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What was “Colonialism”?

After decades of colonial presence, the effects of colonization have not disappear and its footprint is maintained until present. The economic situation is bad and political structures are unstable. Robin D. G. Kelley put it this way:

The fact is, while colonialism in its formal sense might have been dismantled, the colonial state has not. Many of the problems of democracy are products of the old colonial state whose primary difference is the presence of black faces. […]The official apparatus might have been removed, but the political, economic, and cultural links established by colonial domination still remain with some alterations.


As Margaret Kohn said in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2006):

Colonialism is a practice of domination, which involves the subjugation of one people to another.

As we can read in Wikipedia:

It is a process where the metropole claims self-government over the colony and all their own structures are changed by colonizers. Colonialism is an unequal relationships between the metropole and the colony whereas between the colonists and the indigenous population.

Historians often distinguish between two forms of colonialism:

  • Settler colonialism involved a large number of colonists, characteristically looking for fertile land to farm.
  • Exploitation colonialism involved fewer colonists, typically interested in extracting resources to export to the metropole

The colonial period normally refers to the late 15th to the 20th century, when European states created colonies on other continents. During this time, there were many justifications for colonialism:  Christian missionary work, the profits, the expansion of the power of states and religious and political beliefs. Nevertheless, the activity that could be called colonialism has a long history. The Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans also built colonies in antiquity.

However, if we summarize the modern age history,we will see that there are different periods:

The first phase of colonialism was developed from the great discoveries (such as, America and Orient). The main European nations who made this colonization were Spain, Portugal and Britain. The independence of the North American colonies in 1776 marked one of the most important turning points and, also, the first experience of decolonization of global significance in the history of European imperialism. After this, in 1882 Portugal lost the colony of Brazil. Meanwhile, between 1825 and 1898 Spain lost all its colonies, being Cuba and the Philippines the lasts.

The second phase, from the middle 19th century, Europe embarked on a search for Asia and Africa markets. Therefore, there was a race to see who conquered most colonies. At the Congress of Berlin (1884-1885) they decided to divide the “cake” the best possible agree, trying to regulate trade. In this conference were involved Britain, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Germany, Belgium… This policy of colonial expansionism would last until the middle of the 20th century.



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