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This map of the world in 1898 shows the large colonial empires that European nations established in the Americas, Africa, Asia, and the South Pacific

Exploitation colonialism is the policy of conquering distant lands to exploit its natural and human resources. This practice contrasts with settler colonialism, a policy of conquering distant lands not with the intention of exploiting its resources, but rather to send settlers in order to shape its demographic similarly as in the metropole. A motherland might pursue this second goal in order to lighten the pressure its growing population apply to its home territory, and shape other parts of the world according to its image, thus extending its territorial continuity and preserving it indefinitely. The reasons that push a country to choose the first option are to attain more immediate benefits, extracting cheap raw materials and enslaving directly or indirectly its inhabitants.

Imperialist powers may opt for one type or the other, or both at the same time. Perhaps the most clear example of this difference is the British Empire, whose white population settled mainly North America and Oceania, exterminating in the process the native population and building modern infrastructures, and disregarded the Indian subcontinent and Africa, already densely populated. Those areas, instead, were ruled by a small colonial population, and their economies were oriented exclusively around agriculture and extraction aimed at export to the United Kingdom.

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