Portal:Colonialism

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About colonialism

William Blake, Europe Supported By Africa and America, 1796

Colonialism is the process of expansion and dominance in which a metropole builds and maintains colonies in another territory. Although the form of colonies themselves are influenced by local features and histories, the metropole typically claims full ownership and sovereignty over the social structure, government and economics within the colony. This produces a set of unequal relationships between metropole and colony as well as between colonists and the indigenous population.

The most common use of the term refers to a historical period from the 15th to the 20th century when people from Europe established colonies in the Americas, Africa, Oceania, Asia. The process was typically violent and involved population displacement and the institution of race-based categories of rule. The types of expansion and overseas colonization took many forms, including exploitation colonies to gain natural resources, areas of European population settlement, and smaller maritime enclaves based around trade. Motives for colonialism were also diverse, and included the promise of monetary gain, the desire to expand the power and influence of the metropole, efforts to escape persecution, as well as the wish to spread religious and political philosophies. People, states, and societies that were displaced or destroyed resisted and accommodated the imposition of colonial rule in a variety of ways, ultimately leading to a wave of decolonization in the mid twentieth century through which most (although not all) colonies gained national independence.

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The areas of the world that at one time were part of the British Empire. Current British overseas territories are underlined in red.

The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates, and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom, that had originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height it was the largest empire in history and, for over a century, was the foremost global power. By 1922, the British Empire held sway over a population of about 458 million people, one-quarter of the world's population at the time, and covered more than 13,000,000 square miles (34,000,000 km2): approximately a quarter of the Earth's total land area. As a result, its political, linguistic and cultural legacy is widespread. At the peak of its power, it was often said that "the sun never sets on the British Empire" because its span across the globe ensured that the sun was always shining on at least one of its numerous territories.

During the Age of Discovery in the 15th and 16th centuries, Portugal and Spain pioneered European exploration of the globe and in the process, established large overseas empires. While the British Empire expanded quickly, the growth of Germany and the United States eroded Britain's economic lead by the end of the 19th century. During the 20th century, as part of a larger decolonisation movement by European powers, most of the territories of the British Empire became independent, ending with the return of Hong Kong to the People's Republic of China in 1997.

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Falkland Islands topographic map-en.svg
Credit: Eric Gaba

A topographic map of the Falkland Islands, an archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean, which Argentine writer Ernesto Sabato called: "the last trace of colonialism."

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John Horden

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Queen Victoria photograph by Alexander Bassano, 1882

Queen Victoria (Alexandrina Victoria; 24 May 1819 – 22 January 1901) was the sovereign of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837, and the first Empress of India of the British Raj from 1 May 1876, until her death. At 63 years and 7 months, her reign lasted longer than that of any other British monarch, and is the longest of any female monarch in history. Her reign is known as the Victorian era, and was a period of industrial, cultural, political, scientific, and military progress within the United Kingdom.

Victoria was of mostly German descent; she was the daughter of the fourth son of George III, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn. Both the Duke of Kent and George III died a year after her birth, and she inherited the throne at the age of 18 after her father's three elder brothers died without surviving legitimate issue. She ascended the throne when the United Kingdom was already an established constitutional monarchy, in which the king or queen held relatively few direct political powers and exercised influence by the prime minister's advice; but she became the iconic symbol of the nation and empire. She had strict standards of personal morality. Her reign was marked by a great expansion of the British Empire, which reached its zenith and became the foremost global power. Her 9 children and 42 grandchildren married into royal families across the continent, tying them together and earning her the nickname "the grandmother of Europe". She was the last British monarch of the House of Hanover; her son King Edward VII belonged to the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

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Colonialism's rise and fall over the past 500 years.

Colonisation2.gif

This map shows Colonization's rise and fall over the past 500 years.

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