Colonialism and Imperialism - Civil Services Preparation Online! UPSC & IAS Study Material

Colonialism and Imperialism

by Devender

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At the end of 15th century, voyages started for discovery with the end of Feudalism, rise in trade, economic profits, development of better ships, compass and maps, the start of colonization of Asia, Africa and America began with 3 "G" - God, Glory and Gold.


The policy of Mercantile Capitalism started and it involved attacking merchant ships of other kingdoms, placing trade barriers by blocking trade routes, setting up colonies, monopolizing, and if it not able to colonize then getting special trade rights with new found lands so to create monopoly.

The aim of colonizing were different for different colonies, for example:

The aim of colonizing Asia was for trade profit but in Africa, it was for slave trade.

The slave trade was first started by Portuguese its workers were not able to work in hot and humid climate of Brazil. The slaves from Africa worked as workers while that from America used to work like serfs on the lands of these Portuguese. After industrial revolution, the demand for raw material increased, it resulted in more more slave trade from African colonies.

This slave trade was called Trans Atlantic Slave trade. Basically, Europe was taking slaves from these countries and made them work in their other colonies and taking the crops like sugar, coffee and tobacco back home while supplying these colonies with textile, brandy and arms creating a monopoly market.

There were reasons why they preferred the African slaves:

  • Native Americans used to runaway and hide easily in jungles
  • White prisoners has the capability to hide in the white crowd
  • Africans were familiar with these territories and they knew how to survive on plants and animals
  • Africans lacked immunity to European disease and died easily

Slavery was first banned by France after the French revolution in 1789, after that British passed the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833 that ended slavery in all its colonies. USA banned slavery after the civil war.

Difference between Colonialism and Imperialism

  • Colonialism is just a part of Imperialism whereas Imperialism is the very extension of Colonialism.
  • Imperialism is basically acquisition of foreign lands by using military or threat
  • Colonialism aims at economic benefits while Imperialism includes political control of the territory
  • Colonialism started in the 16th century from America while Imperialism started from 19th century in Africa, Asia and Pacific.


After the Industrial Revolution, the race began to colonize more territories. The events that occurred during this period are known as Neo-Imperialism. Nations were manipulated politically and economic domination was formed over many nations. These industrialized nations started exploiting the non-industrialized ones.

The Industrialized nations grew powerful and they started conquering foreign lands using military or by colonizing those. Another strategy that was used is to capture the ports of other nations to control the supply of goods.

The Factors responsible for Imperialism:

  • Industrial Revolution led powerful nations to search for new markets to sell their goods
  • Rise of nationalism
  • Rulers saw Imperialism as a tool to maintain political control
  • Not enough territorial space to colonize

Trading companies like East India company were soon taken over by the government to secure political control. This made political control over colonies much more easy and ensured an economy control as well.

Mainly Africa, China, Pacific, West and Central Asia became the victims of this Imperialism by various forces like Italy, Germany, Russia, USA and Japan.

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