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The historical phenomenon of colonisation is one that stretches around the globe and across time, including such disparate peoples as the Hittites, the Incas and the British. European colonialism or Imperialism began in the fifteenth century with the "Age of Discovery", led by Spanish and Portuguese exploration of the Americas, and the coasts of Africa, the Middle East, India, and East Asia. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, England, France and Holland established their own overseas empires, in direct competition with each other. The end of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century saw the first era of decolonization when most of the European colonies in the Americas gained their independence from their respective metropoles. Spain and Portugal were irreversibly weakened after the loss of their New World colonies, but the Kingdom of Great Britain (after the union of England and Wales, and Scotland), France and Holland turned their attention to the Old World, particularly South Africa, India and South East Asia, where coastal enclaves had already been established. The industrialization of the nineteenth century led to what has been termed the era of New Imperialism, when the pace of colonization rapidly accelerated, the height of which was the Scramble for Africa, in which Belgium was a major and Germany a lesser participant. During the twentieth century, the overseas colonies of the losers of World War I were distributed amongst the victors as mandates, but it was not until the end of World War II that the second phase of decolonization began in earnest. In 1999 Portugal returned the last of Europe's colonies in Asia, Macau, to China, ending an era that had lasted five hundred years.


Iberian exploration and colonization

European colonisation of both Eastern and Western Hemispheres has its roots in Portuguese exploration. There were financial and religious motives behind this exploration. By finding the source of the lucrative spice trade, the Portuguese could reap its profits for themselves. They would also be able to probe the existence of the fabled Christian kingdom of Prester John, with a view to encircling the Islamic Ottoman Empire. The first foothold outside of Europe was gained with the conquest of Ceuta in 1415. During the fifteenth century Portuguese sailors discovered the Atlantic islands of Madeira, Azores, and Cape Verde, which were duly populated, and pressed progressively further along the west African coast until Bartolomeu Dias demonstrated it was possible to sail around Africa by rounding the Cape of Good Hope in 1488, paving the way for Vasco da Gama to reach India in 1498.

Portuguese successes led to Spanish financing of a mission by Christopher Columbus in 1492 to explore an alternative route to Asia, by sailing west. When Columbus eventually made landfall in what are now called the Bahamas he believed he had reached the coast of Japan, but had in fact "discovered" the peripheral islands of a new continent, the Americas.

After Columbus' return to Europe, competing Spanish and Portuguese claims to undiscovered lands were settled in 1494 with the Treaty of Tordesillas, which divided the world outside of Europe in an exclusive duopoly between the Iberian kingdoms along a north-south meridian 370 leagues west of Cape Verde. Technically this meant that all of the Americas were open to Spanish colonization, but when Pedro Álvares Cabral's voyage to India was blown off course and landfall made on the Brazilian coast, this accident of navigation and an inability at the time to accurately measure longitude meant that Brazil ended up within the Portuguese half.

Portuguese colonial possessions in the late 16th century.

During the 16th century the Portuguese continued to press both eastwards and westwards into the Oceans. Towards Asia they made the first direct contact between Europeans and the peoples inhabiting present day countries such as Mozambique, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia, East Timor (1512), China, and finally Japan). In the opposite direction, the Portuguese colonized the huge territory that eventually became Brasil, and the Spanish conquistadores established the vast Viceroyalties of New Spain, New Granada and Peru. In Asia, the Portuguese encountered ancient and well populated societies, and established a seaborne empire consisting of armed coastal trading posts along their trade routes (such as Goa, Malacca and Macau), so they had relatively little cultural impact on the societies they forced their way into trading with. In the Western Hemisphere, the European colonization involved the emigration of large numbers of settlers, soldiers and administrators intent on owning land and exploiting the relatively primitive (by Old World standards) native population. The result was that the colonization of the New World was catastrophic: native peoples were no match for European technology, ruthlessness or their diseases which decimated the indigenous population.

Spanish treatment of the indigenous populations provoked a fierce debate, the Valladolid Controversy, over whether Indians possessed souls and if so, whether they were entitled to the basic rights of mankind. Bartolomé de Las Casas, author of A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies, championed the cause of the natives, and was opposed by Sepúlveda, who claimed Amerindians were "natural slaves".

The Roman Catholic Church played a large role in Spanish and Portuguese overseas activities. The Dominicans and Jesuits, notably Francis Xavier in Asia, were particularly active in this endeavour. Many buildings erected by the Jesuits still stand, such as the Cathedral of Saint Paul in Macau and the Santisima Trinidad de Paraná in Paraguay, an example of a Jesuit Reduction.

As characteristically happens in any colonialism, European or whatever, previous or subsequent, both Spain and Portugal profited handsomely from their new found overseas colonies: the Spanish from gold and silver from mines such as Potosí and Zacateca, the Portuguese from the huge markups they enjoyed as trade intermediaries, particarlarly during the Namban trade period. The influx of precious metals to the Spanish monarchy's coffers allowed it to finance costly religious wars in Europe which ultimately proved its undoing: the supply of metals was not infinite and the large inflow caused inflation.

The boundaries specified by the Treaty of Tordesillas were put to the test a second time when Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese explorer sailing under the Spanish flag reached the Philippines. The two by now global empires, which had set out from opposing directions, had finally met on the other side of the world.

Northern European challenges to the Iberian hegemony

It was not long before the exclusivity of Iberian claims to the Americas was challenged by other up and coming European powers, primarily the Netherlands, France and England: the view taken by the rulers of these nations is epitomized by the quotation attributed to Francis I of France demanding to be shown the clause in Adam's will excluding his authority from the New World.

This challenge initially took the form of piratical attacks (such as those by Francis Drake) on Spanish treasure fleets or coastal settlements, but later the Northern European countries began establishing settlements of their own, primarily in areas that were outside of Spanish interests, such as what is now the eastern seaboard of the U.S. and Canada, or islands in the Caribbean, such as Aruba, Martinique and Barbados, that had been abandoned by the Spanish in favour of the mainland and larger islands.

Whereas Spanish colonialism was based on the religious conversion and exploitation of local populations via encomiendas (many Spaniards emigrated to the Americas to elevate their social status, and were not interested in manual labour), Northern European colonialism was bolstered by those emigrating for religious reasons (for example, the Mayflower voyage). The motive for emigration was not to become an aristocrat or to spread one's faith but to start a new society afresh, structured according to the colonists wishes. The most populous emigration of the seventeenth century was that of the English, who after a series of wars with the Dutch and French came to dominate the eastern coast of the present day U.S. and Canada.

However, the English, French and Dutch were no more averse to making a profit than the Spanish and Portuguese, and whilst their areas of settlement in the Americas proved to be devoid of the precious metals found by the Spanish, trade in other commodities and products that could be sold at massive profit in Europe provided another reason for crossing the Atlantic, in particular furs from Canada, tobacco and cotton grown in Virginia and sugar in the islands of the Caribbean and Brazil. Due to the massive depletion of indigenous labour, plantation owners had to look elsewhere for manpower for these labour-intensive crops. They turned to the centuries old slave trade of west Africa and began transporting Africans across the Atlantic on a massive scale - historians estimate that the Atlantic slave trade brought between 10 and 12 million African (mostly black skinned) slaves to the New World. The islands of the Caribbean soon came to be populated by slaves of African descent, ruled over by a white minority of plantation owners interested in making a fortune and then returning to their home country to spend it.

Role of companies in early colonialism

From its very outset, Western colonialism was operated as a joint public-private venture. Columbus' voyages to the Americas were partially funded by Italian investors, but whereas the Spanish state maintained a tight reign on trade with its colonies (by law, the colonies could only trade with one designated port in the mother country and treasure was brought back in special convoys), the English, French and Dutch granted what were effectively trade monopolies to joint-stock companies such as the East India Companies and the Hudson's Bay Company.

European colonies in India

In 1498, the Portuguese set foot in Goa. Rivalry among reigning European powers saw the entry of the Dutch, British, French, Danish among others. The fractured debilitated kingdoms of India were gradually taken over by the Europeans and indirectly controlled by puppet rulers. In 1600, Queen Elizabeth I accorded a charter, forming the East India Company to trade with India and eastern Asia. The British landed in India in Surat in 1612. By the nineteenth century, they had assumed direct and indirect control over most of India.

Independence in the Americas (1770-1820)

Independent republics in the Americas, c. 1830.

During the five decades following 1770, Britain, France, Spain and Portugal lost their most valuable colonies[citation needed], their possessions in the Americas.

Britain and The Thirteen Colonies

After the conclusion of the Seven Years' War in 1763, Britain had emerged as the world's dominant power, but found itself mired in debt and struggling to finance the Navy and Army necessary to maintain a global empire. The British Parliament's attempt to raise taxes on the North American colonists raised fears among the Americans that their rights as "Englishmen," particularly their rights of self-government, were in danger. A series of disputes with Parliament over taxation led first to informal committees of correspondence among the colonies, then to coordinated protest and resistance. A standing army was formed by the United Colonies, and independence declared on July 4, 1776, by the Second Continental Congress. The American War of Independence continued until 1783 when the Treaty of Paris was signed. Britain recognised the sovereignty of the United States over the territory bounded by Canada to the North, Florida to the South, and the Mississippi River to the west.

France and the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804)

The Haïtian Revolution, a slave revolt led by Toussaint L'Ouverture in the French colony of Saint-Domingue, established Haïti as a free, black republic, the first of its kind. Haiti became the second independent nation that was a former European colony in the Western Hemisphere after the United States. Africans and people of African ancestry freed themselves from slavery and colonization by taking advantage of the conflict among whites over how to implement the reforms of the French Revolution in this slave society. Although independence was declared in 1804, it was not until 1825 that it was formally recognized by King Charles X of France.

Spain and the Wars of Independence in Latin America

The gradual decline of Spain as an imperial power throughout the seventeenth century was hastened by the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714), as a result of which it lost its European imperial possessions. The death knell for the Spanish Empire in the Americas was Napoleon's invasion of the Iberian peninsula in 1808. With the installation of his brother Joseph on the Spanish throne, the main tie between the metropole and its American colonies, the Spanish monarchy, had been cut, leading the colonists to question their continued subordination to a declining and distant country.

With an eye on the events of the American Revolution forty years earlier, revolutionary leaders began bloody wars of independence against Spain, whose armies were ultimately unable to maintain control. By 1821, Spain had been ejected from the mainland of the American continent, leaving a collection of independent republics that stretched from Chile and Argentina in the south to Mexico in the north. Spain's colonial possessions were reduced to Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines and a number of small islands in the Pacific, all of which she was to lose to the United States in the 1898 Spanish-American War or sell to Germany shortly thereafter.

Portugal and Brazil

Brazil was the only country in Latin America to gain its independence without bloodshed. The invasion of Portugal by Napoleon in 1808 had forced King João VI to escape to Brazil and establish his court in Rio de Janeiro. For thirteen years, Portugal was ruled from Brazil (the only instance of such a reversal of roles between colony and metropole) until his return to Portugal in 1821. His son, Dom Pedro, was left in charge of Brazil and in 1822 he declared independence from Portugal and himself the Emperor of Brazil. Unlike Spain's former colonies which had abandoned the monarchy in favour of republicanism, Brazil therefore retained its links with its monarchy, the House of Braganza.


See: European colonies in India.

New Imperialism (1870-1914)

The policy and ideology of European colonial expansion between the 1870s and the outbreak of World War I in 1914 are often characterised as the "New Imperialism". The period is distinguished by an unprecedented pursuit of what has been termed "empire for empire's sake", aggressive competition for overseas territorial acquisitions and the emergence in colonising countries of doctrines of racial superiority which denied the fitness of subjugated peoples for self-government.

During this period, Europe's powers added nearly 8,880,000 square miles (23,000,000 km²) to their overseas colonial possessions. As it was mostly unoccupied by the Western powers as late as the 1880s, Africa became the primary target of the "new" imperialist expansion (known as The Scramble for Africa), although conquest took place also in other areas — notably south-east Asia and the East Asian seaboard, where Japan joined the European powers' scramble for territory.

The Berlin Conference (1884 - 1885) mediated the imperial competition among Britain, France and Germany, defining "effective occupation" as the criterion for international recognition of colonial claims and codifying the imposition of direct rule, accomplished usually through armed force.

A decade later, rival imperialisms would collide in the 1898 Fashoda Incident, during which war between France and Britain was barely avoided. This fear led to new alliances, and in 1904 the Entente Cordiale was signed between both powers. Imperialistic rivalry between the European powers was a main cause of the triggering of World War I in 1914.

In Germany, rising pan-germanism was coupled to imperialism in the Alldeutsche Verband ("Pangermanic League"), which argued that Britain's world power position gave the British unfair advantages on international markets, thus limiting Germany's economic growth and threatening its security.

The Scramble for Africa

European claims in Africa, 1914, following the Scramble for Africa.

Many European statesmen and industrialists wanted to accelerate the Scramble for Africa, securing colonies before they strictly needed them. The champion of Realpolitik, Bismarck thus pushed a Weltpolitik vision ("World Politic"), which considered the colonization as a necessity for the emerging German power. German colonies in Togoland, Samoa, South-West Africa and New Guinea had corporate commercial roots, while the equivalent German-dominated areas in East Africa and China owed more to political motives. The British also took an interest in Africa, using the East Africa company to take over Kenya and Uganda. The British crown formally took over in 1895 and renamed the area the East Africa Protectorate.

Herero chained during the 1904 rebellion, before the Herero Genocide (1904-07) in German South-West Africa (finally independent, under the name of Namibia, in 1990).

Leopold II of Belgium personally owned the Congo Free State from 1885 to 1908, while the Dutch had the Dutch East Indies.

In the same manner, Italy tried to conquer its "place in the sun", acquiring Somaliland in 1899-90, Eritrea and 1899, and, taking advantage of the "Sick man of Europe", the Ottoman Empire, also conquered Tripolitania and Cyrenaica (modern Libya) with the 1911 Treaty of Lausanne. The conquest of Ethiopia, which had remained the last African independent territory, had to wait till the Second Italo-Abyssinian War in 1935-36 (the First Italo–Ethiopian War in 1895-96 had been a disaster for Italian troops).

The Portuguese and Spanish colonial empire were smaller, mostly legacies of past colonization. Most of their colonies had acquired independence during the Latin American revolutions at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Imperialism in Asia

In Asia, the Great Game, which lasted from 1813 to 1907, opposed the British Empire against Imperial Russia for supremacy in central Asia. China was opened to Western influence starting with the First and Second Opium Wars (1839-1842; 1856-1860). After the visits of Commodore Matthew Perry in 1852-1854, Japan opened itself to the Western world during the Meiji Era (1868-1912).

The above basically concerns India and China.

But other or the same forms of Imperialism, that should not be overlooked, were in action in Burma, Indonesia (Netherlands East Indies), Malaya and the Philippines.

Inter-War Period (1918-1939)

The colonial map was redrawn following the defeat of Germany and the Ottoman Empire after the first World War (1914-18). Colonies from the defeated empires were transferred to the newly founded League of Nations, which itself redistributed it to the victorious powers as "mandates".

The secret 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement partitioned the Middle East between Britain and France, and the 1917 Balfour Declaration promised to the international Zionist movement their support in creating a Jewish homeland in Palestine, later to become the state of Israel. French mandates included Syria and Lebanon, whilst the British were handed Iraq and Palestine. The bulk of the Arabian peninsula became the independent Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1922. The discovery of the world's largest easily accessible crude oil deposits led to an influx of Western oil companies that dominated the region's economies until the 1970s, and making the emirs of the oil states immensely rich, enabling them to consolidate their hold on power and giving them a stake in preserving Western hegemony over the region.

During the 1920-30s Iraq, Syria and Egypt moved towards independence, although the British and French did not formally depart the region until they were forced to do so after World War II.

Japanese imperialism

After being closed for centuries to Western influence, Japan opened itself to the West during the Meiji Era (1868-1912), characterized by swift modernization and borrowings from European culture (in law, science, etc.) This, in turn, helped make Japan the modern power that it is now, which was symbolized as soon as the 1904-1905 Russo-Japanese War: this war marked the first victory of an Asian people against a European imperial power, and led to widespread fears among European populations (first appearance of the "Yellow Peril"). During the first part of the twentieth century, while China was still victim of various European imperialisms, Japan became an imperialist power, conquering what it called a "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere".

Japan's encroachment on Korea began with the 1876 Treaty of Kanghwa with the Joseon Dynasty of Korea, increased with the 1895 assassination of Empress Myeongseong and the 1905 Eulsa Treaty, and was completed with the illicit 1910 Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty. In 1910, Korea was formally annexed to the Japanese Empire. The Japanese colonization of Korea was particularly brutal, even by twentieth century standards. This brutal colonization included the use of Korean "comfort women" who were forced to serve as sex slaves in Japanese Army brothels.

In 1931 Japanese army units based in Manchuria seized control of the region; full-scale war with China followed in 1937, drawing Japan toward an overambitious bid for Asian hegemony (Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere), which ultimately led to defeat and the loss of all its overseas territories after World War II (see Japanese expansionism and Japanese nationalism). As in Korea, the Japanese treatment of the Chinese people was particularly brutal as exemplified by the Nanjing Massacre.

Decolonization (1945-1997)

Anticolonialist movements had begun to gain momentum after the close of World War I, which had seen colonial troops fight alongside those of the metropole, and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson's speech on the Fourteen Points. However, it was not until the end of World War II that they fully mobilised. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt's 1941 Atlantic Charter declared that the signatories would "respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live". Though Churchill subsequently claimed this applied only to those countries under Nazi occupation, rather than the British Empire, the words were not so easily retracted: for example, the legislative assembly of Britain's most important colony, India, passed a resolution stating that the Charter should apply to it too.

To nationalist movements, it was hypocritical and morally indefensible for colonial governments to expect their colonies to fight side by side with them in a struggle against the racist ideologies of Nazism and fascism, yet at the same time expect to return to the white supremacy of the status ante bellum, once hostilities had ceased. Moreover, Roosevelt and the American public were firmly of the mind that they were not, as Life magazine put it in 1942, "fighting ... to hold the British Empire together".

In 1945, the United Nations (UN) was founded when 50 nations signed the UN Charter, which included a statement of its basis in the respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples. In 1952, demographer Alfred Sauvy coined the term "Third World" in reference to the French Third Estate. The expression distinguished nations that aligned themselves with neither the West nor with the Soviet Bloc during the Cold War. In the following decades, decolonization would strengthen this group which began to be represented at the United Nations. The Third World's first international move was the 1955 Bandung Conference, led by Nehru for India, Nasser for Egypt and Tito for Yugoslavia. The Conference, which gathered 29 countries representing over half the world's population, led to the creation of the Non-Aligned Movement in 1961.

Although the U.S. had first opposed itself to colonial powers, in particular during the 1956 Suez crisis between Egypt, France, the UK and Israel, the Cold War concerns about Soviet influence in the Third World caused it to downplay its advocacy of popular sovereignty and decolonization. France thus had a free hand in the First Indochina War (1946-1954) and in the Algerian war of independence (1954-1962), where torture techniques were heavily employed (the Algerian war would become a military model of counter-insurgency tactics, and has been studied ever since in military schools through-out the world). Furthermore, attempts such as Mossadegh's nationalisation of the petroil in Iran were blocked by the U.S., who supported a coup in 1953 order to impose the Shah (the covert operation was named Operation Ajax). The next year, when Guatemala's president Arbenz tried to nationalise the United Fruit, the CIA overthrew him and replaced him by a military junta in Operation PBSuccess.

In spite of these interferences in other states, decolonization itself was a seemingly unstoppable process. In 1960, after several wars of national liberation, the UN had reached 99 members states: the decolonization of Africa was almost complete. In 1980, the UN had 154 member states, and in 1990, after Namibia's independence, 159 states[1] But what could be seen retrospectively as a gigantic and quiet wave representing the Zeitgeist ("Spirit of Times") overthrowing the domination of European colonialist powers was in fact the product of the struggle of the colonized people, whom many paid it with their lives.

In effect, although the anticolonialist struggle didn't lead in all cases to wars such as the Algerian War (1954-62), it was nevertheless bloody. Many anticolonialist leaders were assassinated in more or less obscure circumstances in the 1960s, whether by foreign powers or internal enemies, sometimes supported by foreign powers who more or less openly supported dictatorships (for example, France and its ties with the Françafrique). The most famous names shouldn't dissimulate others less-known leaders, but a quick enumeration of slain anti-imperialist leaders would include Patrice Lumumba, the first Prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo assassinated in 1961; Sylvanus Olympio, the first president of Togo, assassinated in 1963 (quickly replaced by Gnassingbé Eyadéma, who would rule Togo until his death in 2005); Mehdi Ben Barka, leader of the Moroccan opposition, whom was preparing the Tricontinental Conference which was supposed to gather in La Habana in 1966 national liberation movements (not states) from all continents in order to organize the anti-imperialist struggle (kidnapped in Paris); Eduardo Mondlane, the leader of the Mozambiquan FRELIMO, allegedly assassinated by Aginter Press, the Portuguese branch of Gladio[2]NATO's anti-communist paramilitary organization during the Cold War — Amilcar Cabral, Oscar Romero, the prelate archbishop of San Salvador and a proponent of Liberation Theology, or Dulcie September, African National Congress (ANC) activist murdered in Paris in 1988.[3]

Role of the USSR and China

The Soviet Union was a main supporter of decolonization movements. While the Non-Aligned Movement, created in 1961 following the Bandung 1955 Conference, was supposedly neutral, the "Third World" being opposed to both the "First" and the "Second" Worlds, geopolitical concerns, as well as the refusal of the U.S. to support decolonization movements against its NATO European allies, led the national liberation movements to look increasingly toward the East. However, China's appearance on the world scene, under the leadership of Mao Zedong, created a rupture between the Soviet Union and independentists movements. Globally, the non-aligned movement, led by Nehru (India), Tito (Yugoslavia) and Nasser (Egypt) tried to create a block of nations powerful enough to be dependent on neither the U.S. nor the Soviet Union, but finally tilted towards the U.S.S.R, while smaller liberation movements, both by strategic necessity and ideological choice, were supported either by Moscow or by Peking. The Cuban government, led by Fidel Castro after the Cuban revolution of 1959, was at first neutral before turning itself towards Moscow. Cuba also sponsored liberation movements in Angola and Mozambique. Few liberation movements were totally independent from foreign aid.

Soviet imperialism

The USSR, which had grafted onto the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic several countries that had had short-lived independence (Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the lands of Central Asia), never reconciled itself to having lost West Ukraine, West Belarus, Bessarabia, and the three Baltic states (territories which formerly belonged to the Russian Empire) in the course of 1919-21. Thus they aimed to annex these territories as well as to obtain a buffer zone from Finland in 1939-40 (see Winter War). After the Soviet invasion of Poland following the corresponding German invasion that marked the start of World War II in 1939, the Soviet Union annexed eastern parts (so-called "Kresy") of the Second Polish Republic (see Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact). In 1940 the Soviet Union annexed Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania (see Occupation of Baltic states), Bessarabia and Bukovina.[4]

The Soviet Union emerged from World War II as one of the two major world powers, a position maintained for four decades through its hegemony in Eastern Europe. Claiming to be Leninist, the USSR proclaimed itself foremost enemy of imperialism, supporting armed, national independence or anti-Western movements in the Third World[5][6][7] while simultaneously dominating Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Marxists and Maoists to the left of Trotsky, such as Tony Cliff, claim the Soviet Union was imperialist. Maoists claim it occurred after Khrushchev's ascension in 1956; Cliff says it occurred under Stalin in the 1940s.[8] During the Cold War, the term Eastern Bloc (or Soviet Bloc) was used to refer to the Soviet Union and countries it controlled in Central and Eastern Europe (Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania).[9][10][11]


Simple English

.]] The history of colonialism goes back thousands of years, colonialism is the taking over of one country by another. In ancient times peoples such as the Hittites and the Incas were involved in colonialism.

However people usually use the word colonialism to talk about the European overseas empires rather than land-based empires. Overseas empires include British rule in India and French rule in Algeria - both of which could only be reached by ships.

Land based empires are usually described as imperialism and include:

The Ottoman Empire was created across Mediterranean, North Africa and into Southern Europe and existed during the time of European colonization of the other parts of the world.

European colonialism began in the fifteenth century when the Spanish and Portuguese began exploring the Americas, and the coasts of Africa, the Middle East, India, and East Asia.

During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, England, France and Holland made their own overseas empires. However the end of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century many European colonies in the Americas gained their independence.

Spain and Portugal became weakened after the loss of their New World colonies and could not get back the power they once had. But Britain, France and Holland turned their attention to South Africa, India and South East Asia and began expanding.

In the nineteenth century Europe underwent industrialisation, the population got larger, armies became more organised and had better weapons produced in factories. This time became known as the era of New Imperialism. Very quickly European powers were able to take over land and included the Scramble for Africa.

After World War I the European countries who had lost the war had to give up their colonies to the countries that had won the war. For instance Britain which won the war took over Tanzania from Germany (which had lost the war)

After World War II however Europe's colonies started to become independent. In 1999 Portugal returned the last of Europe's colonies in Asia, Macau, to China, ending an era that had lasted five hundred years.

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