Myanmar (Burma). The region also provides the unique example of Thailand (Siam), which was never colonized, though institutional and cultural changes were significantly connected to European diplomatic pressures along its borders. During World War II most of these territories were occupied by Japan, whose imperial designs, cultural sensibilities, and economic initiatives disconnected Europe and America's hold on the region, which indirectly contributed to the tensions of a nationalist sentiment and Cold War competitions within the former colonies. Most of the European powers, weakened by the war, would lose their colonies after the war, though attempts were made (in varying degrees) to regain their original foothold within the region.

As the cases of the Mayla Emergency, the Indonesian Revolution, the Indochinese War, and, later, the Vietnam War show, the response to colonialism in Southeast Asia continued in the form of anticolonial resistance movements, though external observers tended to regard these wars in the context of the Cold War.

Trends in the Study of Colonialism

The story of Southeast Asia's encounter with Europe spans several centuries, leaving a long and complex record of exchange, negotiation, and domination. Colonialism in Southeast Asia might be considered one important chapter in that much larger story of global interaction. Within the region's early colonial historiography, colonialism pertained to the transformation of "traditionally" defined polities into dependent states modeled along European definitions of organization and administration. Because this approach to colonialism was significantly linked to the perspective of those who were immersed within the colonial service, it was no surprise that this understanding of colonialism was expressed through studies of administrative changes and their effects on local societies, economies, and cultures. Equally important was the overarching representation of the colonial encounter in binary terms: all that was "modern" was inherently European and became the standard to which Southeast Asian culture and history would be measured. Interestingly enough, these studies formed the foundations for the area studies disciplines, as many of the earliest doyens in the fields were from the ranks of the scholar-administrator. Early linguists, anthropologists, and historians, working within the colonial administrations, set the paradigms and agendas that later scholars would either confirm or contest, creating important but imposing discussions that would dominate the course of scholarship. Their views of the peoples and cultures they encountered set into motion a whole genealogy of scholarship that responded in various ways to their findings. For example, reports that discussed the despotic nature of Southeast Asian leadership not only reveal the way in which colonial agendas colored early documentation, they also identify why writing about "Southeast Asian kingship" was important in the first place. While these early writings relate something about Southeast Asia, they also reveal important insight into how colonialism was perceived by those working within it. Thus, the propagation of colonialism in Southeast Asia by these officials was partially responsible for the emergence of Southeast Asian studies as a field of study.

Thematically, colonialism has come to refer to a variety of processes that contributed to a fundamental change in identity, worldview, and consciousness. These institutional and cultural transformations were initiated at different levels and in varying intensities by many groups within the European community, indigenous elites, and rural populations. The complicated and complex nature of this interaction has been decoded by a variety of interpretations, affecting the many understandings and forms of colonialism. Colonial administrator-scholars referred to colonialism in terms of its policies and practices that contributed to the administrative formation of the colonies, whereas nationalist historians treated the subject as the processes of interaction, subjugation, and control that enabled the peoples and societies of Southeast Asia to come under colonial authority. Another manifestation of colonialism took its shape (although indirectly) through studies of indigenous forms of resistance and protest, whereas others explored colonialism through the multitude of indigenous social institutions it encountered and affected. More recent trends position colonialism through its relationship to the nation and the forming of national cultures; criminality, counterinsurgency, and prisons; and its forms of knowledge and various modes of representation. In addition, it has also been illustrated through technology, literature, and film. In short, the shape of colonialism has been fashioned through a variety of approaches, reflecting trends in the study of colonialism as a thematic category and through the interdisciplinary guilds within area studies.

Colonialism since 1970

Conceptions of colonialism in Southeast Asia have developed significantly since 1970, though scholarship began widening its historical gaze of the region's history and colonialism's place in it nearly a decade earlier. In response to colonial and nationalist-oriented histories of the colonial past, in which the attention was directed toward colonial administrators, policies, and interests in the region, scholars began shifting their focus, creating histories that told the same stories from internal, local, or indigenous perspectives. One of the most significant interventions was offered by John Smail, who saw a lingering problem in the historiography of modern Southeast Asian history. He concluded that both colonial and nationalist scholarship seemed to privilege the same European contexts, events, and narratives about the "colonial period" even when their political sympathies tended to diverge in analysis. In addition, the very conception of "modernity" in the region's history was automatically being associated with the trends, institutions, and ideas that emerged during the colonial period. According to Smail, modern history tended to focus on colonial narratives, concerns, and priorities that signaled a deep disjuncture with the precolonial past, whose own narratives, cultural forms, and terminology were being neglected by the grand narratives of empire, development, and modernity. In order to challenge the prevailing fixtures of colonial and nationalist historiography, Smail called for a writing and periodization of modern Southeast Asian history that applied indigenous categories of analysis, reconstituting the way in which modernity and colonialism would be defined, interpreted, and chronicled. Identifying these cultural forms that could structure the writing of an "autonomous" history of Southeast Asia during this period of intense Eurasian exchange became the overarching paradigm for scholars of the late 1960s and 1970s. This approach aimed to address the imbalance in scholarship, which had tended strongly toward European-oriented histories (which emphasize fundamental changes in society), by favoring histories that engaged the possibility of regional cultural continuities. To Smail, colonialism would no longer mark the arrival of modernity; it would merely mark a stage within the long-term patterns and processes of the region's history.

These adjustments lifted the idea of colonialism from the confines of European studies and placed it within the framework of Southeast Asian studies, which shifted attention that previously privileged the study of history through colonial categories to studies that investigated the nature of indigenous culture during the colonial encounter. While early studies might have explored the ways in which ideas of leadership, agriculture patterns, community organization, and kinship relations were affected by colonial policies and practices, the new interest in an "autonomous" perspective urged scholars to prioritize local institutions, patterns, and terms as the main subject of inquiry, so that the study of colonialism would become integrated into the cultural history and anthropology of Southeast Asia. One example could be found in the work of Emanuel Sarkisyanz, who demonstrated through his study of Burmese Buddhism that Southeast Asians reacted and responded to colonialism through local terms and concepts inherent to their worldview. The dismantling of the monarchy, subsequent rebellions, and nationalism were all considered through the prism of Buddhism in Burma, suggesting that it was possible to view the colonial period from a more Southeast Asian perspective. At the same time, effort was directed toward the ways in which global, regional, and local forces bound and interacted with peasant societies outside state or religious institutions, shifting the terms of engagement of colonialism to everyday life and practices. Seminal works such as James C. Scott's The Moral Economy of the Peasant directed attention to the ways in which global market economies affected the everyday life of the peasant in Southeast Asia, fundamentally challenging local conceptions of legitimacy, economy, and authority. In addition, such approaches stretched the legacy of precolonial traditions, which were often labeled as "traditional," into an epistemological space that previously scholarship had neglected to consider. Indigenous religion, ritual, and customary laws, and other modes of the precolonial conceptual world, became categories of analysis that were now used to study the role and nature of colonialism in Southeast Asia.

Colonial Dichotomies

While the terms of the colonial encounter were being reconfigured and though scholars were seemingly decolonizing the epistemology of Southeast Asia, others began to question the direction the field had taken and the perspective in which colonialism was being discussed. Smail's "autonomous" history had fundamentally edged the scholarship toward a fresh course of research, but there were still some lingering issues that needed to be resolved. The field's leanings toward supposed indigenous categories as modes of analyses might have fallen a bit short in providing a total picture of colonialism in Southeast Asia by underestimating the impact of colonial influences on society. Scholars had merely swung the pendulum from one end of the spectrum to the other, extending a little too much enthusiasm for the continuities and unchanging nature of Southeast Asian cultural forms.

Following the important arguments in Edward Said's Orientalism, scholars such as Ann Laura Stoler questioned the essential nature of these categories while at the same time challenging the "European versus Southeast Asian" perspective upon which studies of colonialism continued to rest. Although important writers such as Franz Fanon and Albert Memmi had developed their seminal arguments about those who lay between the "colonized" and "colonizer," applying these types of questions to the study of colonial society in Southeast Asia remained in its infancy. With these new callings, the study of "mixed-bloods" in Dutch Indonesia, the "métisse" in French Vietnam, "mestizos" in the Spanish Philippines, and "Eurasians" became an important challenge to the idea that colonial society and its study could be divided into simple binary categories of analysis. These studies also suggested that colonialism in Southeast Asia (and beyond) was much more complex than previously imagined, pointing to a variety of situations and scenarios in which ideas, institutions, and technology were exchanged in different and often complicated ways. Colonialism in Southeast Asia could no longer be viewed as a neat and simple process, the colonial encounter could no longer be approached through binary framings, and it became clear that the categories that had been considered intrinsically "European" or "Southeast Asian" were no longer tenable.

The realization that colonialism was a much more complicated process that occurred at different intensities, at different times, and in different places also inspired scholars to look at other domains in Southeast Asia where such mixing and blurring of ideas might occur. Many scholars had been pondering this idea for some time, outside the contours of colonial studies but within the framework of Asian nationalism. Benedict Anderson's seminal Imagined Communities set the agenda by demonstrating that the nation-state was articulated through cultural forms that enabled peoples to bridge the conceptual gap between kin and citizen. Many of these forms of community bonding were those introduced by colonial authorities, adopted by urban nationalists, and localized by grassroots leaders. These patterns of exchange were shown to have occurred at every level of society, and consequently colonialism's shape became influenced by the concerns and mechanics of nationalism.

Colonialism's relationship to Southeast Asian nationalism developed significantly following the important insights of Anderson. One of his students, Thongchai Winichakul, extended the connections between colonial statecraft and nationalist identity by demonstrating the influence of map-making and the creation of Thai identity in his exceptional work, Siam Mapped. Though his emphasis was on the notion of "Thainess" and its relationship to boundaries, Winichakul's study reinforced the idea that colonial notions of space, measurement, ethnicity, and history were being actively engaged by Southeast Asian eliteseven from those who were not formally colonized. Colonial knowledge was not something that was strictly part of the European conceptual world, it was constantly being reshaped, modified, and localized to fit the needs of Southeast Asians, who in many cases used these new ideas to emulate as well as resist European hegemony. Along the same lines, Maurizio Peleggi's Lords of Things demonstrates how the Thai monarchy embraced different forms of European material culture in an effort to redefine itself in the style of European monarchies, changing its public image through colonial ideas of modernization. Studies exploring the nature and origins of Southeast Asian nationalism indirectly contributed to the changing understanding of colonialism by continuing to challenge the terms and situations that characterized that encounter. Writing against the pervasive grain that had kept Southeast Asians locked in their temporal and spatial limbo, scholars began to investigate the ways in which technologies were disseminated and more often appropriated to transform the Southeast Asian conceptual world. Print culture, education, social engineering, and advancements in communication were actively being adopted to fit the needs of new and old elites alike, while at the same time these modes of colonialism were also being used to reify and remake "traditional" forms of Southeast Asian culture.

Trends in the Late 1990s and Early 2000s

Scholarship from the late 1990s and early 2000s has made provocative connections between the history of colonialism and the production of knowledge in Southeast Asia. Many of the categories and approaches used to conceptualize the region's contoursits cultures, institutions, languages, ethnicities, and historieshave been shown to be largely conceived, organized, and textualized by colonial administrator-scholars seeking to make legible the vast territories, societies, and peoples that had come under their authority. This legacy has not always been recognized, though active measures were taken by scholars in the 1960s and 1970s hoping to decolonize the epistemology of Southeast Asia by referring to categories and terms thought to be "autonomous" to the region. Although this scholarship produced the bulk of Southeast Asian knowledge, research from the late 1990s and beyond is noticing that some of these studies relied on categories and perspectives that emerged through colonial understandings of Southeast Asia. Turning to indigenous language sources or traditional perspectives was not enoughthe evidence for what was considered traditional, indigenous, or autonomous was often based on the documents of officials who wrote into these sources their own agendas, concerns, and priorities.

One such example might be found in Laurie J. Sears's path-breaking study Shadows of Empire, which reconstructs the way in which Dutch views of traditional wayang kulit (shadow-puppet theater) were adopted by scholars and Javanese alike. Not only is the role of the Dutch in the "inventing" of tradition explored, but Sears also charts the way in which the meanings of these cultural symbols were contested by officials, scholars, and performers throughout history. This approach recast the way in which colonialism was being considered: Elements thought to be distinctly Southeast Asian were now being reevaluated as products of colonialism, revealing the unsettled nature of "traditional" culture and revisiting European influence on the epistemological landscape of the region.

The picture of colonialism was that its reach was far more penetrating than once held and that through the study of more benign forms of authority, the actual extent of that influence might be perceived. Leading scholars such as Vicente L. Rafael, author of White Love and Other Events in Filipino History, and Rudolf Mrázek, author of Engineers of Happy Land, have revealed how colonial photography, roads, language policy, architecture, electricity, and travel literature reflect the relationship between colonial technology, knowledge, and power. Moreover, Mrázek's work employs an important and provocative approach by suggesting that it is possible to "read" colonial society and its forms like a text. In a sense, his unique "translation" of Dutch buildings, roads, and magazines applies approaches to colonial society that are usually reserved for studying Southeast Asia's deep past. Panivong Norindr's Phantasmatic Indochina addresses the ways in which French colonial ideology can be gleaned from its films, exhibitions, and architecture. More importantly, the studies contained within this work address how the very idea of "Indochine" was a concept that was invented, reified, and articulated to justify political-economic policies on the one hand and how cultural forms contributed to that imagining on the other. Ironically, colonial studies has gone from one end of the spectrum to the other; while early colonial administrators tried hard to textualize the boundaries and contents of their imagined colony, scholars today are disassembling those constructs by relying on the very sources those early officials produced.

Finally, advancement in gender and identity studies has also reworked the manner in which scholars have approached the relationship between colonialism and social policies. Just as the categories of colonizer and colonized were once problematized to reveal those communities lying "in-between," approaching colonialism through gender-inspired scholars to consider how European notions of womanhood transformed sexual relations and expectations of "native" women within colonial communities. These studies have explored the role and symbol of European motherhood in the colony and the manner in which this image affected policy toward the maintenance of white communities. By doing so, they have directly confronted the image of the colony as a site for "unfettered economic and sexual opportunity" through policies that attempted to curb men from racial intermixing and "going native."


Scholars continue to add to this discursive body of colonial knowledge, which has only recently and sporadically been problematized. Exploring the contexts in which much of this knowledge was produced has led to new questions about what is actually known about the region and new perspectives in which the scholarly understanding of colonialism in Southeast Asia might be expanded. These sentiments suggest that colonialism and colonial society can be studied from colonialism's cultural formsits institutions, languages, ideas, economies, and literary representationsto reveal new perspectives about the processes of change and continuity. Proponents for this anthropology of colonialism suggest that by understanding how Southeast Asia was made through "scholarship," one can get a sense of colonialism and the effects of that encounter with the peoples and cultures of the region.

At the same time, considerable effort has been spent on delineating the actual conditions on the ground, which were much more complicated than perhaps official documents or earlier studies attempted to convey. Scholars have shifted their emphasis on rebellions as the sole sign of protest to show that resistance, subversion, and circumvention was occurring in an everyday fashion in everyday settings. Inconsistent policies toward Southeast Asians in rural and urban settings intensified incoherency, mismanagement, and competition among colonial officials while exacerbating tensions between metropole (European capitals) and colonial capitals. It is with this last trend where the idea of colonialism has taken its most current shape. Scholars within Southeast Asian studies are beginning to examine how competing interests, agendas, and concerns within colonial communities produced different boundaries in colonial society, while the contestation of categories has led to the understanding that the differences between European and Southeast Asian were created, defined, and maintained. Hybridity has not hidden the scholarly reemphasis on European colonialism within a Southeast Asian world, but if historiography repeats itself as much as history seems to, one can anticipate further studies of "Southeast Asian" hybridity in the colonial setting to emerge in the future.

See also Anticolonialism: Southeast Asia ; Empire and Imperialism: Asia ; Westernization: Southeast Asia .


Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Rev. ed. London: Verso, 1991.

Cohn, Bernard S. Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge: The British in India. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1996.

Cooper, Frederick, and Ann Laura Stoler, eds. Tensions of Empire: Colonial Cultures in a Bourgeois World. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1997.

Dirks, Nicholas B., ed. Colonialism and Culture. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1992.

McHale, Shawn Frederick. Print and Power: Confucianism, Communism, and Buddhism in the Making of Modern Vietnam. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2004.

Mrázek, Rudolf. Engineers of Happy Land: Technology and Nationalism in a Colony. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2002.

Norindr, Panivong. Phantasmatic Indochina: French Colonial Ideology in Architecture, Film, and Literature. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1996.

Peleggi, Maurizio. Lords of Things: The Fashioning of the Siamese Monarchy's Modern Image. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2002.

Rafael, Vicente L. White Love and Other Events in Filipino History. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2000.

Reid, Anthony. Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce, 14501680, Vol. 1: The Lands below the Winds. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1988.

. Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce, 14501680, Vol. 2: Expansion and Crisis. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1993.

Sears, Laurie J. Shadows of Empire: Colonial Discourse and Javanese Tales. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1996.

Stoler, Ann Laura. Capitalism and Confrontation in Sumatra's Plantation Belt, 18701979. 2nd ed. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995.

Tarling, Nicholas, ed. The Cambridge History of Southeast Asia, Vol. 2: The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

Thongchai Winichakul. Siam Mapped: A History of the Geo-body of a Nation. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1994.

Zinoman, Peter. The Colonial Bastille: A History of Imprisonment in Vietnam, 18621940. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2001.

Maitrii Aung-Thwin

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Colonialism is a type of imperial domination of the non-Russian peoples who inhabited the southern and eastern borderlands of the Russian Empire and who subsequently fell under the control of the Soviet Union. It refers specifically to policies to spread Western civilization (a "civilizing mission") among peoples in those territories, and to integrate them into the imperial state and economy. It extends as well to the colonization by Russian and Ukrainian peasant settlers of lands inhabited by pastoral nomadic tribes.


The Russian Empire's southern and eastern borderlands became its colonial territories. Russian expansion onto the plains of Eurasia had by the middle of the eighteenth century brought within the boundaries of the empire all the lands south to the Caucasus Mountains and to the deserts of Turkestan, and east to the Pacific Ocean. Much of the area consisted of vast plains (the "steppe") once dominated by confederations of nomadic tribes, who became the subjects of imperial rule and the empire's first colonized peoples. The grasslands where they grazed their flocks along the lower Volga River and in southern Russia (the Ukraine) attracted peasants from European Russia seeking new farmland.

The imperial government encouraged this southward movement of the Russian population (most of whom were serfs owned by noble landlords). Occasionally nomadic tribes fought to retain

their lands. Prolonged resistance came first from the Bashkirs, Turkic peoples whose tribes occupied lands east of the Volga and along the Ural Mountains. During the eighteenth century many clans joined in raids on the intruders and battled against Russian troops. They joined in the massive Pugachev uprising of 1772 to 1774 alongside Cossacks and rebellious Russians. But in the end Russian armed forces invariably defeated the rebels.

During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, Russia's borders of the empire shifted further southeastward into Eurasian lands, bringing an increasingly diverse population into the empire. Peoples in these borderlands spoke many different languages, mostly of Turkic origin; practiced a wide variety of religions, with the Islamic faith the most widespread; and followed their own time-honored customs and social practices. Russia was becoming a multiethnic, multireligious empire.

the imperial civilizing mission

In the reign of Empress Catherine II (r. 17621796), the empire's leadership began to experiment with new approaches to govern these peoples. These policies drew upon Enlightenment concepts of government that redefined the object of colonial conquests. They became the basis of Russian colonialism. Previously, the Russian state had extended to the princes and nobles of newly conquered eastern territories the chance to collaborate in imperial rule. It had required their conversion to Orthodox Christianity, and had periodically encouraged Orthodox missionaries to conduct campaigns of mass conversion, if necessary by force. Before Catherine II's time, the state had made no concerted effort to alter the social, economic, and cultural practices of the peoples on its southern and eastern borderlands. This authoritarian method of borderland rule demanded only obedience from the native populations.

In the late eighteenth century, some educated Russians began to argue that their empire, which they believed a civilized Western land, had the duty to spread civilization, as they understood it, to its backward peoples. They had two principal objectives. By spreading Russian culture, legal practices, and opportunities for economic enrichment, the empire could hope to recruit a progressive group from these peoples who would become willing collaborators in Russian domination. Equally important was their belief that Russia's own historical development made the spread of its newly acquired Western culture among "savage" peoples a moral obligation.

Catherine II herself traveled among the empire's eastern peoples at the beginning of her reign. Impressed by what she described as the "differences of peoples, customs, and even ideas" in Asian land, she looked for new ways to win the loyalty of the population. Encouragement of trade, education, and religious toleration appeared to her desirable and useful tools to strengthen the bonds between these colonial peoples and their imperial rulers. These goals suggested practical guidelines by which she and her advisers could build their empire on modern political foundations. These also confirmed in their eyes the legitimacy of their imperial domination of backward peoples.

Catherine II shared the Enlightenment conviction that reason, not religious faith, lay at the core of enlightened government. She did not abandon the policy of maintaining Orthodox Christianity as the state religion of the empire, but ended forced conversion of Muslim peoples to Christianity. In 1773, she formally accorded religious toleration to Islam. Her successors on the imperial throne maintained this fundamental right, which proved a valuable means of maintaining peaceful relations with the empire's growing Muslim population. They encouraged the conversion to Christianity of peoples holding to animist beliefs, for they believed that their duty was to favor the spread of Christianity. They also promoted the commercial exploitation of colonial resources and the increased sale of Russian manufactured goods in their colonial territories. The Western colonialists' slogan of "Commerce and Christianity" described one important aspect to Russia's civilizing mission. Self-interest as well as the belief in spreading the benefits of Western civilization provided the ideological basis for Russian colonialism. This new policy never fully supplanted the old practices of authoritarian rule and discrimination against non-Russians, which had strong defenders among army officers on the borderlands. But it, too, enjoyed powerful backing in the highest government circles. In the nineteenth century, their vision of an imperial civilizing mission brought Russia into the ranks of great Western empires.

commerce and christianity in colonial alaska

Alaska was the first area where Russian colonialism guided imperial rule. In the late eighteenth century Russian trappers had appeared there, having crossed the Pacific Ocean along the Aleutian Islands from Siberia in their hunt for fur-bearing sea mammals. The sea otter, whose fur was so highly prized that it was called "soft gold," was their chosen prey. They forced native peoples skilled at the dangerous craft of hunting at sea (mainly Aleutian tribesmen) to trap the animals, whose range extended from the Aleutians along the Alaskan coast and down to California. In 1800, the Russian government created a special colonial administration, the Russian-American Company, to take charge of "the Russian colonies in America." Its main tasks were to expand the commercially profitable fur-gathering activities, and to spread Orthodox Christianity and Russian culture among the subject peoples of this vast territory.

"Commerce and Christianity" defined the Russian Empire's objectives there. It operated in a manner somewhat similar to that of the British Hudson's Bay Company, also established in colonial North America. And like other overseas colonies of European empires, the Russians exploited Alaska's valuable resources (killing off almost all the sea otters), in the process confronting periodic revolts from their subject peoples. Faced with these difficulties, the Russian government finally abandoned its distant colony, too expensive and too distant to retain. In 1867, it sold the entire territory to the United States.

colonial turkestan and imperial citizenship

In seeking to create a unified, modern state, the Russian Empire moved toward establishing a common citizenship for the peoples in its multiethnic, multireligious borderlands in the late nineteenth century. It began this effort in 1860s and 1870s, at the time when it freed its peasant serf population from conditions of virtual slavery to its nobility. Reformers in the government conceived of an empire founded on a sort of imperial citizenship, extended to former serfs and to native peoples.

That was the period of the empire's last major colonial expansion, when its military forces conquered a large part of Central Asia. The settled and nomadic populations of Turkestan (as the area was then called) spoke Turkic languages and were faithful Muslims who looked to the Ottoman Empire, not Russia, for cultural and religious leadership. The Russian colonial administration was deeply divided on the proper treatment of their unwilling new subjects. Some preferred to rely on the old policies of authoritarian rule, restrictions of the Muslim religion, and the encouragement of Russian colonization. Others took their inspiration from Catherine II's colonialist policies. The latter argued for progressive colonial policies including religious toleration of Islam, respect for the ethnic customs and moral practices of Turkestan's peoples, and the development of new crops (especially cotton) and commercial trade with Russia. They hoped that, as the powerful Minister of Finance Sergei Witte argued in 1900, full equality of rights with other subjects, freedom in the conduct of their religious needs, and non-intervention in their private lives, would ensure the unification of the Russian state.

This progressive colonialist program was notable by according (in theory) "equality of rights" to these imperial subjects. Colonial officials of this persuasion believed that they could extend, within their autocratic state, a sort of imperial citizenship to all the colonial peoples. They withheld, however, the full implementation of this reform until these peoples were "ready," that is, proved themselves loyal, patriotic subjects of the emperor-tsar. Opposition to their policy came from influential civilian leaders who judged that the state's need to support Russian peasants colonizing Turkestan territories had to come first. Their reckless decision led to the seizure from nomadic tribes of vast regions of Turkestan given to the peasant pioneers. Colonization meant violating the right of these subjects to the use of their land, which led directly to the Turkestan uprising of 1916. Coming before the 1917 revolution, this rebellion revealed that the empire's colonialist policies had failed to unify its peoples.

orientalism in the caucasus region

To the end of the empire's existence, colonialism rested on the assumption of Russian cultural superiority and often expressed itself in disdain for colonial peoples. Yet not all of these subject groups were treated with equal disregard. In the territories of the Caucasus Mountains (between the Black and Caspian Seas), imperial rule won the support of some peoples, but faced repeated revolts from others. Resistance came especially from Muslim mountain tribes, who bitterly opposed domination by this Christian state. They sustained a half-century war until their defeat in the 1860s, when many were forced into exile or emigrated willingly to the Ottoman Empire. The conquest of the region produced an abundance of heroic tales of exotic adventures pitting valorous Russians against barbaric, cruel, and courageous enemies. These tales created enduring images of "oriental" peoples, sometimes admired for their "noble savagery" but usually disparaged for their alleged moral and cultural decadence.

Russian colonialism had a powerful impact on the population there. The Christian peoples (Georgians and Armenians) of the region found particular benefits from the empire's economic and cultural policies. Armenians created profitable commercial enterprises in the growing towns and cities of the Caucasus region, and were joined by large numbers of Armenian migrants from surrounding Muslim states. Some Georgians used the empire's cultural window on modern Western culture to create their own national literature and history. These quickly became tools in the Georgians' nationalist oppositional movement. In the Muslim lands along the Caspian Sea where Azeri Turks lived, investors from Russia and Europe developed the rich oil deposits into one of the first major sources of petroleum for the European economy, a source of immense profit to them. The port of Baku became a boomtown, where unskilled Azeri laborers worked in the dangerous oil fields. They formed a colonial proletariat living among Russian officials and capitalists, and Armenian merchants and traders. The new colonial cities such as Baku were deeply divided both socially and ethnically, and became places in the early twentieth century of riots and bloodshed provoked by the hostility among these peoples. Nationalist opposition to empire and ethnic conflict among its peoples were both products of Russian colonialism.

colonialism in the soviet union

The fall of the empire in 1917 ended Russian colonialism as a publicly defended ideal and policy. The triumph of the communist revolutionary

movement in most of the lands once a part of the empire put in place a new political order, called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The communist leaders of the new Soviet state preached the Marxist-Leninist program for human progress. They persecuted all religious movements, and denounced imperialism and colonialism, in Russia as elsewhere in the Western world. Their promise was liberation of all colonial peoples. But they did not permit their own peoples, previously in the empire's colonial lands, to escape their domination. Their idea of "colonial liberation" consisted of organizing these peoples into discreet ethno-territorial units by drawing territorial borders for every distinct people. The biggest of these received their own national republics. Each of these nations of the Soviet Union had its own political leaders and its own language and culture, but the "union" to which they belonged remained under the domination of the Communist Party, itself controlled from party headquarters in the Kremlin in Moscow.

The empire's eastern peoples experienced a new, communist civilizing mission, which proclaimed the greatest good for backward peoples to be working-class liberation, national culture, and rapid economic development under state control. Colonization reappeared as well when, in the 1950s and 1960s, millions of settlers from European areas moved into Siberia and regions of Central Asia to cultivate, in enormous state-run farms, most of the remaining lands of the nomadic peoples. Colonialism within the lands of the former Russian Empire did not disappear until the Soviet Union in its turn collapsed in 1991.

See also: catherine ii; caucasus; christianity, colonial expansion; enlightenment, impact of the; nationalities policies, soviet; nationalities policies, tsarist


Brower, Daniel. (2003). Turkestan and the Fate of the Russian Empire. London: Routledge/Curzon.

Brower, Daniel, and Lazzerini, Edward, eds. (1997). Russia's Orient: Imperial Borderlands and Peoples, 17001917. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press.

Jersild, Austin. (2002). Orientalism and Empire: The North Caucasus Mountain Peoples and the Georgian Frontier, 18451917. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press.

Khodarkovsky, Michael. (2002). Russia's Steppe Frontier: The Making of a Colonial Empire, 15001800. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press.

Layton, Susan. (1994). Russian Literature and Empire: Conquest of the Caucasus from Pushkin to Tolstoy. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Slezkine, Yuri. (1994). Arctic Mirrors: Russia and the Small Peoples of the North. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Suny, Ronald Grigor, and Martin, Terry, eds. A State of Nations: Empire and Nation-Making in the Age of Lenin and Stalin. New York: Oxford University Press.

Daniel Brower

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COLONIALISM. European powers and persons representing them undertook a vast program of overseas colonization extending throughout the early modern period, which had the effects of energizing a world economy by encompassing the New World within it and of stimulating a massive emigration of Europeans.


In the course of the fifteenth century, the Portuguese and the Spaniards discovered, conquered, colonized, and administered a series of island possessions that became early experiments in imperialism. In the 1480s and 1490s, the Spanish crown conquered Gran Canaria, Tenerife, and La Palma, the richest of the seven Canary Islands. The administrative apparatus set up to govern the colony anticipated aspects of the administration of the future empire. First there was a survey and apportionment of land in a repartimiento; there was no dividing up of nativesthe form that repartimiento later took in the New World. Each island was considered a municipality, administered by a cabildo, or 'city council'. The islands were settled by soldiers and by immigrants from Castile and Andalusia, many of them single men who married indigenous women. The economy of the Canaries in the sixteenth century was based on sugar, a monoculture.

The Portuguese had a papal grant to settle Madeira, an uninhabited island, in 1425. Its prosperity after the middle years of the fifteenth century was based on the production of sugar, wheat, and wine good enough to be exported. Henry the Navigator (13941460) was authorized to settle the Azores in 1439, by which time the Portuguese had already placed sheep on several islands to provide food for passing ships. By the end of the 1440s, the island of Santa Maria was already exporting wheat to Portugal. The colonization of the central and western isles took longer. Foreigners, particularly Flemings, were recruited to settle there in the 1460s and 1470s. Pico, one of the westernmost islands, became a leading wine producer and was important in the three-cornered trade with North America and the West Indies of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the key products of which were New England barrel staves, Caribbean molasses, and Atlantic Island wine.

Italians in the service of the Portuguese crown sailing off West Africa discovered the arid Cape Verde islands. The Portuguese established a plantation and pastoral economy run by slaves from Africa and a small group of white colonists as landlords, merchants, and civil and church officials. After the discovery of the New World, the Portuguese islands served as nodal points in the great web of interoceanic shipping routes that soon developed.


The Spaniards' strategy of colonization in the New World was to found cities: They founded 190 towns and cities by 1620. These were built uniformly on a Roman grid plan. They were self-governing entities governed by cabildos, had scant commercial functions, were populated by plantation owners and an Indian underclass, and had no industry to speak of. The most important cities were viceregal capitals such as Mexico and Lima. In 1630, 58 percent of the Spanish population of the Audiencia of New Spain lived in Mexico City, and 55 percent of the population of the Audiencia of Lima lived in Lima City. Exploration and settlement of the interior regions were organized from viceregal capitals such as Mexico, Lima, and Bogotá. The Spanish New World colonies were hypercentralized because the crown ruled the territories directly and created appropriate institutions of control, issuing some 400,000 decrees pertaining to American colonial affairs between 1492 and 1635, or around 2,500 annually. In an administrative sense, they were not colonies but kingdoms; hence they were governed by viceroys.

This urban colonial network required large numbers of settlers. A total of at least 150,000 persons moved from Spain to America before 1550. Throughout the sixteenth century, between 250,000 and 300,000 Spaniards emigrated. The Amerindians were forced, through the repartimiento system, to work in enterprises (either farming or mining) called encomiendas, feudal estates that were inheritable. Africans came as slaves, first from Europe, then, by the mid-1550s, imported directly from Africa for service on sugar plantations or in the mines.

Spanish colonization efforts in Asia centered upon Manila, the center both of trade with China and Japan and of the effort to Christianize the Filipinos. Evangelization was made easier by the political decentralization of Philippine society, which made armed resistance to Spain all but impossible. The Spanish colonists, a few thousand people in the seventeenth century, lived off the Manila galleon trade and left the direction of the country mainly to missionaries and a few bureaucrats.


The most striking aspect of the Portuguese seaborne empire was its extreme dispersion in chains of forts along various continental coastlines and islands. By the time of Prince Henry's death in 1460, the Portuguese had reached Sierra Leone, which was 1,500 miles down the west African coast. There they established fortified trading posts, feitorias, close to the sea, guarded by caravels bearing canons. This style of settlement, which the Portuguese later introduced into Asia, required few settlers and was designed to facilitate trade.

Brazil was settled in the sixteenth century (after 1530) by a mixed feudal-commercial system wherein coastal lands were placed under the control of hereditary proprietors. Settlers were taken there and introduced cattle raising and sugar cultivation. Sugar was the ideal crop for coastal Brazil, which had quick access to Europe and the capacity to outprice the Atlantic islands. Thousands of Portuguese arrived as settlers, attracted by quick money in the sugar industry. When the Amerindians of the coast, who had been conscripted to work on sugar plantations, perished, they were replaced by African slaves who were already resistant to most Old World diseases.

The Portuguese crown began to take back governance of Brazil from the hereditary landholders as early as 1549, when it reacquired the Bahia captaincy and named a governor general. Settlements were widely dispersed, with a Portuguese population of only 30,000 in 1600, scattered among fourteen captaincies along 4,000 miles of coastline.

The Portuguese empire in Asia was established between 1509 and 1515 by capturing the sea passages leading to and from the Indian Ocean. Goa, on the Malabar coast of India, was the main naval base, followed in importance by Macão, off the Chinese mainland near Canton. The Portuguese empire in Asia was tiny in extent, consisting of only a few strategic islands and coastal trading posts that controlled most Asian trade routes. The territory of a trading post was negotiated with local authorities to achieve a form of colonization, but one of a purely commercial nature. The Portuguese settled near the centers of production and markets and at the intersection of trade routes, taking advantage of trading networks already established before their arrival. This system could run efficiently with few settlers, who did not require an infrastructure of public services, and it left local trade in the hands of the indigenous communities. The majority of Portuguese settlers in Asia were soldiers, while the Spanish empire, after the conquests of Mexico and Peru, was by and large a civilian empire.


Europeans of different origins established colonies of different styles. Spanish settlements in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Santo Domingo were based on ranching, mining, and, in the seventeenth century, sugar. The English and French established plantations on their islands to produce labor-intensive crops like sugarcane, worked by indentured servants and, later, African slaves. The Dutch established trading posts, such as Curaçao. In 1600, all New World settlements were still Spanish. The English and French begin to colonize in the first quarter of the seventeenth century in part because the Dutch Navy in the Caribbean protected them from the Spanish. At the same time, the British began to colonize the outer islands, starting with St. Kitts and Barbados, which served as bases for further expansion. The French then established a Compagnie des Isles d'Amérique and settled Martinique and Guadeloupe in 1635. It was easy (both for French and English settlers) to obtain grants because the islands were thought fairly worthless before sugar was introduced. In the first phase of settlement, tobacco and cotton were the main crops.


British colonial development in the New World was focused both on the Caribbean and the North American mainland. The disinterest of the English government in direct management of the colonies was matched by the penchant of settlers in the thirteen colonies for self-government, inasmuch as distaste for central authority had played an important role in their decision to emigrate. The economic life of the colonies was differentiated early on, with plantations in the south, which grew cereals, cotton, and, later, tobacco, and a more varied economy in the north, characterized in New England by commercial shipping, fishing, and timber. In the eighteenth century, large numbers of immigrants, first from Germany and later from Ireland, were attracted by the prosperity of the British colonies, only to submit to the lure of the frontier once they had arrived.

The British had a colonial stake in Asia since the formation in 1600 of the East India Company, a trading organization whose business grew steadily at the expense of the Portuguese. In the eighteenth century the company had its own army; its rapacious rule in Bengal stimulated Parliament to appoint a governor general in 1773. Over the next half century the British steadily occupied the whole of India, but the company continued in an administrative capacity until it was finally dissolved in 1858.


In 1534, Jacques Cartier (14911557) established a fort on the site of what is now Quebec City. The French settled Acadia in 1604 and Quebec in 1608. The entire early French enterprise in Canada was based on a single product: fur. Beaver pelts, the best material for hat felt, could not be found in France, were light in weight, had a high value relative to bulk, and were easily transported. Quebec was organized along feudal lines, divided into huge rural estates, or seigneuries, many of which persisted after the British absorbed the colony in 1763. Further south the French established plantations along the Mississippi River in Louisiana, a colony that prospered from the late seventeenth century (with an interval of Spanish rule) until the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. A number of French efforts to establish trading colonies in Brazil (Fort Coligny/Rio de Janeiro in 15551560, Ibiapaba in 15901604, and São Luis do Maranão in 16121615) were all squelched by Portugal.


Dutch expansion was slow, steady, and on the whole peaceful. The Dutch East India Company, chartered in 1602, acted like a state within a state and imposed sole control over Holland's Asian interests. The first solid Dutch base was obtained in 1605 with the capture of the Portuguese fortress at Amboyna in the Moluccas. In 1619, the Dutch founded the city of Batavia (now Jakarta, on Java), which became the center of Dutch power in Asia. The Dutch also acquired a series of factories on the Indian coast and in 1638 a foothold in Ceylon, which they called the "Cinnamon Isle." By 1661 the Dutch were effectively in control of the entire island. The Dutch empire, like the Portuguese one it largely replaced, was protected by its very size and the way it was scattered all over the map.

Between 1624 and 1664 the Dutch established a colony in the Hudson Valley, called Nieuw Netherlands, with its capital at Nieuw Amsterdam, on Manhattan island; it was a shipping and farming colony whose total population reached 10,000 persons. In 1657, the Dutch established Cape Colony at the southern tip of Africa, to protect its seas lanes to Asia. It was a tiny colony, reaching a population of 15,000 only in the eighteenth century. Less successful was the colony of New Sweden along the South River in Delaware, which had been established by a joint stock company in 1632 and was overrun by the Dutch in the early 1650s. In 1624, the Dutch Company temporarily acquired a huge empire in the Brazilian "bulge" when they captured Bahia, which they held for thirty years.


In comparative perspective, British and Dutch empires were decentralized and heavily privatized. Companies were the preferred form of colonization. The Spanish empire, whose colonial administration was highly centralized, was just the opposite. The Portuguese liked the centralization model but lacked the administrative infrastructure to overcome the problems created by distance (Asia) and scale (Brazil). The French were unsuccessful for political reasons and because of the weakness of their navy compared to those of the English and Dutch. Where possible, they established plantations (Louisiana, the Caribbean) or feudal-like domains (the Quebec seigneuries ). They were out-maneuvered in North America and lost the richest of their Caribbean islands, Saint Domingue (now Haiti), to a revolution. In economic terms the Spanish colonies constituted a kind of experiment in mercantilism whereby colonies were to become productive entities that trade with the motherland. The Portuguese and Dutch colonies were purely economic outposts, with only a few exceptions like Brazil or the Cape Colony. The southern colonies of the future United States were, in their inception, plantation economies organized by companies; the northern colonies were increasingly drawn into commercial shipping networks of the New World economy.

See also British Colonies ; Columbus, Christopher ; DutchColonies ; Europe and the World ; French Colonies ; Magellan, Ferdinand ; Missions and Missionaries ; Portuguese Colonies ; Spanish Colonies ; Sugar ; Tobacco ; Trading Companies .


Boxer, C. R. The Dutch Seaborne Empire, 16001800. London, 1990.

. The Portuguese Seaborne Empire. New York, 1969.

Gibson, Charles. Spain in America. New York, 1966.

Parry, J. H. The Spanish Seaborne Empire. London, 1966.

Véliz, Claudio. The Centralist Tradition of Latin America. Princeton, 1980.

Thomas F. Glick

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Colonialism: Latin America

Colonialism: Latin America

Colonialism is all about the exercise of power and its consequences. Theoretically, the exercise of power entails the interaction of at least two parties negotiating (by various means or practices) their wills on one or more issues, as shown by their various actions or statements. This definition holds for interactions of both individuals and institutions. The imposition of one state's will over another is the essence of colonialism. This phenomenon can be observed in a formal sense, when, for example, a mother country dominates a colony, as Spain and Portugal controlled their kingdoms in the Americas. It can also be seen in an informal sense, when the British government pressured Argentine representatives to repay the Baring Brothers' loan in the nineteenth century.

The history of colonialism, which has been a ubiquitous part of the history of the Americas for centuries, can be divided into four parts: pre-Colombian native imperialism; early modern European colonialism; new colonialism (in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries); and neocolonialism, which came to dominate especially after World War II. Archaeologists and historians have described two major pre-Columbian empires in this hemisphere. In the first, the Nahuatl-speaking people, who called themselves the Mexica, dominated the far-flung "Aztec" empire, which was akin to a loose confederation of city-states under one dominant power. The second great indigenous imperial regime was that of the Inca in South America. Because the Inca required all peoples newly incorporated into the empire to add the Inca Sun god to their religious hierarchy, to learn to communicate in the Quechua language, and to serve the Inca state as requested, they established an empire that was more unified and homogeneous than their counterparts in Mexico.

The age of modern colonialism began in the fifteenth century with the rise of modern nation-states and the beginning of European exploration and discovery. Both of the pre-Columbian empires of the Americas were subsequently conquered and colonized by the Spanish. Representatives of the Spanish crown quickly reorganized the indigenous population to facilitate their rule. To anchor Spaniards in place, colonial authoritiesbeginning with Hernando Cortez in North America and Francisco Pizarro in South Americagave to their followers grants of native peoples and the rights to their laborcalled encomiendas. Thus imperial fiat created a new Spanish elite. The grantees or encomenderos ruled the native population at will until reports of misuse, exploitation, and the attendant demographic catastrophe motivated the king to establish a government to implement his law and will.

In Spain, the Council of the Indies (Consejo de Indias) was created to study and make policy for the New World, advise the king, and settle important court cases on appeal. The crown created the House of Trade (Casa de la Contratación) in Seville to regulate commerce, collect taxes, and license immigrants. In America, viceroys represented the monarch's person. Supreme courts (real audiencias ) and treasury departments (real haciendas ) were also established. Local representation of the king was entrusted to district governors, or corregidores. Each Spanish city had a town council (cabildo ) that was entrusted with overseeing the urban population, planning and growth, sanitation, and law and order. Because the overseas state remained relatively unelaborated and weak under the Habsburgs, the Spanish king relied on the church to help rule. The church provided education to a select few; kept the baptismal, marriage, and burial records; served as a source of capital; provided the moral underpinnings of order; oversaw charity; and proved a ready channel of communication for royal mandates.

Under the Habsburg kings, the colonies provided the mother country with agricultural commodities, precious metals, and exotic products, and proved a ready and profitable market for manufactured goods, which were increasingly made elsewhere in Europe but shipped in Spanish ships in exchange for Spanish civilization and culture (language, religion, and lifeways), manufactured goods, and law and governance. Because Habsburg bureaucratic jurisdictions remained blurred and overlapping, this partnership between church and state resulted in a flexible and long-lasting system of rule that, because of the distances and difficulties in communication, gave many American districts a measure of local autonomy.

In 1700, the Bourbons inherited the Spanish kingdoms. They realized that Spain's global power had waned since the late sixteenth century and that the American kingdoms were deficient in supplying the mother country with sufficient revenues to justify their new designation as colonies. Therefore the Bourbons set about reforming the colonial structure and its personnel (1) to defend the overseas kingdoms from the encroachment of the Dutch, the French, and the British, who all wanted footholds in the Americas and access to their raw materials and markets; (2) to rationalize the administration of the New World kingdoms; and (3) to maximize the revenues flowing into the royal treasury of Spain. The Bourbons did this in stagesworking on the reforms first at home in the peninsula, then in the Caribbean, next in New Spain, and finally in Peru. Among the reforms were (1) the expulsion of the Jesuit order on charges of disloyalty and sedition (teaching new and prohibited treasonous ideas associated with Enlightenment philosophers such as Locke and Montesquieu); (2) the creation of the two new viceroyalties of New Granada (1717, 1739) and La Plata (1776) from the viceroyalty of Peru, ostensibly to bring justice closer to the settlers; (3) the replacement of the creole corregidor system of local administration with that of an intendente system of peninsular-born royal officials who enjoyed higher status and broader jurisdiction; (4) the renewal of the tax system to increase some levies (e.g., the sales tax) and create new ones (e.g., the tobacco monopoly); (5) the creation of the first true military organization (for defense); (6) the promotion of new technology (for example, pumps and the Born process to increase the productivity of the mines); and (7) the passage of legislation opening up trade.

These reforms alienated (1) the church, because of the monarch's growing anticlericalism; (2) creole families, because the Jesuits had been the favored educators of elite sons; (3) creole corregidores, who were replaced with peninsular-born intendentes ; (4) people of mixed blood (i.e., the castas ), who were particularly hard hit by increasing taxes; (5) creole militiamen, who resented the fact that the new military organization allowed persons of mixed blood to join; (6) miners, who wondered why it had taken the crown so long to send them the pump that could solve their flooding problems; (7) large wholesale merchants, who lost their monopoly on import supply; and (8) provincial towns that lost the business from overland traffic of mule teams and llama caravans in the Andes as new seaports were opened up for freer trade.

In the short run, the reforms did improve security, administrative expediency, and tax revenues. But in the long run, the imposition of the will of the mother country stifled local autonomy and was interpreted as a threat to the sociopolitical and economic interests of the creoles, causing enough resentment to heighten the desire for independence. Independence, which split the Spanish-American colonies into more than twenty separate countries in the first three decades of the nineteenth century, ended the formal unequal exchange between Spain and its American colonies.

Portuguese colonization followed the same general outlines, with some notable differences. The Portuguese overseas government in Brazil was established in the middle of the sixteenth century in part to prevent the French and other foreign interlopers from taking control of selected areas. The flight of the royal family and its court from Napoleon in 1807 and arrival in Brazil in 1808 and the presence of the royal family in the early nineteenth century resulted in a controlled independence and rule by members of the royal family, Pedro I and Pedro II, as kings of a separate Portuguese kingdom. Pedro II ruled in a relatively enlightened way, but resentment mounted nonetheless, culminating with the issuance in 1888 of the "Golden Law," freeing the slaves, that fatally undermined support for his rule and led to his exile in 1889.

Independence, which foreshadowed the age of new imperialism, however, did not bring the new republican governments total control over their own affairs. The new nations were politically independent but became subject to foreign invasions and state-to-state pressures over debts and the maintenance of law and order. Europe's industries were eager to find sources of raw materials and new markets. Investors willingly exported capital. As mentioned above, the Argentine government defaulted on its first loan, subjecting it to years of informal British diplomatic pressure for repayment. Further north, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean nations faced invasion to collect similar debts, as when the Spanish, French, and British governments sent troops into Mexico during the rule of the constitutionally elected presidency of Benito Juárez to collect overdue moneys.

In the twentieth century, the term "neocolonialism" referred to informal economic ties and the growing predominance of the cultures and values of the former colonial powers by which they continued to influence the cultures and outlooks of Latin-American states. Unequal terms of trade exacerbated Latin America's relations with the rest of the world as more and more products (such as bananas, coffee, sugar, and tin) were needed to buy the same or equivalent imported products. Resentment at this situation stimulated a rich intellectual life across the continent in the twentieth century; in fields as varied as economics, political philosophy, literature, and art, anti-imperialism was a hallmark of a distinctively Latin American form of modernism.

Deteriorating terms of trade and dependency on other world powers have split the populations of the various countries. The elites support the foreign loans, aid, and close trading relations because they are importers and exporters who profit from such relations or the bankers, lawyers, and politicians who negotiate the loans, write the contracts, and collect the fees for their efforts. Nationalists, in contrast, are against such dealings, arguing that their nations export low-priced products to buy relatively high-cost manufactured goods that are often inappropriate technologically to the needs of the majority of their people. These nations also pay out more in principal, interest, fees, and patent and licensing costs than they take in, thus exacerbating inequality between countries and within their own nations, perpetuating their subordinate status, inequality, and poverty.

In addition, nationalists claim that the ruling elites colonize their own compatriots, in that provincial producers sell their local productsbe it oranges or potatoesat low prices and buy high-priced manufactured goods in return. In addition, the provinces send taxes to the capital and get much less back in the form of public works and services (such as schools)a form of internal colonialism.

Such unequal relations have left a legacy of inequality and growing suspicion of and covert and overt resistance to the rule-makers at home and abroad. Under the Habsburgs, colonial populations resisted, saying, "obedesco pero no cumplo " (I obey but will not comply), implying that they recognized that the king had the right to issue the law but that if he had been better informed, he would not have done so. While they informed him of their circumstances and the reasons why the decree is not wise, it was not locally enforced. Increasingly this practice has been replaced by the attitude summarized as "hecho la ley, hecho la trampa " (a law passed is a law bypassed [by cheating, trickery, cleverness, or deceit]). This shows the growing cynicism and intolerance of the general population to their governments, international agencies, and unequal relations with the more developed world.

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the picture is mixed. The fall of the Soviet Union has undermined the sense of any alternative to U.S. capitalism; at the same time, however, the disastrous economic situation that has resulted from neoliberal reformsthe latest set of policies imposed by international creditors on Latin-American nationshas fueled a new sense of resentment. At the same time, a militant desire for functioning democracy, transparency, and an end to corruption has fostered the growth of a wide variety of grassroots political movements. But for many, the only solution is to migrate, legally or illegally, northinto what a previous generation of anticolonialist Latin Americans called "the belly of the beast."

See also Anticolonialism: Latin America ; Empire and Imperialism: Americas .


Bernecker, Walther L., and Hans Werner Tobler, eds. Development and Underdevelopment in America: Contrasts of Economic Growth in North and Latin America in Historical Perspective. New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1993.

Felix, David, ed. Debt and Transfiguration? Prospects for Latin America's Economic Revival. Armonk, N.Y.: M. E. Sharpe, 1990.

Frank, Andre Gunder. Latin America: Underdevelopment or Revolution: Essays on the Development of Underdevelopment and the Immediate Enemy. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1969.

Galeano, Eduardo. Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent. Translated by Cedric Belfrage. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1973.

Johnson, John J. Latin America in Caricature. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1980.

Keen, Benjamin. A History of Latin America. 4th edition. 2 vols. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991.

Susan Elizabeth Ramirez

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Colonialism in the Middle East


european control of middle east areas beginning during the nineteenth century and continuing until world war ii.

Between the mid-nineteenth century and World War I, most of the Middle East and North Africa either already was, or later came, under different forms of colonial rule. In North Africa, France began to conquer Algeria in 1830, conquered Tunisia in 1881, and (together with Spain) imposed a protectorate upon Morocco in 1912. All three were "colonial settler states" in that a substantial proportion of the population (12 percent in the case of Algeria in 1854) were Europeans, mostly French families, who came to live and work in North Africa, both on the land and in the cities. Some of their descendants remained there until forced out by the independence struggles of the 1950s and early 1960s. On a somewhat smaller scale, Libya was annexed by Italy in 1911 and attracted some 110,000 Italian settlers during the inter-war period.

Britain and France Take Leading Roles

In Egypt, following the rise of a nationalist movement that threatened to challenge the British and French administration of the public debt (put in place in 1876), British troops invaded in 1882 and occupied the country informally until the declaration of a British protectorate on the outbreak of World War I. Although large numbers of foreigners resided in Egypt, they were generally neither "settlers" nor colons in the French North African sense (since they lived mostly in the cities and engaged in commerce or in other service occupations) and a majority of them were not citizens of the occupying power.

On the coasts of the Arabian Peninsula, Britain's concern to keep the route to India safe and open led to the signing of a series of treaties with the rulers of Bahrain and of what are now the United Arab Emirates. In 1853 the rulers signed a Perpetual Maritime Truce; in 1892 Bahrain and the lower Gulf emirates, including Muscat and Oman, signed further agreements with Britain under which they agreed not to dispose of any part of their territories except to Britain, and to conduct their foreign relations exclusively through the British government. Britain concluded similar agreements with Kuwait in 1899 and Qatar in 1916. In 1839 Britain annexed Aden and turned it into a naval base; later, "exclusive" treaties were signed with the tribal rulers of the interior, and in 1937 the area was divided into the port and its immediate hinterland (Aden Colony) and the more remote rural/tribal areas (Aden Protectorate).

In the Levant, a form of colonialism of a rather different kind came into being after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire by Britain and France in 1918. The Ottoman Arab provinces were assigned to Britain and France as mandates from the newly created League of Nations, Britain taking responsibility for Iraq, Palestine, and Transjordan, and France taking responsibility for Lebanon and Syria. The guiding principle of the mandate system was that the states concerned should remain under the tutelage of the mandatory power, until such time as they were able to "stand alone," a period that, although unspecified, was viewed as not being of indefinite length.

Of the five states, Palestine was unique among its neighbors in that it was a settler state, since the text of the Palestine mandate included the terms of the Balfour Declaration (1917), in which Britain undertook to facilitate the setting up of a "national home for the Jewish people." European Jewish migration to Palestine had begun during the last decades of the nineteenth century with the rise of Zionism, whose objective was the creation of a Jewish state, although the specific details were not to be formulated until the early 1900s. By World War I there were some 65,000 Jews in Palestine, some 8 to 10 percent of the total population. In 1922 there were 93,000 Jews and about 700,000 Arabs; in 1936, three years after the Nazis had come to power in Germany, there were 380,000 Jews and 983,000 Arabs; and in 1946, about 600,000 Jews and 1.3 million Arabs. Thus the Jewish population had increased from 13 percent to 31 percent over a period of twenty-four years. Arab opposition to Jewish immigration was focused at least as much on the Jews' perceived character as European settlers (as in, say, Algeria) as on their religious affiliation.

The rest of the Middle East never experienced direct colonial control, although the Ottoman Empire's borrowings from European sources, and its mounting trade deficit, led it to declare bankruptcy in 1875 and then to the imposition of financial controls by the Ottoman Public Debt Administration, a committee representing the interests of the European bondholders. After the collapse of the empire at the end of World War I, Anatolia was occupied by the French, Greek, and Italian armies, but a national resistance movement formed around the Ottoman general Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and an independent Turkish republic was declared in 1923. Iran had also been the object of external economic and political interest from the last decade of the eighteenth century; Britain wanted to control Iran because of its proximity to India, while Russia was expanding its empire in Central Asia and was also, or so Britain claimed, intent on gaining access to ports on the Persian Gulf. Iran achieved a certain degree of independence with the rise to power of Reza Khan, subsequently Reza Shah Pahlavi, who set up his own dynasty in 1925. Principally because of their remoteness and lack of major strategic importance, central Arabia and northern Yemen were never colonized. However, Ibn Saʿud, the ruler of central Arabia, gradually extended his rule over most of the rest of the Arabian Peninsula with substantial assistance from Britain, eventually establishing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932.

Independence Movements

The states of North Africa were generally fairly quiescent until after 1945, although the colonial regimes, with their policies of widespread confiscation of tribal land for the benefit of the settler population, were deeply unpopular. In Morocco, the French generally were able to contain the movement for national independence, but they precipitated a major crisis by exiling the sultan, Muhammad V, to Madagascar in 1953. As a result, the rallying cry of the national movement became the return of the sultan from exile, which led to the sultan/king retaining his position as ruler after independence in October 1956. In Tunisia, Habib Bourguiba took over the leadership of the national movement after his release from prison in 1936; his Neo-Destour party had about 110,000 members in 1954 and was closely linked with the labor movement. After the war a guerrilla movement formed and attacked French farms and settlers. Probably because France could not take on anticolonial wars in both Tunisia and Algeria at the same time, Tunisian independence was negotiated fairly smoothly in April 1955.

Algeria's road to independence was far rockier than that of any other state in the region, largely because of the large numbers of French settlers in Algeria and of Algerian workers in France. Postwar French governments attempted to incorporate Algeria into France, a step that appealed to the settlers but was vigorously opposed by the great majority of the Arab population. In 1954 the Algerian resistance formed the Front de Libération Nationale under the leadership of Ahmed Ben Bella; after his capture in 1957, some of his colleagues set up an Algerian government in exile in Tunis. The "war of national liberation" lasted from 1954 until 1962; between a million and a million and a half Algerians were killed, and 27,000 French.

In Libya, Italian conquest and pacification between 1911 and 1932 had faced bitter resistance, involving major losses of life, but because of the country's sparse population, this general hostility did not produce a nationalist movement. The country's liberation in 1942 came about as part of the North Africa campaign; the British entered into a tentative alliance with the Amir Idris al-Sanusi, head of the Sanusi order, who was brought back from exile in 1944. After several years of negotiations, Libya became independent under United Nations auspices in 1952, and Idris became the new state's hereditary ruler.

In Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan, Lebanon, and Syriathe situation in Palestine was of course uniquethe British and French set up monarchies and constitutional republics, respectively. This new political order was widely contested, and the mandate regimes were generally unpopular, especially in Syria and Palestine. After having set up a compliant government in Iraq, the British felt able to make a formal withdrawal in 1932, although real independence was not obtained until 1958. In Lebanon the French were welcomed by the Maronites and the other Catholic Christians but by few others. In Syria there was a major national rising between 1925 and 1927, which the French had considerable difficulty in controlling, although a notable-dominated group, al-Kutla al-Wataniyya, emerged as the voice of moderate nationalism, with whom, it seemed, the French might be persuaded to work. Expectations were raised in 1936 with the victory of Léon Blum's Popular Front government in France in 1936, but negotiations for independence ceased when it fell a year later, and Syria remained under French control until 1945.

Egypt, already under British tutelage since the declaration of the protectorate in 1914, escaped the formal structures of the mandate system. Late in 1918, some Egyptian politicians asked the British authorities for permission to send a delegation (wafd) to the Paris peace conference. When permission was refused, a widespread national uprising broke out in March 1919. Eventually, Britain conceded limited Egyptian independence in 1922; further agitation during the 1920s and 1930s led to the signature of an Anglo-Egyptian treaty in 1936 that enabled Egypt to enter the League of Nations as an independent state. Nevertheless, a substantial British military presence remained in the country until Gamal Abdel Nasser's seizure of power in 1952.

Palestine and Zionism

In Palestine, the special situation created by Zionist settlement led to increasing hostility and resentment on the part of the Arab population. The British attempted to act in an even-handed fashion toward the two communities, but in general the Arab political leadership was disinclined, for example, to participate in any British constitutional proposals that would imply recognition of the Zionist presence. The Jewish National Fund gradually bought up land in Palestine from (mostly absentee) Arab landlords. It amassed about a quarter of the cultivable area between 1920 and 1948 and settled Jewish immigrants on it in farming cooperatives. Jewish immigrants also settled in the cities: Between 1911 and 1929 the population of Tel Aviv grew from 550 to 38,500. For this and other reasons, there were serious outbreaks of rioting in 1921 and 1929, and a more sustained Palestinian rebellion between 1936 and 1939.

During World War II there was a considerable amount of illegal immigration to Palestine, but in spite of their obvious discontent with Britain, many Zionists fought in, or in units attached to, the British army. After the war Britain decided that it could not solve the problems of Palestine on its own and referred the problem to the United Nations. In November 1947 the United Nations voted that Palestine should be divided into an Arab state and a Jewish state; the British began to evacuate and had left by May 1948. In January 1948 volunteer units from some of the surrounding Arab countries began to infiltrate into Palestine from Syria. The volunteers and the armies of the other Arab states proved no match for the Zionist forces, which outnumbered them about two to one. On 14 May 1948 the state of Israel was declared. Throughout 1948 large numbers of Arabs left Palestine, unaware that they would not be allowed to come back. By January 1949, there were some 730,000 Palestinian refugees, 280,000 in the West Bank (which became incorporated into Jordan in 1951), 200,000 in the Gaza Strip, and the rest in Lebanon, Syria, and Transjordan.


Abrahamian, Ervand. Iran between Two Revolutions. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1982.

Anderson, Lisa. The State and Social Transformation in Tunisia and Libya, 18301980. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986.

Botman, Selma. Egypt from Independence to Revolution, 19191952. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1991.

Horne, Alistair. A Savage War of Peace: Algeria, 19541962. London: Macmillan, 1977.

Khoury, Philip S. Syria and the French Mandate: The Politics of Arab Nationalism, 19201945. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987.

Leatherdale, Clive. Britain and Saudi Arabia, 19251939: The Imperial Oasis. Totowa, NJ; London: Cass, 1983.

Louis, William Roger. The British Empire in the Middle East, 19451951: Arab Nationalism, the United States, and Postwar Imperialism. New York; Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 1984.

Meouchy, Nadine, and Sluglett, Peter, eds. The British and French Mandates in Comparative Perspectives/Les mandats français et anglais dans une perspective comparative. Boston: Brill, 2003.

Salibi, Kamal. A House of Many Mansions: The History of Lebanon Reconsidered. Berkeley: University of California Press; London: Tauris, 1988.

Sluglett, Peter. Britain in Iraq, 19141932. London: Ithaca Press, 1976.

Sluglett, Peter. "Formal and Informal Empire in the Middle East." In The Oxford History of the British Empire, vol. 5, Historiography, edited by Robin W. Winks. New York; Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Wilson, Mary C. King Abdullah, Britain, and the Making of Jordan. New York; Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

Zürcher, Erik J. Turkey: A Modern History. New York; London: Tauris, 1998.

Peter Sluglett

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The matrix of structures, ideologies, and actions that have formed both historical and contemporary patterns of colonialism have shaped the world-system in irreversible and deeply influential ways. Serious consideration of colonialism recognizes that no matter where the starting point for analyzing colonialism is set, the process, structure, and lingering effects of such a geohistorical phenomenon cannot be grasped in a simplistic or one-dimensional way by either academics or those who continue to live colonized lives, for the implications of such naïveté are too severe. Numerous critical scholarssuch as Edward Said, Gayatri Spivak, Ania Loomba, Samir Amin, Immanuel Wallerstein, and Wole Soyinkahave devoted their academic careers (which are often rooted in their lived experience within colonial rule and systemic colonial endeavors) to understanding the social, cultural, and political project that is colonialism. While the terms colonialism, empire, imperialism, and even globalization have been employed to describe analogous processes, the realities behind colonialism are complex and systematically, structurally, and culturally catastrophic for the colonized. Colonialism can be critically discussed through three primary lenses: (1) the colonialism project as a structure of domination subjugating one group of people to another across political entities; (2) internal or domestic colonialism as a similar structure occurring within a given nation-state, typically against socially marked groups; and (3) the colonialism of the mind, wherein the colonized are institutionally, pedagogically, linguistically, and cognitively conquered by the colonizer.

Most common definitions of colonialism describe a general process in which a nation-state expands its territory as well as its social, cultural, and political structures into extant territories beyond its own national boundaries. Most standard definitions also describe a process in which one power exerts and maintains control over what ultimately becomes a dependent area or people. Yet such definitions are deeply insufficient for critical scholars of history, sociology, literary theory, anthropology, and other areas of study. Indeed, colonialism is a geopolitical, socio-cultural, linguistic, and hegemonic project of domination and oppression rooted in the racialized and gendered contracts emerging out of Europe in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries (see Mills 1997; Pateman 1988). As a project of the European Enlightenment, colonialism is critically seen not as aberration but as a purposeful design intended to spread a hegemonic structure whereby one people (whites) benefit from the exploitation and subjugation of another people (nonwhites). Colonialism is a form of systemic oppression and domination. The basic, descriptive form of colonization existed before the emergence a distinctly European, racist, hegemonic project (e.g., in the ancient empires of Egypt, Persia, Macedonia, Mongolia, China, and Central and South America). But while the processes of colonialism were of a radically different form, the consequences for those who were colonized in ancient times were as thorough and deep as they were for those colonized in Africa, India, Latin America, and other areas by Europeans in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In the contemporary world, neocolonialism and imperialism often mirror earlier colonization efforts through complex and ultimately exploitative economic, military, political, social, and cultural processes. Many see such processes at work in various episodes of foreign intervention by the United States either directly (Grenada, Panama, Iraq) or indirectly (Chile, Cuba, Indonesia).

Understanding the oppressive and exploitative nature of colonialism in the world-system is crucial. However, solely attending to such processes across sociopolitical boundaries can divert critical awareness away from similar ideologies and structures of colonization within a given context. Indeed, similar processes and exploitative contracts have emerged within countries since the fifteenth century. In the U.S. context, several critical scholars (e.g., Andre Gunder Frank, Robert Blauner, Immanuel Wallerstein, Maulana Karenga, and Vine Deloria Jr.) have raised the question about whether groups such as African Americans and Native Americans represent internal colonies within the United States.

Questions surrounding internal or domestic colonization focus on the fulfillment of several social structural components, highlighting the internal relationships of colonialism between oppressor and oppressed. First, if a particular group is politically disenfranchised within their own country (e.g., through electoral structure or limited access to discourse or positions), then that group may be an oppressed internal colony. Second, if the group in question is economically disadvantaged and exploited within the society it calls home, then the group represents the possibility of domestic colonization. Third, when members of a group are occupationally subordinated through segregation, impeded structural access to opportunities, or de facto discrimination and racism (e.g., African Americans or Native Americans), they are internally colonized within a matrix of colonialism. Fourth, when individuals in an ethnic or minority group are socio-psychologically humiliated through media misrepresentation, decentering (objects of history, rather than subjects) in education, and interactional isolation, they are part of an internal colony. Finally, minority groups often become culturally manipulated and commodified within their own societies through the market, the media, and campaigns of fear and consumption, and this can lead to domestic colonization. States often utilize the tools of colonialism against people within their own borders to effectively create internal colonies.

As the social landscape is also reflected and embedded within our mental and cognitive landscapes, existence within a structure of colonialism can affect individual and collective repertoires of action, thought, belief, and behavior. Thus, another lens through which one can view colonialism is that of the colonization of cultural, ideological, and cognitive terrains. The political philosopher Frantz Fanon, who was born in the French colony of Martinique, illuminated such a form of colonialism through his critical, structural, and psychoanalytic analysis of colonization. Fanon and others identified a colonization of the mind, an internalization of inferiority that persists long after colonial powers have physically left. While some authors have discussed the kind of moral and epistemological psychology needed for oppressors to engage in colonialism, writers from the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire to Fanon recognize that, in a system of colonialism, the oppressor, buttressed by the system and enjoying systemic privilege, maps systemic forms of domination within the minds of the oppressed that fundamentally alter strategies of resistance, protest, political opposition, and notions of individual and collective identities.

Colonialism, in the almost 600 years of its world-system domination, is a systemic, hegemonic, and totalizing form of oppression stemming from the project of European Enlightenment, and as such it has structured the world-system in favor of the West. While direct colonialism, through colonial rule, may eventually wither away through anticolonial movements and processes of decolonization, the effects of such a system linger in the international relations, internal structures, and mental cartography of the colonized. Such a structure has proved not only catastrophic for the colonized, but also, as Freire would argue, for the colonizer as well.

SEE ALSO Anticolonial Movements; Decolonization; Empire; Imperialism; Neocolonialism; Postcolonialism


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David L. Brunsma

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colonialism The establishment by more developed countries of formal political authority over areas of Asia, Africa, Australasia, and Latin America. It is distinct from spheres of influence, indirect forms of control, semi-colonialism, and neo-colonialism.

Colonialism was practised by Spain, Portugal, Britain, France, and the Netherlands in the Americas from the fifteenth century onwards, and extended to virtually all of Asia and Africa during the nineteenth century. It was usually (but not necessarily) accompanied by the settling of White populations in these territories, the exploitation of local economic resources for metropolitan use, and sometimes both together. The term is often used as a synonym for imperialism although the latter covers other informal mechanisms of control.

In addition to debates about the causes, benefits, and impact of imperialism, discussion of colonialism has covered a wide range of issues including: the different mechanisms of colonial control and the contrast between the assimilationist policies of France and Portugal and the more segregated policies of Britain; the social and economic impact on colonized countries, resulting from the destruction of old social, economic, and political systems and the development of new ones; the nineteenth-century discourse of domination around the idea of the ‘civilizing mission’ and the related rise of racism; the issue of why colonialism ended in the post-1945 period, involving a consideration of the relative weights of international pressure from both the United States and USSR, the rise of nationalist movements demanding independence in colonies, and the exhaustion of the European colonial powers after the Second World War.

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co·lo·ni·al·ism / kəˈlōnēəˌlizəm; kəˈlōnyəˌlizəm/ • n. the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically. DERIVATIVES: co·lo·ni·al·ist / -list/ n. & adj.

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This entry includes three subentries:

Latin America
Southeast Asia

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